Libya at the UN General Assembly
Libya at the UN General Assembly
It is expected that the Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar al Gaddafi, will address the 64th session of United Nations General Assembly in New York. His appearance will mark a new milestone in his return, and acceptance by some western governments, to the world community, after some three decades of isolation.
Indeed, the strides the Libyan regime has made on the path of reconciliation specifically with western governments are significant. In less than 6 years, the Libyan leader has moved from one considered as a sponsor of international terrorism and a leader of a rogue regime to one invited as state guest in western European capitals and a guest at the G8 summit in L`Aquila Italy, and now the UN General Assembly. But in sharp contrast to these developments on the International front, reconciling with world powers (1), there has been no progress on reconciliation on the domestic front, with the Libyan people.
Libya is still run by draconian laws (2); the country has no constitution since al Gaddafi abolished the constitution after the military coup of September 1969. Freedom of association in Libya is stifled by a set of laws (3), which prohibit partisan activism (forming political parties which are defined as treasonous act) and prevent the emergence of independent and viable civil society.
Despite repeated promises made to international organizations, the UN Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International & Human Rights Watch, the Libyan regime has failed to introduce the well overdue legal, legislative & institutional required reforms. Quite to the contrary, recent developments have increased the abuses and further eroded the rights of the Libyan people (6).
Also, the Libyan regime has failed to address the legacy of gross human rights violations, which hundreds of Libyan nationals have fallen victim in the past. The most serious of these violations is the unprovoked mass killings of approximately 1200 detainees at the Central Prison of the Abu Saleem detention centre, in Tripoli, on 29th June 1996 (4) & (5). The regime initially denied the massacre, then after several stops it finally responded to demands made by families of victims of the massacre, and announced this month the establishment of an investigating commission.
The establishment of the commission, which is by itself is an official recognition of the massacre, is a hard earned victory by the families of the victims of the massacre. They resorted to peaceful activism, reminiscent to the activism of the Argentinean mothers of victims of forced disappearances in the seventies & eighties. Also the work of Libyan human rights organizations, based in exile, and international organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and World Organization against Torture, helped bring this latest development in the case.
The just resolution of the case of Abu Saleem Massacre, is not only required for the case itself, but it is required for the overall process of reform in Libya and national reconciliation. Libya is at the cross-roads of reform, and it needs the support of all those concerned about peace and justice, justice for all.
Western governments may celebrate the apparent transformation of the Libyan regime, and its return to world community, which is a good progress, but without real reform and reconciliation within Libya, the long term of stability and development is at risk.
We call on human rights activists in particular and all progressives to show solidarity with the Libyan people and demand from their representatives and governments to press the Libyan regime to respect the rights of the people and enact the long overdue political & legislative reforms, and in particular to address the legacy of human rights violations.
Human Rights Solidarity
1. BBC Radio 4, The price of dealing with Libya 10 Sep 09
2. HRW Press release, Libya: Mark Anniversary by Restoring Rights (Up to 1,200 prisoners were killed on June 29, 1996 in Abu Salim prison, but the Libyan authorities have yet to make public any investigation into the incident or to hold anyone responsible. From 1996 until late 2008, the vast majority of the families of the prisoners who were killed sought news of their fate but received no information about them. In 2007, some of the families went to court over the issue, and in June 2008, the North Benghazi Court ordered the government to reveal the fate of those who had died. As a result, Libyan authorities started issuing death certificates to the families in December, without acknowledging that the deaths were related to the 1996 incident, and offering compensation of 200 thousand Libyan Dinars (US$162,300) in compensation if the family agreed to relinquish all legal claims. But most of the families in Benghazi have refused to accept compensation on those terms.)
3. EMHRN: Freedom of Association in the Euro-Mediterranean region 2008
4. Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee on the 4th Periodic Report of Libya, 15th November 2007 (Paragraph 14: The Committee reiterates its concern regarding the allegedly large number of forced disappearances and cases of extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions and the lack of clarification on the part of the State party in this respect. The Committee is furthermore concerned that some eleven years after the event, the State party was unable to provide information on the status of the work of the Commission responsible for the inquiry into the events at Abu Salim prison in 1996)
5. Amnesty International Special Report 2004, Libya: Time to make human rights a reality. (In February 2004, Colonel al-Gaddafi spoke to Amnesty International delegates about the events in Abu Salim Prison in 1996. This was the first time that the organization had heard official recognition that any such events took place. Colonel al-Gaddafi described the events as a tragedy.) & (At the time of this report going to print, Amnesty International learnt of a speech given by Colonel al-Gaddafi to the Supreme Council of Judicial Bodies and to other high-ranking members of the judiciary on 18 April 2004. In this speech, … Colonel al-Gaddafi also said that the authorities have no right to prevent lawyers and families visiting prisoners, and affirmed the right of families to know what happened to their relatives during incidents in Abu Salim Prison in 1996 during which large numbers of prisoners were reportedly killed.).
6. HRW Press release, Libya: Mark Anniversary by Restoring Rights (In a further step backward, on June 29, the General People’s Committee issued a decision (312/2009) requiring 30-day advance approval from a newly established government committee to hold any meeting or event, and requiring the meeting organizers to provide a list of all participants and the issues to be discussed. Under international law, though, these requirements do not meet the standard of a necessary or proportionate limitation to freedom of assembly and association. “Libyan authorities should reform the penal code and law on associations to bring them fully in line with international standards for freedom of expression and association,” said Whitson. “Issuing a decree that further stifles freedom of assembly gives the wrong signal. It should be revoked.”)
7. Human Rights Solidarity “Country Shadow Report” to the UN Human Rights Committee, CCPR/C/91/D/1422/2005 & CCPR/C/D/1295/2004, two cases related to Abu Saleem Massacre brought before the UN Human Rights Committee.