Tripoli, 4 May:
Amnesty International yesterday condemned a new Libyan law forbidding the “glorification” of the deposed leader Muammar Qaddafi, saying it . . .[restrict]is an “eerie reminder” of laws he passed to stamp dissent.
Law 37 of 2012 on the Criminalization of the glorification of the dictator was passed Wednesday by the National Transitional Council. It carries prison sentences for spreading false rumors, propaganda or information with the aim of harming national defence, “terrorizing people” or “weakening citizens’ morale” during war time. The law imposes life imprisonment if such actions “harm the country”.
“This new legislation is an eerie reminder of draconian legislation that was used to stamp out dissent during Qaddafi’s brutal four-decade rule. Libyans took to the streets in February of last year and paid a heavy price to get rid of such repressive practices, not to see them reintroduced,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.
Glorifying “Qaddafi, or his political system, or his ideas, or children” is considered to be an act of “sensationalist propaganda” according to the new law.
The law also includes vague provisions for punishment and prison for anyone who harms the “17 February Revolution”. Punishment is also applied for those “offending” Islam, the state and its institutions, or for “publicly offending the Libyan people”.
An NTC official told Amnesty International that the law aims to protect the sensibilities of victims of Qaddafi’s crimes and to promote national reconciliation. Another official pointed out that the law was needed because some teachers continued to glorify Qaddafi’s rule in schools, threatening the “17 February Revolution”.
Not only does the law run counter to Libya’s international obligations, but it is also not compliant with Libya’s Constitutional Declaration, adopted on 3 August, 2011, which guarantees freedom of expression, he said.
“Free speech must be guaranteed for all, not only supporters of the new government,” said Luther. “We fear that this law will have a chilling effect on the emerging media in Libya and may lead to the imprisonment of prisoners of conscience.”
Since the fall of Qaddafi, his alleged loyalists have faced reprisals and revenge attacks in a climate of impunity. Thousands of people continue to be detained outside the framework of the law on accusations of supporting or fighting for Qaddafi. To date, none have been charged.