Re : 2nd EP-Libya Interparliamentary Meeting|
Members of the European Parliament
Delegation for relations with Maghreb countries
And the Maghreb Arab Union
Brussels 23 January 2004
Re : 2nd EP-Libya Interparliamentary Meeting
Amnesty International would like to take the opportunity of your forthcoming discussions with representatives of Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in Brussels next week to draw your attention to a our concerns regarding the human rights situation in the country. We appeal to Members of the European Parliament to adress these concerns in your forthcoming exchanges.
As you will see in the briefing note attached, Amnesty International remains concerned at widespread human rights violations that continued throughout 2003 :
- Legislation criminalizing peaceful political activities remains in force.
- The security forces continue to arbitrarily arrest real or alleged political opponents, and to detain them incommunicado for long periods without charge.
- Despite a "No To Torture" campaign launched by the Gaddafi International Foundation for Charitable Associations (GIFCA) headed by Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, Amnesty International continues to receive reports of torture and ill-treatment.
- Unfair trials before People's Court continue to lead to political imprisonment.
- The death penalty remains in force.
- There was no progress in shedding light on the human rights violations of the past, including deaths in custody and "disappearances".
- Political prisoners detained in previous years remained in prison.
Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the Libyan authorities, including in the context of last year's election of Libya as the Chair of the 59th session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, to demonstrate its commitment to human rights, including by implementing the following recommendations :
To our knowledge, none of these recommendations have been acted upon by Libya to date. We therefore encourage you to remind delegation from Libya of these recommendations and call for their implementation.
Extend a standing invitation to all the special procedures of the United National Commission on Human Rights and co-operate with their requests to undertake visit, as well as visits by non-governmental human rights organisations.
Ratify further international treaties, including the
- Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty;
- Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women;
- Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict;
- Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1951) and the Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees;
- Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
- Submit periodic reports to the United Nations treaty monitoring bodies on time and in accordance with reporting guidelines and implement their recommendations.
- Implement the recommendations of the Committee against Torture :
The Committee against Torture recommended that the law and the practices be brought in line with the Convention against Torture; 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"; that a clear message should be sent by the authorities "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 investigation and rigorously prosecuted in accordance with the law"; and finally that corporal punishment should be abolished by law. (Paras. 186-189, Concluding Observations of the Committee against Torture: Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. 11/05/99, A/54/44,paras.187-189).
- Implement the recommendations of the UN Human Rights Committee:
Death Penalty : The Human Rights Committee, charged with overseeing the compliance of states that are party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, expressed particular concern "about the excessively vague wording of article 4 of the Promotion of Freedom Act, which stipulates that the death penalty may be imposed "on a person whose life endangers or corrupts society" and similar wording in the Great Green Document, thus leading to the imposition in the State party of the death penalty for offences which cannot be characterized as the most serious…." (Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee: Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. CCPR/C/79Add.101, para 8).
- Freedom of expression : The Human Rights Committee also expressed ‘its deep concern about the numerous restrictions, in law and in practice, on the right to freedom of expression, and in particular on the right to express opposition to or criticism of the Government, of the established political, social and economic system and of the cultural values prevailing in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya". The Committee urged the Libyan authorities ‘to undertake a truly critical analysis of restrictions to articles 18, 19, 21, 22 and 25 and their effect in practice, with a view to fulfilling its obligations under those articles'. More specifically, the Committee recommended ‘that the application of provisions of the Publication Act (1972) which are incompatible with article 19, of the Covenant, should be immediately suspended and that steps should be taken for its revision'(Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee: Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. CCPR/C/79Add.101, Para.15)
- Extrajudicial, arbitrary or summary executions : The Human Rights Committee recommended that all allegations of extrajudicial, arbitrary or summary executions perpetrated by state agents as well as of a high incidence of arbitrary arrest and detention, including long detention without trial be fully, publicly and impartially investigated. Results of such investigations should be published. Perpetrators of those acts be brought to justice and that the victims and their families be duly compensated. (Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee: Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. CCPR/C/79Add.101, Para.7)
- Treatment of detainees : The Human Rights Committee further recommended the enforcement of a more efficient system for monitoring treatment of all detainees, and ensuring that all cases of alleged torture or ill-treatment be investigated by an impartial body, that the results of such investigations be published and that officials responsible for torture and ill-treatment be prosecuted and, if convicted, severely punished. The Committee added its concern over "the excessive duration of remand in custody and undue prolongation of pre-trial detention and urges that all necessary measures be taken to reduce the length of such detention and to improve judicial oversight". (Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee: Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. CCPR/C/79 Add.101, Paras. 10, and 13)
- Implement the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child :
The Committee on the Rights of the Child has expressed concern "at the situation of the administration of juvenile justice and in particular its compatibility with articles 37 and 40 of the Convention, as well as other relevant United Nations standards such as the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (Beijing Rules), the United Nations Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency (Riyadh Guidelines) and the United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty." The Committee recommended taking further steps to reform the system of juvenile justice in the spirit of the Convention. "Particular attention should be paid to considering deprivation of liberty only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest possible period of time, to the protection of the rights of children deprived of their liberty, to due process of law and to the full independence and impartiality of the judiciary. Training programmes on relevant international standards should be organized for all those professionals involved with the system of juvenile justice." (Concluding observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child: Libyan Arab Jamahiriya CRC/C/15/Add.84, para 31)
- Withdraw the reservation to the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women :
Upon its ratification of the Convention in 1989, the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya entered the following reservation of general and sweeping nature. It stated: « Article 2 of the Convention shall be implemented with due regard for the peremptory norms of the Islamic Shariah relating to determination of the inheritance portions of the estate of a deceased person, whether female or male. The implementation of paragraph 16 (c) and (d) of the Convention shall be without prejudice to any of the rights guaranteed to women by the Islamic Shariah. »
On 5 July 1995, the Government of the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Republic notified the United Nations Secretary-General of the "new formulation of its reservation to the Convention, which replaces the formulation contained in the instrument of accession" which read as follows: « [Accession] is subject to the general reservation that such accession cannot conflict with the laws on personal status derived from the Islamic Shariah. »
We would be pleased to discuss these concerns and recommendations with you on the margins of the 2nd EP-Libya Interparliamentary meeting. One of our experts on Libya, Mrs. Sara Hamood from the North Africa desk at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International, will be in Brussel on 27-28 January, and would welcome an opportunity for an exchange. Please contact me at 02/548 27 77 to arrange for a possible time and venue at the EP.
Thank you in advance for your interest and kind consideration.
Amnesty International EU Office
Executive Officer for CFSP/External Relations
Briefing note on human rights developments in the Libyan Arab Jamahirya in 2003
Deaths in custody
No independent investigation is known to have been initiated after families of many political prisoners were informed in 2002 that their relatives had died in prison, sometimes years earlier. In September 2003, the General People's Committee for Justice and Public Security (Ministry of Justice and of the Interior) declared that the cases of "death of some persons who were arrested and detained in police stations" are "limited and well known", and were being "investigated by the General Prosecution". However, this statement does not seem to address the cases of those who died in prisons in previous years. This uncertainty has led to speculation that they may have been among those allegedly unlawfully killed in July 1996 in Abu Salim Prison in Tripoli.
Arbitrary and incommunicado detention
In January 2003, the General People's Committee for Foreign Liaison and International Cooperation (Foreign Affairs Ministry) wrote to Amnesty International that allegations of arbitrary detention were « groundless ». However, there were continuing reports that the security forces, notably the Internal Security, continues to arbitrarily detain individuals and hold them incommunicado and without charge, sometimes for several months.
One example is the case of three Libyan nationals who were reportedly detained without charge after they were forcibly returned from Sudan in October 2002. Mr. Abd al-Mun'im Abd al-Rahman, Mr. Mohamed Rashid al-Jazawi, and Mr. Ismail al-Lawati, had been deported back to Libya with their wives and children. Upon arrival at Tripoli airport, they were reportedly transferred to Abu Salim prison. They were believed to remain in detention without charge or trial at the end of 2003.
Unfair trials before People's Courts
The authorities continue to deny the existence of political prisoners or prisoners of conscience. In December 2003, in an address to civil servants of the General People's Committee for Justice and Public Security (Ministry of Justice and of the Interior) reported by the media, Colonel al-Gaddafi reiterated that Libya had no prisoners of conscience and that prisoners were of two kinds only, either "ordinary criminal" or "heretic". However, unfair trials before People's Courts leading to political imprisonment continue to be reported.
For example, hearings continue to be repeatedly postponed in connection with the appeal before a People's Court in Tripoli, opened in mid-2002, of 151 professionals and students arrested in 1998 on suspicion of supporting or sympathizing with the banned Libyan Islamic Group, al-Jama'a al-Islamiya al-Libiya. In February 2002, after a first unfair trial before a People's Court in Tripoli, two possible prisoners of conscience, Mr. Abdullah Ahmed Izzedin and Mr. Salem Abu Hanak, were sentenced to death, while scores of others received sentences ranging from 10 years' to life imprisonment. In a communiqué issued in September 2003, the Human Rights Society of the GIFCA stated that it had called on the authorities "to work towards the release of the group of the so-called ‘Muslim Brothers', and this in order to re-integrate them into society [...], given that they have not used or advocated violence."
Developments in the 'HIV trial'
The trial of six Bulgarians and a Palestinian, arrested in 1999 and charged with deliberately infecting at least 393 children with the HIV virus in al-Fateh hospital in Benghazi, continues before the Criminal Court. In a report submitted to the court, two foreign AIDS experts said that the infections were probably caused by poor hygiene, and not by the seven medical workers. Prosecutors in the trial, who demand the death penalty against the accused, continue to claim that the medical personnel were part of an international conspiracy involving foreign intelligence services. At the end of December 2003, five Libyan medical experts submitted a report to the Benghazi Criminal Court, according to media reports. They were reported to conclude that, contrary to the findings of AIDS experts Prof Luc Montagnier and Prof Vittorio Colizzi, there was no evidence that a nosocomial infection led to the AIDS outbreak, and that deliberate actions were the likelier cause of the infection.
Unlawful detention of migrants at risk of deportation
Among the thousands of migrants living in Libya or passing through the country are scores of people who are believed to have fled their countries to escape persecution. Asylum-seekers have been unlawfully detained and remain at risk of forcible deportation. Libya has still not ratified the UN Refugee Convention.
Seven Eritrean nationals who had reportedly deserted the Eritrean army at different times during 2002 and fled from Eritrea to Sudan and then to Libya were at risk of deportation. They were arrested by the Libyan authorities on 11 August 2002 as they attempted to cross the Mediterranean Sea. They were subsequently convicted of illegal entry but not released after the expiry of their three-month sentences. They reportedly remained in detention by the end of 2003.
Another Eritrean national, Binyam Abraha, who was in his early 20s and detained in a detention centre near Janzour, approximately 30km from the capital, Tripoli, died in custody on the night of 16-17 September 2003. He had reportedly been detained in Libya for over a year and a half, apparently without charge or trial. Although he was seriously ill, he was allegedly denied access to medical care.
2003 marked the 25th anniversary of the "disappearance" of Imam Musa al-Sadr, a prominent Iranian-born Shi'a cleric who had been living in Lebanon and was last seen in Libya during a visit in 1978. It also marked the 10th anniversary of the "disappearance" of Mr. Mansur Kikhiya, former Libyan Foreign Affairs Minister and prominent human rights defender, who was last seen in Cairo, Egypt, in December 1993. The authorities fail to disclose information on these and other cases of "disappearances", including the case of Jaballah Matar and Izzat Youssef al-Maqrif, both prominent Libyan opposition activists, who "disappeared" in Cairo in March 1990.