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The Libyan League For Human Rights

Thursday, 23 March, 2006

Letter To Columbia University President

Columbia University
New York, NY10027

22 March 2006

Dear President Bollinger,

Subject: Conference on "Prospects For Democracy" in Libya
Columbia Universty: 22 March 2006

The Libyan League for Human Rights, a Libyan NGO in exile, a member of the Euro-Med Human Rights Network and of the International Federation for Human Rights, has learned of the conference on " prospects for Democracy in Libya" organized and hosted, according to the official Libyan News Agency, Jana, by your prestigious institution; Columbia University, in collaboration with "World Center for Studies and research of the Green Book". We deeply regret that our League, which was established in 1989 to specifically monitor violations of human rights and progress of Democracy in Libya was not invited to participate in this important event. Had we had that opportunity, we could have presented the conference with "the-other-view" so precious to democracy and democratic debate and exchange. We clearly believe that a conference on democracy requires, at least, the free exchange of at least two views. We have no doubt that your institution will provide the other view.

Mr. President,

"The two views" dichotomy is the problem in Libya where only one view, the view of the revolutionary committees, a militia type organization, is allowed and no OTHER view, at all, is permitted. The law (71 of 1972) prescribes long terms imprisonments and even death penalties to those who dare to express "democratically" a different view. The problem that faces democracy in Libya lies in the total lack of an integrated policy to build a state based on the rule of law, accountability, and transparency which should interact to produce a government that is legitimate, effective, and widely supported by citizens, as well as a civil society that is strong, open, and capable of playing a positive role in the conduct of public affairs. All these pre-requisites for democracy do not, regrettably, exist in Libya today.

There is no doubt that the instauration of a democratic process in Libya will give ordinary people a greater say in national and global policy making, more chances to play the game of life on fair terms, and enhance human security. Parliament and the Electoral Process are the lynchpin to a stable democracy. The parliament, in particular, is the most critical institution in a democracy as it plays the key roles of representation, law making and oversight or supervisory role to the executive branch of government. Yet in Libya there is no parliament and the Government does not claim to have one. In the words of Colonel Qaddhafi, "the most tyrannical dictatorships the world has known have existed under the aegis of parliaments". He therefore concluded that "Parliaments have become a means of plundering and usurping the authority of the people" and called for "the destruction, through popular revolution, of the so-called parliamentary assemblies which usurp democracy and sovereignty, and which stifle the will of the people" (the Green Book).

Mr. President

Libya's "Jamahiriya” political system, a one-opinion system as against one-party system, is based primarily on rejection of the very principles of parliamentarian representation, the repudiation of elections of any sort and at any level, the condemnation of political pluralism and the exclusion of peaceful political alternation. There is neither a parliament nor any elected legislative power of any kind in Libya. Free press, independent judiciary, political parties, independent trade unions and NGOs are totally banned in Libya (Law No 71 of 1972).

The so-called "General People's Congress" (GPC), is not a legislative body and has nothing to do with a Parliament as its members are neither elected nor have the power to make (vote) law. The power to suspend, to try, to dismiss or to censure the Ruler, the Government or both, inherent to the control functions of parliaments, does not exist in Libya and there is no parliamentary or any other immunity for anyone, including the members of the GPC, except for Colonel Qaddhafi, who has the power to dissolve the GPC and dismiss some or all of its members. The 480 members of the GPC are all "designated/appointed" from within, but not elected by, the 468 "Basic People’s Congresses" (BPCs), the basic organizational UNITS of the one-opinion-party, as well as from within its labor, student and youth organizations.

The members of the GPC are considered to be simple messengers (transmitters) of the views of their respective "basic units" (BPCS) (circumscription) and not representatives of the freely expressed will of the people, as in the case of parliaments. They are called, during the GPC sessions, by their number and not by their names or circumscription. Like any messenger, the members of the GPC do not discuss substance but rather read, as and when necessary and this is the essence of their messenger function, a summary of the discussion of their respective BPC on a particular subject matter. There are no political groups within the GPC and no substantive or specialized committees, such as budget, defense, education, health, foreign policy etc. The members do not vote, not even on the budget, as the very principle of voting is outlawed in the deliberations of all institutions of the one-opinion party system. The non-elected Secretary-General of the GPC, assisted by the other seven members of the GPC Secretariat, presides automatically (without a vote by the assembly) over the meetings of the GPC. The GPC Secretariat is, for all practical purposes, the most powerful body of the system, but it is neither elected nor even designated by the BPCs. It is accountable to neither the GPC nor to any other body. Yet it is the prerogative of the Secretariat, with this mysterious legitimacy, to pass and enact law and to oversee its application by all, including by the executive and the judiciary branches.

This is a brief description of the one-opinion system; the Jamahiria system; that will be in the center stage of the discussions of the conference on democracy that is hosted by Columbia University. Its implementation in Libya has proved so far inoperative. It has proved to have more affinity with totalitarian systems than with a democratic system of Government. We deeply believe that if Libyans are given the opportunity to freely elect their Government, they will opt for a democratic pluralistic system which is generally regarded as the best political framework for achieving basic freedoms and rights, ensuring human security and sustainable development. More and more citizens are increasingly convinced, that democracy is both a pre-requisite and an outcome for addressing the root causes of human rights violations, corruption and political extremism practiced by the Government.

Finally we take this opportunity to reiterate the League's readiness to participate in seminars, workshops, debates and conferences on Libya you may organize in the future. Our first interest is to provide account of the human rights situation in Libya and its implications in the political, economic and social spheres of the country.

Soliman Bouchuiguir, Ph.D. Secretary General

CC: Dean Lisa Anderson
School of International and public affairs
Columbia Universty, Office MC 3328
New york, NY 10027

Ms Pamela Rogers, Executive Assistant
to the Executive Vice President
311 Low Library, MC 4342
Columbia University
New York, NY 10027

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