26 October 2005
Dear Mr. Prime Minister
Subject : Human rights implications of the Memorandum of Understanding with Libya
The Libyan League for Human Rights (LLHR), a member of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network and of the International Federation of Human rights, is writing to you to add its name to the list of those human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and others, who condemned the signing by the United Kingdom Government of a "Memorandum of Understanding" with Libya over the treatment of Libyan refugees who may be deported from the UK to Libya. We fully agree with the assessment of Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen that "Torture and suspicious deaths in custody are still being reported in Libya and it’s dangerously misguided to expect countries with a known record of torturing people to respect bits of paper promising not to torture".
The comments and conclusions of the United Nations Committee against Torture are not different from the one expressed by Amnesty International UK Director. In its consideration of Libya's third periodic report (the latest) submitted under article 19 of the Convention Against Torture to which both the UK and Libya are members, the Committee expressed in writing to the Government of Libya its concern that the terms of the convention are violated in the following diplomatic terms:
(1). " It is a matter of concern for the Committee that neither the [periodic] report nor the information given orally by the representatives of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya provided the Committee with comments and answers that addressed substantially the subjects of concern indicated and the recommendations made by the Committee when dealing with the second periodic report of the State. Consequently, the Committee reiterates, inter alia, the following subjects of concern:
(a) Prolonged incommunicado detention, in spite of the legal provisions regulating it, still seems to create conditions that may lead to violation of the Convention [CAT]
(b) The fact that allegations of torture in the State party continue to be received by the Committee.
(2). It is a matter of concern for the Committee that, in practice, the State party had, in one incident, extradited persons to a country where there are substantial grounds for believing that they are in danger of being subjected to torture. The Committee did not agree with the State party that it was legally obliged to do so.
(3). It is also a matter of concern that the wording of article 206 of the Penal Code could be an obstacle to the creation of independent human rights nongovernmental organizations."
The Committee therefore recommended among other things that "the Libyan authorities guarantee the free access of a person deprived of his liberty to a lawyer and to a doctor of his choice and to his relatives at all stages of detention. It further recommended that "the State party should send a clear message to all its law enforcement personnel that torture is not permitted under any circumstances. In addition, those who committed the offence of torture should be subjected to a prompt and impartial [independent] investigation and rigorously prosecuted in accordance with the law". Finally it urged the Libyan authorities to "bring the law and practices of the State party in line with article 3 of the Convention". That article is most pertinent to the subject of this letter. Allow me, Mr. Prime Minister, to reproduce here its full text that reads " (1) No state party [UK] shall expel, return ("refouler") or extradiate a person to another state [Libya] where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subject to torture. (2) For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations, including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned [Libya] of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.".
Mr. Prime Minister,
The League regrets to confirm that the Government of Libya has complied with none of the above recommendations. In particular the League is not aware of any special education programme on torture that has been offered to the members of "Revolutionary Committees" and other security agencies, perpetrator of torture and other gross violations of Human rights. The League is not aware that any of those who committed the offence of torture has ever been subjected to investigation and prosecuted. What the League is aware of is that the UK Government is in a position to know the torturers and the network they form inside and outside Libya. The UK cannot ignore the names of those who killed the British Police-woman Yvone Fletcher and injured dozens of Libyans in front of the Libyan Embassy in London. It cannot ignore the names of those who killed Messrs Mohamed Nafaa, Mustapha Ramadhan, Ali Abuzaid and others while under UK soveregnity and protection in London. All of those who have been, for so long, on the UK "wanted lists" represent today Libya's "political Elite"; the very ones with whom your representative signed the "Memorandum of Understanding".
The LLHR firmly believes that to minimize the use of torture in Libya and to be sure that torture is definitely abolished, Libya must sign and adhere into the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The protocol provides for a unique mechanism to prevent torture by establishing an independent international system of unannounced inspection visits, by adequately mandated experts, to places of detention, such as police stations and prisons. Recommendations on practical measures to protect detainees from torture or other cruel punishments are made following each visit. The visits are meant to be preventive rather than reactive. This is what is really needed and that is what the "Memorandum of Understanding" unfortunately failed, purposely or not, to discuss and to make appropriate provisions for its institution.
The LLHR deeply believes that only a Libyan adherence to the Optional Protocol would seal a torture-free policy in Libya that would turn, once and for all, the page of its past records in the field of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment. The League regrets the Libyan Government's refusal to willingly say YES to the optional protocol and to inspections and visits of its places, public and secret, where people are deprived of their liberty in order to prevent torture. We still hope that this negative attitude towards the Optional Protocol on the prevention of torture does not reflect a governmental determination to continue, as usual, its policy of physical and moral torture (Busleem massacre, physical liquidations, disappearances, unfair trials, illegal arrests and detentions…) and its violations of the letter and spirit of the Convention against Torture and other human rights conventions and covenants.
Mr. Prime Minister,
Torture and mass violations of human rights constitute an aggravated and deliberate form of cruel inhuman punishment. They are real offences to human dignity and shall be banned all over the world as a violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human rights. No State, not even Libya which is still not in line with the prescriptions of International Human Covenants and Conventions, may be permitted or tolerated to practice torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. Nothing may be invoked to justify torture not even "the protection of the Revolution" as once invoked by Colonel Qaddhafi to justify his government's exactions suffered by his political opponents. The effective prevention of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment requires education and a combination of various legislative, administrative, judicial and other measures that do not, unfortunately, exist, at this stage, in Libya. Meanwhile, we recommend that any understanding with the Government of Libya in the field of human rights be contingent on Libya's full adherence to the Optional Protocol, the only legal instrument capable of eradicating torture from Libya.
Soliman Bouchuiguir (Ph. D)
The Honorable Prime Minister Tony Blair
10 Downing Street
London, SW1A 2AA
CC: Mr. Kofi Annan,
Secretary General, United Nations
One UN Plaza, New york, NY 10017
Ms. Louise Arbour
High Commisioner for Human rights
Palais des Nations, 1211 Geneva 10