Tripoli, 21 December:
The upcoming trial of the former National Transitional Council chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil in a military court must be . . .[restrict]scrapped, the New York based-Human Rights Watch (HRW) has demanded. Providing there is credible proof of wrongdoing, the trial should be transferred to a civilian court it said in a statement issued yesterday, Thursday.
HRW says that no civilian should be tried at all in a Libyan military court, no matter the circumstances. Urging the Libyan authorities to amend the law to prohibit such practice, it has also called for the new constitution to contain a guarantee not to try civilians in military courts.
Jalil was charged by a military prosecutor in Benghazi on December 11 in connection with the killing on July 28 last year of the former commander of the anti-Qaddafi forces, General Abdul Fatah Younis. He was charged with “undermining national unity” and “abuse of power”.
“Dragging civilians in front of a military tribunal clearly violates international law and sets a dangerous precedent for Libya’s civilian justice system,” said Joe Stork, HRW’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director.
There is some confusion as to whether Jalil will actually go before a military court. Despite a statement to the Libya Herald this week by a military prosecutor that Jalil would be put on trial “very soon”, the military court in Benghazi has said that it will no longer be responsible for the trial relating to the killing of Abdul Fatah Younis.
Moreover on Tuesday, Justice Minister Salah Marghani announced that there were plans to amend the law to prevent civilians from being tried before military courts. “Abdul Jalil is a civilian and the new law will apply to him. His case will be transferred to a civilian court with all the guarantees of fair justice,” the minister said.
“This is excellent news from the justice ministry,” Stork said. “In the meantime, the case against Abdel Jalil should either be dropped or transferred to a civilian court.”
Libya should in any event amend its code of military justice to restrict military court jurisdiction to military personnel charged with offenses of an exclusively military nature, HRW said.
Trials of civilians before military courts violate the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) which Libya signed in 1985, it argued. It also violated Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights signed by Libya in 1970.
The ACHPR, states that “the only purpose of military courts shall be to determine offenses of a purely military nature committed by military personnel”, and that “military courts should not, in any circumstances whatsoever, have jurisdiction over civilians”.
In the recent days there have been public protests across Libya against Jalil being put on trial. [/restrict]