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Libya Human and Political Development Forum
Wednesday, 30 June, 2004

Human Rights in Libya


Human Rights in Libya

Under the auspices of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group, Lord Avebury and the Libya Human and Political Development Forum, a seminar was convened in the British Houses of Parliament in London, on Tuesday, 29 June 2004, to discuss the current human rights conditions in Libya. Three speakers addressed various aspects of the human rights situation in the country. Members of Parliament and the British government, human rights activists, journalists and other concerned individuals were invited.

The seminar coincided with the anniversary of the horrific massacre of over 1,000 political prisoners at the notorious AbuSaleem prison near Tripoli eight years ago. It noted with relief the release of hundreds of political prisoners over the last two years. It stressed the need for the release of all political detainees and a full public investigation of the AbuSaleem events. It called for appropriate steps be taken to bring those responsible to account and offer full compensation to the victims’ families.

The seminar welcomed statements by Libyan officials to bring human rights standards in Libya into line with international declarations and conventions on human right. It further welcomed the Libyan government’s public affirmations to review and repeal a whole raft of repressive laws and regulations violating human rights. It welcomed, in particular, the proposal to dismantle the exceptional “People’s Court” which has, for the last 20 years, been responsible for gross miscarriages of justice. However, it regretted that So far no practical steps have been taken to translate these announcements into actions.

The seminar noted with concern that the Gaddafi regime’s human rights record remains one of the most appalling in the world. In the last thirty-four years, Libya has seen more prisons, political prisoners, torture and executions (public and otherwise), and wider perversion of the judicial process than it had ever seen in its modern history.

Concern was also expressed regarding the institutionalisation of abuse and violation of human rights. The seminar condemned legislation, resolutions and by-laws, passed by the highest authorities in the country, that encourage, sanction and legalise such vile acts as collective punishment, the physical liquidation of political opponents, the confiscation and appropriation of businesses and private property.

The lifting of UN Sanctions and Libya’s rapprochement with the United State and Britain, are welcome developments. It is hoped that the rehabilitation of Gaddafi’s rogue regime would bring its laws and practices into line with civilised international conventions and behaviour. Lord Avebury, who chaired the seminar, voiced real concern that the USA and the UK governments still appear to be soft-paddling on the vital issues of reforms and human rights.

The seminar highlighted the urgent need to ensure that Libya complies fully with its obligations under international law on human rights, especially the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Convention against Torture and the European Convention on Human Rights.

As Libya enters a new phase of relations with the international community, moving from demonisation to rehabilitation, the seminar called for a full review of the regime’s extensive record of human rights abuses, and an examination of the reforms being proposed to redress it.

It was emphasised that for any respect for human rights to be sustainable, it must be underpinned and guaranteed by a robust framework of laws and declarations. The lack of such protective constitutional and legal framework could create an environment where major violations of basic human rights can occur.

It is hoped that recent moves by the international community to engage constructively with Libya would lead to a more open and transparent Libyan policy, and to a real transformation towards genuine democracy, a guarantee of public freedoms and a genuine respect for human rights in the country.

29 June, 2004

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