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The Libyan League For Human Rights
Thursday, 15 April, 2004

Libya; Threat To Life Of A Human Rights Defender

7 April 2004

Mr. Bertrand Ramcharan
Acting United Nations High Commissioner
For Human Rights
Palais des Nations
Room PW 2-092
1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland

Dear Mr Ramcharan,

Subject: Libya; Threat to Life of a Human Rights Defender

Three days ago (4 April 2004) an unidentified security group raided the home of Mr. Fathi El-Jahmi a recently freed prominent Libyan human rights defender and took him away again. His relatives and friends have been without news since. They have no idea about his whereabouts or his health as he is diabetic and suffers from cardio vascular diseases that require daily medication. Mr. El-Jahmi spent years in prison without trial or even indictment. He was freed less than a month ago, on 12 March 2004, following a United States Government intervention on the eve of an official visit to Libya by Senator Joseph Biden, the Chairman of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs. Mr. El-Jahmi is 63 years old and father of six. Throughout the three weeks he was free, he was subjected to horrible harassment, dreadful provocations and unbearable intimidations from the Libyan authorities that organized a real siege of his home (24 hours state security surveillance, Government organized demonstrations around his home etc.) to make sure that he meet no one and speak to no one. The Government disconnected his telephone and deprived him from other basic utilities, including electricity. Members of the Revolutionnary Committees Party, another Government security branch, ransacked the computer business of his son {collective punishment} and threatened Mr. El-Jahmi to kidnap his wife and daughters if he dares to continue expressing views on Libya’s public affairs different from those of President Qaddhafi.

Mr. El-Jahmi’s life is in real jeopardy and it is essential that your office undertake urgent contacts with the Libyan Government with the view to first guarantee his right to life and then, his unconditional safe release, as Mr. El-Jahmi’s only “crime” seems to have been his determination to defend the cause of Human Rights, including the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, assembly and association. The right to have an elected government by universal suffrage and secret ballot is another important human right defended by Mr. El-Jahmi. The total suppression of these rights, despite the full adherence of the Libyan Government to all International Human Rights Instruments specifically guaranteeing these rights, is the cause of the unacceptable Libyan human rights situation from which Mr. El-Jahmi, his family and thousand of other Libyans suffer today. It is your office’s legal and moral duty to remind the Government of Libya of its legal obligations, vis à vis, its citizens, under the different Human Right Instruments of which it is a member. In this context, please allow me to remind you of some of the views of the Human Rights Committee which warned, when reviewing Libya’s country report, that “certain restrictions imposed in the Libyan Arab Jamahirya to the rights of opinion, the freedom of expression, the right of assembly and the right to freedom of association are not in conformity with articles 19, 21 and 22 of the Covenant. These restrictions unduly limit the rights to participate in the conduct of public affairs, including the opportunities to criticize and to oppose the government.” In the same context, the Committee deplored ”the practice of arbitrary arrest and detention, the detention of persons sentenced after unfair trials and the length of pre-trial detention”. These have been some of the concerns of the Human Rights Committee and they are both the concerns of Mr. El-Jahmi and source of his troubles.

The UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedom makes it a duty for everyone, including for Libyan like Mr. El-Jahmi, to promote human rights and fundamental freedom, and contribute to the promotion and advancement of democracy at the local, national and international levels (art.18). The declaration adds, in its article 12, that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms” before adding, in its para.2, that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”. In light of this, there is no doubt that the Libyan government is openly violating Mr. El-Jahmi’s rights and this is what the government should be clearly told in no equivocal terms. Mr. El-Jahmy and all prisoners of conscience and belief should be freed immediately. The international community, through your office, should convince the Libyan government that the Libyan people must have, at last, the right to independent justice, to all freedoms and above all, to an elected Government by universal suffrage and secret vote. Meanwhile, we suggest that your office makes, on behalf of Mr. El-Jahmi, an immediate presentation to the Libyan Government with an express request for his immediate and safe release. The Government should also be requested to cease all harassment and intimidation of El-Jahmi family and to guarantee the exercise and the enjoyment of basic Human Rights to all.

The Libyan League for Human Rights takes this opportunity to wish you complete success in your endeavours and to the cause of human rights consolidation and progress, especially in Libya where the most basic rights are still systematically violated.

Yours sincerely,

Soliman Bouchuiguir (Ph.D)

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