The State of Human Rights in Libya

The following is a letter submitted by the Libyan League for Human Rights to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in September 1996:
Eighteen months ago, on 31 March 1995, we seized the opportunity offered by the third anniversary of the adoption by the Security Council of Resolution 748 to write to the UN Secretary General about the League's concern regarding the reprecussions of that Resolution and its subsequent amendments on the enjoyment of human rights by the Libyan people. That resolution has erected new hurdles and added new threats to the remaining very few restricted minimum rights and freedoms that the Libyan government still permits Libyans to enjoy. We also explained to the Secretary General that the league is convinced that the place of trial of the Libyan suspects was important but not as primrodial as fair trial and independent Justice both of which are inexistent in Libya. Had Independant Justice and fair trial existed in Libya, in conformity with article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) of which Libya is a party and also along the UN basic principles on the Independence of the Judiciary as adopted by the UN General Assembly Resolution 40/146 of 13 December 1985 freely voted by Libya, the present Resolution 748 and its subsequent amendments would not have been voted. Indeed, the free Judiciary would have automatically and impartially decided on the cases of the Libyan suspects involvement in the Pan Am and UTA unfortunate flights on the basis of facts and in accordance with law without restrictions, improper influences, inducements, pressures. threats or interference, direct or indirect, from any quarter of any person.

The consequences of this flagrant injustice have been devestating on ordinary Libyan citizens who have lately been experiencing new deprivations and additional restrictions on their human rights. The government which alone stands accused is today more oppressive than ever. All human rights reports point to the fact that the arbitrary use of deadly violence by the official military force as well as by paramilitary organizations including "the Revolutionar Committees" and "the Purification Committees" has reached unprecedented proportions and that the rights of life has never been so threatened as it is now. They also point to the widespread use of torture and the generalization of random arbitrary arrest among all sections of the population and particularly young peoples including teenagers. All detentions are taking place, in view of the inexistence of Free Trial and Independent Judiciary, without any process of law and without charges being brought against the detainees. Their places of impisonment are unknown, in flagrant violation of the principles set out in the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners accepted by Libya in 1955, and none of the detainees have been permitted to contact lawers or even their families. No detainee has been brought before a magistrate or much less put to trial.

This is in brief the human rights situation in Libya whose people are being punished by the Security Council. It is an intolerable situation where people find themselves subjected to an oppressive military system of government that has during the last 27 years, openly confiscated their human rights without objection or even intervention from any quarter. Even the UN Centre for Human Rights does not seem to have given any importance to what has been happening in the Libyan field of human rights. In this respect the UN Centre for Human Rights shortcomings are cristal clear especially that Libya is a party to almost all instruments of human rights and should, therefore, have been held accountable for serious breaches of the letter of spirit of those instruments. The Libyan Government has been, throughout this period, known and even famous for its contempt of basic human rights as contained in the very instruments and conventions it has freely entered into. The Libyan President is the only chief of state on record to have called "on all people to throw the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the trash can of history." The Libyan Government is the only government in the world to have adopted, openly, "the physical liquidation" and the killing of its political opponents as official governmental policy. In view of the astonishing passivity of the UN Centre for Human Rights. the moral consience of mankind in the field of human rights. The Libyan Government might have thought that the protective dam was breached and once the dam is breached, the current cannot be stopped anymore.

The accession of the Government of Libya to the many conventions and covenants does not and should not prevent the UN Centre from scrutinizing the actual imlementation of those conventions to assess the extent of the government commitments and the way these commitments are ben fulfilled. For instance it is obvious to anyone and specially to the UN high Commisioner for Human Rights that the Libyan government has been in constant violation of the rights contained in the (ICCPR) eo which Libya is a party, including the rights to free trial and independent Judiciaty (article 14), the right to freedom of expression (article 22), the right to genuine periodic election by universal and equal suffrage and secret ballot (article 25).

It is well known that none of these important rights have been respected or even less recognized by the very government that signed the covenant. As a matter of fact Libyans have been constantly denied all democratic and elective forms of participatio in the conduct of their country's public affairs throughout the last 27 years. During this period, Libya has been the only ICCPR state party where no elections at all, free or even phony, have taken place. It is the only country party of the ICCPR where the freedom of association is punishable by death by fire squad (Public Law No. 17 of 1972) and it is also the only member that rejects the very principles of constitution, basic law, separation of power, free speech, free trade unions, free press...etc. It is the country that has been known to use extensively the practice of torture during interrogation of prisoners and of punishment purposes despite its adherence to the "UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment."

It is not, of course, our intention to enumerate the gross violations of the letter and spirit of international human rights covenants that have been duly signed and ratified by the Libyan Government. We have repeatedly called, during the last seven years of the existence of our human rights organization; the Libyan League for Human Rights, on the government to change its oppressive policy of human rights by respecting its legal obligations under those covenants but to no avail. The Government has steadily refused our call for peaceful dialogue and democratic reforms. It is still refusing to look into our proposal to open the country's door to all Libyans and their various cultural, trade-union and political organizations so that they can participate, on equal footing, in the assumption of responsibiliy for the establishment of a modern Libyan State; a state that respects human rights and the rule of law. The recent carnage in the Central Prison of Tripoli and in the stadium of Tripoli and the raging platent war against the civilian population in different regions of the country especially in the mountainous areas in the East indicate that the Government has chosen the continuation of oppression and violence and that respect for human rights is not yet on the agenda. The League deplores, of course, this position and take this opportunity to renew the call, through you, on the government to reconsider its decision with the view of instituting a true government of law emanating from genuine free national elections by universal and equal suffrage and secret ballot.

The League is convinced that the Libyan Government will not respond to any human rights calls or humanitarian requests as long as the de-facto comlacency manifested, during the last twent seven years, by the international community and the UN Centre for Human Rights is not shifted and adopted to the country's prevailing grave human rights situation. A more active approach to scrutinize the human rights situation, through direct inquiries and serious investigations, is urgently required if we were to save Libyans further sufferings. We strongly believe that the outbreak of miseries of the last few years in a country that is relatively rich would have not taken place had the UN Centre been more actively involved in the Libyan human rights situation. Even the sanctions voted by the Security Council would have been avoided had the Centre insisted that Libya strictly imlement all provisions of the conventions it has signed. We also believe that it is the Commissioner's obligation to inform the international community of the situation of human rights in Libya and to insure strict compliance by the Libyan Government to this undertaking. Given the long years of neglect by the Centre of the Libyan human rights situation, it is now too late apparently to prevent violations from becoming serious and widespread as they are already too serious and their practice generalized. We therefore propose,for the sake of optimal efficiency and in order to make up for past inertia, the immediate appointment of a Special Rapporteur whose mandate should include Inter-alia (1) the preparation of regular and ad-hoc reports on the present situation of human rights (2) regular review of the compliance of the Libyan Government with the various commitments it has freely made through the signing and ratification of the main human rights instruments and (3) observe and assist in the strict implementationof those instruments. Only through a long term appointment of suc a Rapporteur can one hope for a slow relief and gradual amelioration of Libya's human rights conditions.

In recent years, Libyans have been denied most of their rights and fundamental freedoms. And the ever-increasing repression has prevented the fulfillment of even their least aspirations in regard to freedom, dignity and development. We hope that through the appointment of a Special Rapporteur Libyans will resucitate their trust into the UN Centre for Human Rights that has forgotten their plights for so long.

The Libyan League for Human Rights take this opportunity to your excellency full success in endeauver to extend the enjoyment of human rights to all peoples including the Libyan people

The Executive Committee **
1 September 1996

** Mr. Mansour Kikhia, a member of the Executive Committee, has not been able to sign this letter. He forcibly disappeared in Cairo, Egypt, on 10 December 1993. Unconfirmed reports exist about his possible handing over to Libya where he may have been executed.
The Libyan League for Human Rights mailing address:
P.O. Box 2146
1211 Geneva 2/Depot.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights address:
Palais des Nations
1211 Geneva 10
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