16 November 2007
Dear Ms. Arbour,
Subject: Libyan Human Rights Defenders on Hunger Strike
On 18 October 2007, the Human Rights Committee completed its review of Libya's fourth periodic report, which was due for consideration in 2002. Libya not only submitted its report five years after the deadline but also, more importantly, did not comply with the recommendations of the Committee made in 1998 on the conclusion of the review of the country's third periodic report. In the words of the Committee, 'the recommendations of 1998 have not been fully taken into consideration and [the Committee] regrets that almost all subjects of concern remain unchanged'. It therefore renewed its call to the Government of Libya to 'comply with all recommendations addressed to it by the Committee and take all necessary steps to ensure that national legislation and its implementation guarantee the effective enjoyment of all Covenant rights in the State party'.
The Committee again found that the Libyan Government is imposing 'extensive limitations of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in law and in practice, particularly those imposed on peaceful opposition to, or criticism of, the Government and the political system'. As in 1998 and with identical words, the Committee once more called on the Government to ' revise its legislation to ensure that any limitations on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, including those of the media, are in strict compliance with the Covenant'.
The Libyan League for Human rights strongly believes that the HRC's present policy of only observing violations, without further action, will not remedy the worsening situation of human rights in Libya. The Committee made similar recommendations when it reviewed Libya's first (1982), second (1992), and third (1998) periodic reports but the Libyan Government, as noted by the HCR, failed to take the recommendations into consideration. Each time the Committee calls on the Libyan Government 'to comply with all recommendations' and each time the same Committee observes that the previous recommendations have not been taken into consideration by Libya and that 'almost all subjects of concern remain unchanged'. We believe that it is time for the HRC to cease its 'observe only' approach and take a more pragmatic attitude whereby the Committee clearly identifies violations, as well as their causes and remedies, and sets deadlines for the Government to redress all violations in conformity with its obligation ensuing from Libya's accession to the CCPR. The previous approach has so far proved unproductive with the Government and it is imperative that the Committee finds new ways to ensure the implementation of its recommendations in Libya and elsewhere. Failure to do so will result only in more violations, broader impunity and erosion of the moral authority of the Committee, the eyes and ears of the international community in the field of civil and political rights and a major protector of human rights defenders.
In Libya, most human rights defenders are silent and voiceless as they have realized that they have no protection and that undertaking any human rights activities may result only in their arrest, jail and possibly torture. This situation is further exacerbated by a feeling that the HRC has not adequately fulfilled its protection duties when it comes to protecting Libyan human rights defenders. The case of Dr Idriss Bufayed illustrates this lack of concern on the part of the Committee. Dr. Bufayed, a prominent human right defender, together with 11 other Libyans, has been in jail for the last 10 months for daring to attempt to exercise his right to freedom of expression as defined in article 19 of the CCPR to which Libya is a party. We are not aware of any action that has been or is being taken by the OHCHR or any other UN Human rights office to defend this group whose 'crime' is their call for a public sit in (on 17 February) in a square in Tripoli to protest against the continuous violation by the Libyan Government of the letter and spirit of the CCPR, especially articles 19, 21, 22 and 25, and to call for recognition of the right to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom to elect the Government in a free and fair election. It is noteworthy that these violations were also recognized as major concerns by the Committee.
The 12 defenders, who were arrested on 16 February 2007, have experienced all forms of malicous mistreatment, including incommunicado detention for long periods of time, abuse, poor diet and insufficient medical care. According to unconfirmed reports, at least four of the 12 detainees - Driss Bufayed, Jamal Alhajji, Almahdi Hmeid, and Ahmed Alaabeidi - have been sujected to long and regular sessions of torture. They have all embarked, since 7 November, on a hunger strike in protest against this mistreatment and the harsh conditions of their detention. We have no doubt that you are aware of this case as members of the HRC mentioned some of its details last month on the occasion of the review of Libya's fourth report. At this stage there is an urgent need for prompt and strong representations from your office and the Committee to the Libyan Government on behalf of the detainees to secure their release and their safe return to their families and friends. It is important that the OHCHR stresses in its representations that the group has done nothing wrong and that the right to freedom of expression is an internationally recognized inalienable right the violation of which cannot be condoned under any circumstance. The promptness of your intervention is all the more necessary since the lives of those on hunger strike are under real threat as they are suffering from orthostatic hypotension, dehydration and severe malnutrition.
We thank you in advance for any action you may decide to take to secure the release of this group of human rights defenders. Meanwhile we urge you to appoint an independent medical examiner to monitor the health of the strikers and to provide immediate medical assistance to save their life. The Libyan League for Human rights remains at your disposal for any additional information you may require.
Soliman Bouchuiguir (Ph.D)
Ms. Louise ARBOUR,
High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais Wilson / 1211 Geneva
- H.E Mr Doru Costea,
- President of the Human rights Council
- Palais Wilson / Geneva
- Mr. Rafael RIVAS POSADA
Chaiman Human Rights Committee
Palais Wilson / Geneva
- All members of the HRC (17 members excluding the Chairman)
- Secretary Of HR COUNCIL
- Secretary of HR Committee