By Libya Herald staff.
Tripoli, 29 March 2015:
Human rights defenders in Libya face threats of physical attacks, abduction, harm to their family . . .[restrict]and even murder on a daily basis, said a joint report of the UN Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) and UNSMIL.
In a stark and chilling 16-page document, OHCHR described episode after episode of attempts to silence human rights defenders in Libya, saying that violence and threats towards them have increased since May 2014. The report highlighted abuses across the country, from Benghazi and Derna to Tripoli and Misrata, saying that with the rise in abuses, freedom of expression has been effectively curtailed in Libya.
Human rights defenders have been the victims of physical attacks, illegal detention, abductions and murder. The report recalls the murders of Benghazi-based newspaper editor Muftah Awad Buzid, of Salwa Bughaigis, youth activists Tawfik Bensaud and Sami Al-Kawafi and activist Intisar Hasairi.
The consistent failure to complete any meaningful investigations of these murders or any other incident, said OHCHR, was indicative of a failure of the criminal justice system. Personnel in the justice system had themselves been targets of threats. OHCHR specifically mentioned the investigation into the murder of Bughaigis. The lead investigator in the case, public prosecutor Abdel Nasser Al-Jaroushi, was himself abducted and is reportedly being held in Gernada Prison.
Human rights defenders have been subject to threats and harassment via phone calls, texts, emails and social media, in an effort to scare them into silence. Their relatives have also been threatened.
While many have fled the country, some have found that their relatives who remain in Libya are still being threatened. Meanwhile, OHCHR has documented at least two occurrences in Tunisia in which human rights defenders were attacked by Libyans after having fled to Tunisia safety.
Offices of human rights groups have been raided, damaged, looted and forcibly closed, the report also stated. Jurists without Chains closed in October in Benghazi after multiple attacks on its offices and threats against personnel. The Libyan National Council for Civil Liberties and Human Rights was forcibly shut down in November. The National Tebu Assembly has also, reportedly, had to sharply curtail its activities after multiple threats against its members.
Women, especially, have been at risk of threat on the basis of gender.
“Women human rights defenders as well as their families have also faced threats and intimidation on the basis of their gender from armed groups to withdraw from public life and stop advocating for women’s rights, equality and the demobilisation of armed groups,” reported the OHCHR.
Human rights defenders who try to document and report on abuses carried out by various sides of the current armed conflict have faced reprisals from armed groups. This has been particularly true in Derna, where activists who report on Ansar Al-Sharia and Islamic State activity there have had to go underground after the murder of three activists there.
In Benghazi, where Operation Dignity began in May 2014, no side has been innocent of threats against human rights defenders, the report maintained. Specifically mentioned were threats against relatives of the victims of the Abu Sleem prison massacre, who were viewed as being pro-Benghazi Revolutionaries’ Shoura Council.
UNSMIL and the OHCHR issued a reminder that Libya is a party to international human rights laws and conventions. Libya’s own laws, as well, provide protection from harassment and abuse. Furthermore, UN Resolution 2174 allows the UN Security Council to target individuals or entities that engage in acts that constitute an abuse of human rights.
The OHCHR urged the government and justice sector personnel to carry out thorough investigations and hold perpetrators accountable. A wide range of further recommendations included sensitivity training for police and investigators, institution building, government condemnation of acts of retribution against human rights activists, release of those being unjustly detained and reparation those who have suffered violations. The Libyan government was also encouraged to cooperate with the International Criminal Court in its investigations of crimes committed in Libya.
The UN Human Rights Council intends to send a team to Libya to investigate human rights abuses. The aim is that proceedings be taken against those responsible. [/restrict]