If the prosecutor general brings criminal charges based on article 262, then evidence needs to be produced that the three lawmakers knowingly made [the] false accusations, and these false accusations led to the criminal prosecution of the JCP party members, Human Rights Watch said.
Article 262 of Libya’s Penal Code stipulates sentences of up to life in prison for any person who willfully “accuses another of committing an act that is considered a criminal act under existing laws” while knowing the person is innocent, or by “fabricating a crime” that can lead to criminal indictment of that person. Article 439 stipulates a prison term of up to two years if a person “attacks the reputation of another by defaming them.” This article specifically includes defamation of public officials.
The Justice and Construction Party complaint accuses Gaid, al-Aidha, and al-Sweai of defaming the 18 JCP members by claiming they each received monthly payments of 250,000 Libyan Dinars (approximately US$200,000), from Qatar. The complaint accused al-Aidha of stating he had “proof” that the JCP were “agents of Qatar.” The complaint against al-Sweai accuses him of “inciting the population against the Justice and Construction bloc” by accusing the members of being “behind the recent wave of assassinations in Benghazi,” “leading country into the abyss,” and stealing public funds.
Gaid told Human Rights Watch that article 14 of Libya’s Constitution should protect her freedom of speech and opinion from prosecution. She acknowledged that she had accused Qatar of interfering in Libyan affairs and paying off officials, and said she had proof to back up the charge, but she denied leaking or publishing any documents regarding the accusations.
Libya is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, both of which protect the right to freedom of expression. Libya’s provisional constitutional covenant states in article 14 that the state “shall ensure freedom of opinion, freedom of speech for individuals and groups, freedom of scientific research, freedom of communication, freedom of press, media, printing, and distribution,” as long as it is not “contrary to public order.”
“Libyan authorities should focus on reforming Gaddafi-era laws that can be used to suppress speech, and not consider using them to intimidate opponents and silence dissent,” Stork said.
(Source: Human Rights Watch)