By George Grant.
Tripoli, 14 June:
The Supreme Court has overturned Law 37, the so-called “anti-glorification law”, having ruled it to be unconstitutional . . .[restrict]under the NTC’s Constitutional Declaration of 3 August 2011.
The ruling concludes the first judicial review of a law passed by the NTC, and is being viewed by many as a significant milestone in the country’s commitment to respecting freedom of expression and the rule of law.
The challenge to the law was submitted to the Supreme Court by a distinguished group of lawyers, Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL), with the review of the law’s constitutionality having begun on 3 June 2012.
“Today marks a historical day for justice and the rule of law in Libya,” said LFJL director Elham Saudi. “The decision made by the Supreme Court today… not only demonstrates the Court’s commitment to the protection of the fundamental right to freedom of expression but it marks a first and vital step towards instilling confidence in the Libyan judicial system, a system which today asserted its independence and moved closer towards affirming the rule of law in Libya.
“This step must form the basis of the next phase of Libya’s democratisation process and serve to ensure that human rights and the rule of law are enshrined in Libya’s new constitution.”
Law 37 had made it a criminal offence to glorify “Qaddafi, his regime, his ideas or his sons”, with the aim of “terrorising people” or “weakening public morale” during times of war. The law defined Libya as currently being in a state of war.
In addition, anyone who “insults Islam, or the prestige of the state or its institutions or judiciary, and every person who publicly insults the Libyan people, slogan or flag”, or did anything else to “harm the 17 February revolution”, could have been jailed.
In addition to cricitism from LFJL, the law was also questioned by a number of Libyan journalists and civil society activists, as well as international rights organisations. Amnesty International had described the legislation as an “eerie reminder” of the draconian restrictions on speech deployed during the Qaddafi-era, whilst Human Rights Watch warned that “laws restricting what people say can lead to a new tyranny”. [/restrict]