Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said that Libya’s House of Representatives should urgently amend provisions of a counterterrorism law that could be used to curtail free speech and rights to peaceful assembly and movement. The law runs afoul of Libya’s obligations under international law and human rights treaties it has ratified.
The House of Representatives, the elected parliament of Libya’s internationally recognized government based in the eastern city of Tobruk, adopted the Law on Combatting Terrorism [3/2014], on September 14, 2014.
“Libyan authorities have legitimate concerns about the growing influence of extremist armed groups and the threat they pose to Libyans and foreign migrants alike,” said Sarah Leah Whitson (pictured), Middle East and North Africa director. “But legislators need to make sure that the law against terrorism can’t be used to suppress basic rights.”
On May 13, 2015, Libya will undergo its second Universal Periodic Review (UPR), an assessment of each member country’s rights record held every four years, before the Human Rights Council in Geneva. United Nations member states should use the review to press Libya to urgently amend the Law on Combatting Terrorism and other legal provisions that curtail fundamental freedoms.
Libya has been gripped by chaos and lawlessness since the outbreak of serious hostilities in mid-2014. Two rival governments are vying for legitimacy – an internationally recognized government based in the east, and a self-declared one based in the west.
Armed groups, including some that have pledged allegiance to the extremist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS, IS, ISIL), have become stronger as a result of the security vacuum and have committed numerous rights abuses.
These include summary executions of foreign nationals, and public punishments that include extra-judicial executions, floggings, and amputation of limbs. Extremist armed groups have also claimed responsibility for large-scale attacks that killed civilians, such as one on Tripoli’s Corinthia Hotel.