Tripoli, 11 May:
The NTC has come under fire from the international NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) for drawing up legislation protecting . . .[restrict]from prosecution anyone whose actions were aimed at “promoting or protecting the revolution” against the regime of Muammar Qaddafi.
Law 38, “On Some Procedures for the Transitional Period”, passed on 2 May and going into effect tomorrow, 12 May, says there shall be no penalty for “military, security, or civil actions dictated by the 17 February Revolution that were performed by revolutionaries with the goal of promoting or protecting the revolution.”
This is not the first time the NTC has been criticised by the rights group for legislation it has passed in recent weeks. Law 37, which makes it an offence to “glorify” Qaddafi or do anything which could “damage” the revolution, has also been heavily criticised as anti-democratic by a range of Libyan and international groups.
Explaining the group’s opposition to Law 38, Human Rights Watch’s deputy Middle East and North Africa director Joe Stork said, “This law allows people who committed serious crimes to walk free based on politics. It propagates a culture of selective justice that Libyans fought so hard to overcome”.
Holding accountable all those responsible for serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law is critical for the new Libya to be based on the rule of law, Human Rights Watch said.
However, Human Rights Watch issued a cautious welcome to another part of Law 38, which aims to address the serious problem arbitrary detention of suspected former Qaddafi loyalists and others held by militias across the country. Law 38 says the Ministries of Interior and Defence must refer all “supporters of the former regime” currently detained by militias, if there is sufficient evidence against them, to the competent judicial authorities by 1 July.??Numerous reports by the United Nations and others have documented incidences of torture and abuse of detainees in these facilities, and noted that the accused do not have access to the rule of law.
Last month, an investigation was launched into the death of three prisoners under the control of the Misrata Supreme Security Committee, as well as the alleged torture of several others. Last October, at least 53 people were apparently executed without trial in Qaddafi’s former hometown of Sirte. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch has also alleged that the expulsion of some 30,000 people from the town of Tawergha, who are accused of rape, murder and looting whilst fighting for Qaddafi by their Misratan opponents, could amount to a crime against humanity.
“Tasking the ministries with processing the militias’ detainees within two months is a positive step to address a serious ongoing problem,” Stork said. “But giving a pass to people responsible for serious crimes will foster a culture of impunity that encourages further abuse.”??The law also states that even if a court acquits a person who was detained by a militia, that person has no right to initiate a criminal or civil complaint against the state or the militia, unless the detention was based on “fabricated or mendacious” allegations. The right of recourse for people who have been wrongly detained and acquitted should not be nullified, Human Rights Watch said.
Law 38 also allows the government to restrict a person’s movement, impose a fine, or detain a person up to two months if they are considered a “threat to public security or stability” based on their “previous actions or affiliation with an official or unofficial apparatus or tool of the former regime.” Affected individuals may challenge the measures before a judge.??Human Rights Watch said that such restrictions on people considered a threat to security should be based on concrete evidence of wrongdoing rather than on past affiliations. Such wrongdoing should be prosecuted under the criminal law rather than vague and open-ended powers to detain people as “threats to security.”??The law also appears to violate Libya’s Constituent Covenant for the Transitional Period, which states that all Libyans are “equal before the law” and that they enjoy equal “civil and political rights.” It says that all citizens shall have the same opportunities and are subject to the same public duties and obligations, without any distinction based on political beliefs. [/restrict]