Subject: Amnesty report MDE 19/07/2010;|
‛Libya of Tomorrow‛ What hope for Human Rights?
31 August 2010
Subject: Amnesty report MDE 19/07/2010;
‛Libya of Tomorrow‛ What hope for Human Rights?
Dear Mr. Shetty,
1. The Libyan League for Human rights would like first to convey its thanks and appreciations to Amnesty International for all the pioneer work it has done on the continuing precarious human rights situation in Libya. Amnesty latest report: “Libya of Tomorrow”, what hope for human rights?, is a living example of an outstanding report that, undoubtedly, necessitated very serious efforts, highly motivated research, and extensive discussions. This report is, probably the first document ever that comes closest to the actual hard and crude reality of human rights in Libya. It unveils the ins and outs of a tyrannical system that leaves practically no margin, whatever narrow maybe, to the enjoyment of human rights and the dignity of the person.
2. The Report discussed almost all topics of importance to respect of Human rights and enumerated, in great details, the flagrant violations in terms of law and of practice. From the flaws of the administration of justice to unfair trial, to arbitrary arrest and detention, to the widespread use of torture, to the massacre of Abusleem, to enforced disappearance, to physical liquidation of political opponents to refugees etc. the report went in great length to discuss these topics in a concise, objective and neutral endeavor. Practical recommendations were made separately for every topic to which the LLHR doubts that the present Government would give any serious consideration. The Libyan Government is, indeed, known for its utmost contempt to human rights and is simply not able to govern in an institutional environment respectful of human rights principles and laws. Libya is a real case of an outlawed government when it comes to respect of Human Rights.
Mr. Secretary General
3. The lamentable human rights situation in Libya as described by Amnesty excellent report is the result of a tyrannical political “system” that refuses reforms or changes. The real human rights problem in Libya lies in that system which is clearly incompatible with respect of basic principles of
Mr. Salil Shetty
Amnesty International, 1 Easton Street,
London WC1X 0DW
Human Rights as well as those of a government of law. The system is not made to govern and cannot govern as it stands without resorting to arbitrariness and tyranny. Large scale human rights violations will continue as long as the present political system is not extensively reformed or removed altogether. Its mere existence is a flagrant permanent violation of Human Rights as it refuses to recognize, in law and practice the will of the people as the basis of the authority of government” and that “this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote” (article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights). In Libya the “will” of Colonel Qaddhafi is the only one that counts while the “will” of the people has no influence on the conduct of public affairs. It has never been even tested under the Governments of Colonel Qaddhafi, who has ruled Libya for the last forty one years, as no election at all and at any level, local, regional or national, fair or unfair, has been organized during that period. Not even a referendum on any subject or topic, on Colonel Qaddhafi’s seizure of power for example, has been allowed to take place. It is truly a case of usurpation of power.
4. A central part of the system is an extraordinary propaganda machine sustained by a never-ending stream of cash flow capable of camouflaging, at least temporarily, the most palpable truth. Even Tony Blair, the former British prime minister of the UK, the oldest modern democracy, could not stand the seduction of that machine. He seems to have been totally induced to its “beneficence”. The system is based on confusion and total lack of transparency as it is made “sur mesure”, for Colonel Qaddhafi who has ruled the country, on a pattern of an absolute monarch, for the last 41 years, without allowing the expression of any critics, let alone organized opposition.
5. The power structure evolving from that system continues and will continue to present the main obstacle to any reform respectful of human rights and of the dignity of the person. Any attempt to answer the important question Amnesty report put forward : “Libya of Tomorrow”, what hope for human right?, must necessary pass though a thorough discussion of the power structure that will, in our view, stand as an insurmountable obstacle to respect of human rights in Libya. The following paragraphs will attempt to shed light on the power structure and its direct relations to the permanent violations of basic human rights in Libya.
6. Libya has been ruled, over the past 41 years, by the non-elected Government of Colonel Qaddhafi, who abolished the Constitution (first act as a Ruler), on 1st September 1969. Ever since, the country has taken a totalitarian path that imposes severe constraints on the enjoyment of basic human rights. Libya still has no constitution, no parliament and not a single elected institution. There is no separation of powers or judicial guarantees. The country is governed by a “unique” armed militia movement, “the Revolutionary Committee Movement” that purposely confuses the interests of the Militia with those of the state and the organs of the Militia with the institutions of the State. The State is the Militia and the Militia is Colonel Qaddhafi: "L’ Etat c’est moi” (King Louis IV). The system, called “Jamahiria” is structured so as to concentrate enormous power in extremely few hands with all powers ultimately situated in the person of President Qaddhafi. The politico-legal structure is such that all powers, legislative, executive and judiciary, are tightly held by Colonel Qaddhafi who is neither elected nor accountable to the public nor to any other Libyan institution.
7. The “Jamahiria” system rejects the very principle of elections, repudiates the principle of parliamentarian representation and condemns pluralism, including free press and free thought. There is no parliament in Libya and no elected legislative power of any kind. Political parties, independent trade unions and independent NGOs are banned in law and practice (Law No 71 of the 1972). The so-called "People's General Congress" (PGC), usually assumed erroneously to be a legislative body, has nothing to do with a Parliament as its members are neither elected nor have the power to make law. The power to suspend, to try or dismiss the President inherent to the control functions of parliaments does not exist in Libya and there is no immunity either for anyone except for Colonel Qaddhafi who has the power to disband the PGC, dismiss some or all of its members. The former Chairman of the PGC who also assume the traditional legal functions of Chief of State (protocol), Mohamed Znati and his deputy Mr. Ahmed Ibrahim were dismissed by Colonel Qaddhafi on live TV as they were preparing to take their seats to preside over a new session of the PGC. A new Chairman ( Muftaf kueba) was appointed instantly, always on live TV, by Colonel Qaddhafi without any consultation with anyone and without any verbal or written justification. He also decided, instantly, that there is no need for the Post of the Deputy to the Chairman which he abolished instantly. The dismissal show was aired live on libya’s TV on 2 March 2008 on the opening session of the GPC. The state budget is decided on by Colonel Qaddhafi and not by the PGC whose members are not even briefed on all its chapters as the Defense and Security budgets (top State secrets) are known to no one but Colonel Qaddhafi and his immediate entourage. Expenditures from these budgets (defense & security) are left to the sole discretion of Colonel Qaddhafi who is accountable to no one.
8. There is no vote in PGC, which has all the characteristics of a Central Committee of a totalitarian political party. The "Politburo" of totalitarian party is purposely confused in Libya with the "Secretariat of the PGC”, directly appointed by Colonel Qaddhafi, which enjoys uncontrolled and unlimited powers. Colonel Qaddhafi''s instructions are usually communicated to the “Government” through this Secretariat which has the power to overrule any governmental decision. Similarly the so-called "basic people's congresses" (BPC) are nothing but the basic chapters or sections (cells) of traditional totalitarian parties. They are all (about 550 BPCs/Cells throughout Libya) coached, guided, and supervised by the members of the Armed Militia Movement, “the Revolutionary Committees Movement”, to make sure that no “deviation” from the instructions of Colonel Qaddhafi (the Leader) takes place. The supervisory functions become crucial during the annual BPCs (cells) meetings (usually 2-4 days) where each of the estimated 550 BPC discuss separately an Agenda prepared, (always from top to bottom) by the Secretariat of PGC ( the most powerful organ) and on whose items all BPCs should come up with almost identical positions on pre-set recommendations. The Militia’s other function at the BPC level is to select and clear, through a sophisticated security system, new members to the Bureau of the different BPCs. This function is very important as only "genuine revolutionaries" (pure et dure) are supposed to rise to membership position (leaders) of the Bureau. (remember no one is elected in Libya).
9. These three organs; the PGC, the Secretariat of PGC and BPCs, none of which is directly or indirectly elected, form the jamahiria system. They are all appointed, from top to bottom, by the Revolutionary Committees Movement (armed Militia) through an elaborated security system. The leader of this system is colonel Qaddhafi who is a life self-appointed Ruler of the State and a self-proclaimed Leader for life of the “Revolutionary Committee Movement”. The only noticeable difference between the organs of traditional totalitarian political parties and the “Jamahiria” System of Libya is the fact that no one in the latter, at any level, is elected while the principle of election has never been put into question, even by the most notorious dictators of totalitarian political parties such as Nicolae Ceauşescu for example, General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party. In Libya, the Government seized, under the pretense that it is the protector of the people, the rights of the citizens in making the decision on who will govern them or how they will be governed.
10. The Core of the ever recurrent human rights violations in Libya lies in the above described system which is a total negation of democratic principles and which cannot function but through committing gross abuses that constitute serious human rights violations. Colonel Qaddhafi has used this system for the last four decades to rule Libya in a private business fashion, through three circles: his own (extended) family, his tribe and the “Revolutionary Committees Movement”, none of which has a legal state function. They all perform vital missions to the continuation of the regime as they are entrusted with everything that has security or financial implications, including the oil sector, the armed forces, the security apparatus, the Central Bank of Libya, the Budget etc. They are accountable directly to Colonel Qaddhafi and to no one else, not even to justice and Courts. Because of the absolute and personal power wielded by Colonel Qaddhafi, his close family members, especially his children and cousins have been placed in position of power with their family links being more important than any formal status. The members of this special category enjoy unlimited power and are usually unknown to the public either inside Libya or outside the country. They enjoy full state protection and immunity. Their verbal or written orders, legal or illegal, have the force of law. Only Colonel Qaddhafi is in a position to overrule their instructions.
11. The political-legal structure of the system confers tyrannical powers to Colonel Qaddhafi who has the power to interfere with everything, including the administration of justice by obstructing the work of the courts or by simply changing their judgements. He can also bypass the official judicial system by establishing special, field or emergency courts, the judgments of which he may alter or annul. The independence of the judiciary is only theoretical which, in turn, means that there can be no legal safeguards available for the citizens. The justice system is totally subordinated to the interest and the security of the ruling elites and the continuation of the Jamahiria totalitarian system. Anything, even illegal matters such as corruption and blunt serious violations of human rights, that strengthens the system is seen as legal and its perpetrators are usually immune from any judicial suits. They enjoy full and complete immunity regardless of the magnitude of the crime. The perpetrators of Abusleem prison massacre (1200 prisoners were shot dead in three hours) are not only free, but they still occupy key ”Positions” that guarantee their impunity. On the other hand, prisoners who were funnd “not guilty” by courts of law and others who have completed their prison terms have been denied freedom. They continue to lay illegally in prison, despite the injunctions of the court to set them free, simply because they are suspected to still hold opinions different from those of Colonel Qaddhafi
12. Freedom of opinion, expression, association and assembly do not exist in Libya. The total suppression of these freedoms is at the core of the situation of human rights. That is, there is an absence of respect of human dignity of the population as a whole in so far as the political system accepts no dissent. It requires that thought, expression and behavior conform to the tenets of Colonel Qaddhafi and the whims of the Revolutionary Committee Movement. Through the construction of a web of informers including, extended family, community leaders and "arrivistes", and the existence of a security apparatus, which may intrude into the most private affairs of the individual, it is difficult to speak of the enjoyment of any freedom in Libya. The violations of the basic rights of the citizens are reflected in almost every independent human rights report. For instance Reporters without borders ranked Libya among the last 10 countries (129th out of 139) with the worst record for the freedom of the press. Likewise President Qaddhafi has been denounced by the same organization as a”predator of Press freedom”. As to the enjoyment of civic and political rights, Freedom House, an institution that issues yearly index (Free, Partly Free, Not Free) of freedom in the world, gave Libya a full mark of 7, 7 as a country that is “not free” where the citizens enjoy no civic or political rights at all. As to the economic freedom, Libya ranked 151th out of 156 countries in the index of economic freedom issued by Heritage Foundation.
Mr. Secretary General
13. While the responsibility for the continuing pattern of systematic human rights violations in Libya fully lies on its Government, nevertheless the international community, including the EU is not totally innocent. Libya's strategic position as a transit countries for African immigrants and refugees seeking to cross to Europe and the Libyan Government’s use of that file (very sensitive in Mediterranean European countries) as a political tool in its negotiation with the EU coupled with Libya’s vast oil reserves has led Governments and Business in Europe and North America to subordinate human rights to immigration, economic and strategic interests. The Lockerbie deal also had a negative impact on the Human Rights situation in Libya as the major two actors, the US and the UK, seem to have preferred dealing with a non-elected internationally weak Libyan Government, Colonel Qaddhafi’s Government, to dictate their financial conditions for closing the Lockerbie case, rather than taking the risk of pushing for a democratically elected strong Libyan Government that may refuse to pay anything to anybody as only Mr. Almegrahi, not the Government of Libya, was officially convicted of the Pan Am flight 103 crime!. Thus the issue of the Lockerbie crime (a crime against humanity in terms of International Law), which was supposed to erode or at least to weaken domestically Colonel Qaddhafi’s absolute power and to depress his grips on human rights has become, thanks to Libya’s diplomatic manipulations assisted by its oil and trade partners, especially oil companies, a source of consolidation of his power and a tool to ensure the continuation of “ business as usual”.
14. The “largess” of the authorities in Libya towards their foreign partners, that is to say the “Largeness” of the very authorities that perpetrate gross violations of human rights, including crimes against humanity, with the cash and mineral resources of the Libyan people that is to say of those whose human rights are permanently violated has been so far self-rewarding for the Libyan Government. A score of financially induced active and retired “international personalities”, seems to benefit from it on tacit understanding that their responsibility and role is to lobby for and defend the Libyan government’s interests in all fields, including and in particular, in the field of human rights where assistance from those personalities is really needed given the scale and the magnitude of human rights violations in Libya. One of the retirees is Tony Blair, UK former prime Minister, who is said to have accepted a highly paid post, specially created for him, of special adviser to Colonel Qaddhafi. While Mr. Blair will be paid in “Libyan cash”, it seems that BP’s Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward, an active international personality, also seduced by the generosity of the Libyan authorities, seems to have accepted in 2007 that BP be paid in nature for its lobbying services with the British Government in the file of the Lockerbie crime and the release of Abdelbasit Al-Megrahi, the only person convicted for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people. BP was awarded by Libya in May 2007 an exploration and Production Agreement to explore offshore in Libya’s Sirt basin and onshore in the Ghadames basin covering an exploration area of around 54,000 square kilometers. The award represents the largest single exploration award in BP’s 100-year history. The same month, that is to say in May 2007, Britain and Libya signed a memorandum of understanding on Prisoner Transfer (Britain has NO prisoner in Libya!) that paved the way for Al-Megrahi's release from a Scottish prison.
15. It must be clear that the LLHR is not against the release of Mr. Al-Megrahi whom we believe is a victim and a scapegoat. The concept and the setting up of the Camp Zeist trial was more of a pre-arranged “political court” than a real court of fair justice concerned only with the truth and nothing but the truth about Lockerbie crime. We believe that the trial gave the world a pseudo culpable while the real intriguers of that and other crimes are still free and continue to do business as usual. What the LLHR is opposed to is Impunity. We deeply believe that perpetrators of human rights violations whatever their position, nationality, gender or belief must be brought to justice and be held fully accountable for their crimes. We consider that the practice and expectation of impunity for violations of human rights are among the fundamental obstacles to the observance and promotion of human rights in Libya. We also consider that accountability of perpetrators for human rights violations, including their accomplices, is one of the central elements of any effective remedy for promotion and implementation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Libya. It is a key factor in ensuring a fair and equitable justice system and, ultimately, reconciliation and stability within the country.
16. We were expecting, in this context, that Mr. Blair uses the prestige of his former office (PM) for good causes such as pushing for respect of human rights and combating impunity in Libya and everywhere in the world, not advising on the way and means of strengthening impunity in Libya. We believe that Mr. Blair’s behavior and that of other international personalities such as prime minister Berlusconi, is unethical at best as it contributes directly or indirectly to consolidate a government that, not only continues to violate, at will, the basic human rights of its citizens, hut also considers that violating those rights is an intrinsic part of its governmental prerogatives as reflected in the unlimited discretionary power it enjoys and also in the total absence of accountability it secured. There is no doubt that the new “recruit” has complicated the work of Libyan Human rights defenders, especially in the field of combating impunity, as they have to face in their day to day work not only a consolidated system of “government by corruption”, but also a concerted propaganda from columns of foreign accomplices (mercenaries) , a la Blair, on Libya’ s direct or indirect PAYROLL; including multinational oil companies and other corporate with flourishing business in Libya. This situation represents a real case of illegal interference and unethical intrusion (that doesn’t say its name) in Libya’s domestic affairs that may, we are afraid, fuel extremism, intolerance and more human rights violations.
Mr. Secretary General,
17. As the United Nations Human Rights Council has confirmed, businesses have a responsibility to respect internationally recognized human rights principles, including those rights set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, its associated covenants (the International Bill of Human Rights) and the international agreements inspired by them. We believe these are inherent rights to all humans that steam simply from the fact that they are human and should therefore be respected by all. We have observed with regret that foreign corporations, especially oil companies do not observe those principles as they have participated and even encouraged, in many cases, corruption and bribery, the widespread of which has been a major obstacle to political and economic reforms, accountability, transparency and good governance in Libya. They participated, for instance, in the sellout of the natural resources of the country through securing illegally (no transparent bidding) highly profitable oil exploration and production agreements for their lobbying services in UK and US related, in general, to condoning serious violations of Human rights in Libya. BP’s lobbying for the release of Mr. Al-Megrahi is a case in point. Another case is the intensive lobbying with the US congress undertaken by major oil companies, including ConocoPhillips, Marathon Oil, Amerada Hess, Occidental, ExxonMobil and Chevron, which intervened in several occasions with members of the congress (Senators and Representatives) with the view of persuading them of the necessity to overlook the state of human rights in Libya when discussing and passing legislation on the US-Libyan relations. Their main argument is that human rights are a very sensitive issue in Libya and any reference into it “would only hurt oil interests for US companies". The collusion of the US and other oil companies with the Libyan perpetrators of human rights violations, the Libyan Government, and their indifference vis a vis the victims of human rights, including the 1200 victims of the Abusleem prison massacre, put these companies in a position of virtual accomplices to the Government in its violations of international human rights laws.
Mr. Secretary General
18. We would like again to thank Amnesty for its efforts and work to bring the state of Human rights in Libya to the attention of the international community. The Libyan situation requires, indeed, a permanent scrutiny mechanism as the Government issues no verbal or written information on its human rights policy or violations, which are subject to no judicial or any legal review. It took the Libyan Government no less than thirteen years to inform the parents of those whom it killed in June 1996 in Abusleem prison (1200 persons) of the death of their progeny without specifying either the date or the cause of death. The LLHR is convinced that had not been for the vigilance of Amnesty and other Human rights NGOs, the Libyan situation would have been much worse, although it is difficult to imagine a more exacerbated human rights situation than the one prevailing in Libya today. We therefore take this opportunity to urge you to continue your much appreciated vigilance and to broaden it to engulf eventually the compatibility of the Libyan imposed political system with the International Bill of Human Rights as well as the violations of human rights generated by Impunity and Corruption which have been strengthened lately by the intervention in Libya’s domestic affairs of “imminent personalities”, including Mr Blair and columns of business companies, including oil companies.
Thank you again for all the good work you have done to advocate respect of human rights and the rule of law in Libya.
Sliman Bouchuiguir (Ph-D)