Libya’s Human Rights Record Considering the Universal Periodic Review

In 2006, the Human Rights Council replaced the defunct UN Commission of Human Rights which was founded six decades earlier. It was anticipated that the Council would assist in the resolution of the major issue―its politicisation―that affected the ability of the Commission to safeguard human rights effectively. As a subject of the council, The Universal Periodic Review was instituted a mechanism for monitoring. Its major goal, through the examination of the record of human rights in every Member State of the UN, is to improve the current human rights circumstances. 

WHAT IS THE UPR?

The major United Nations (UN) human rights organisation is the Human Rights Council (HRC), and one of the mechanisms of this Council is the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The function of this mechanism is captured in its appellation: 

It’s universal: the UPR evaluates the human rights record of every Member State using the same procedures and parameters, whatever the situation of human rights and the country’s endorsement or conformity to international treaties on human rights. This collaborative discourse, during which all member states of the UN have the chance to query and advice other member states of the UN, is a unique approach to the UPR procedure.

It’s periodic: Every 4-5 years, the human right condition of all states is evaluated. Yearly, these reviews go on during the sessions of UPR Working Group (usually done in January/February, May/June and October/November). From 2008-2011, the first cycle took place and the second held from 2012-2016. The third will go on through 2017 to 2021. Despite being non-mandatory, every state has so far taken part in the evaluation in the first cycle. Likewise, every country remain on track to complete their evaluation for the second cycle as well.

It is an appraisal: UPR is an all-inclusive evaluation carried out on three major inputs basis:1. A human rights condition national report submitted by the State under Review (SuR).2. A ten-page compilation done by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR), comprising information from UN agreement bodies, Special Procedures of the HRC2 and agencies of the UN on the country’s conformity to the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, human rights apparatuses endorsed by the SuR, wilful commitmentsand pledges, and relevant human rights law.3. An OHCHR-prepared summary containing information from reports given by ‘other stakeholders’, comprisingcivil society groups and national human rights institutions (NHRIs).

THE WAR IN LIBYA

With a focus on matters such as local concerns, corruption and a quest for more political liberties, small demonstrations―partly inspired by the civil unrest that earlier happened in Tunisia―started emerging in Libya. These eased up eventually into mass protests against the Gaddafi government in Benghazi and Tripoli, starting in early February. Demonstrations circulated to other parts of the state and civilians by mid-February started asking that Gaddafi quit office. The Gaddafi government answered with a campaign of violent repression against protesters. Starting on February 16, repression intensified significantly and reports of extended killings happened on February 17 and 19. This invited substantial attention and censure from the international community.  Human Rights watch, on February 16, demanded intercession in Libya, specifically from the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) members. On February 18, the United States decried the violence and gave voice to their support for economic openness and democratic reforms in Libya as well as in other countries belonging to the Arab Spring. The UK, on February 19, requested an immediate termination to the usage of force against ordinary civilians. Canada likewise censured the violence on February 21. Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations had a meeting with Gaddafi and Ibrahim Dabbashi, UN Deputy Permanent Representative for Libya, requested the UN to enforce a no-fly zone over the Libyan capital city.

Extended universal media coverage began to disseminate a story of the Libyan conflict that was hugely fabricated on the notion of a fierce government response to a peaceful prevalent revolt attempt. Qatari news setup Al Jazeera was the primary foundation of this story. The network began disseminating images of rage, destruction, violence and death on a methodical basis, winning over the European society that Gaddafi has started a massacre with the objective of making certain the perpetuation of his privileges and power. A majority of the news narratives which were methodically disseminated to Western society narrated how Gaddafi’s air force was bombing urban regions indiscriminately ad thereby causing civilian casualties in their thousands. So the message was that it was a carnage that must be stopped at any expense, with the backing of the international community. 

In a brief but substantial mission that targeted the ground assets of the Libyan government, an unwilling NATO, and an even more disinclined US got involved in the extermination of the national air force and halting the advancement of the loyalist militants on Benghazi. Gaddafi’s defences were swift destroyed by the bombings and he left the capital eventually to take sanctuary in Sirte―his place of birth and tribal origin. The rest of the narrative is familiar. While desperately changing locations and declining to admit defeat to a foe that he had possibly not even discerned.

THE HUMANITARIAN CRISIS

As the Libyan conflict moved into its sixth year, there is still no sign of improvement of the humanitarian situation in certain parts of the nation. The most recent Humanitarian Needs Overview of 2018 projects that 1.1 million persons of whom women number 453,000 and children 378,000 need life-saving humanitarian protection and assistance. 2017 saw intermittent outbreak of localised conflicts in several portions of the country, such as Derna, Sabratha, Sirte and Benghazi which brought about displacements and impacted returnees and Internally Displaced Persons. Interference of accessibility to quality fundamental social amenities, sanitation, water, health, education and security as well as water and electricity cuts, which continued for some days in certain cases, have disrupted vulnerable persons’ conditions of living.

Libya is still the region gatekeeper for the relocation crisis. IOM approximates that there are over 600,000 migrants in the country; roughly one-tenth of these people are minors (59% of which were stated as accompanied, the remaining 41% are without any company). As of December 2017, 45, 129 asylum seekers and refugees had been registered by UNHCR; several of these persons are reportedly victims of random arrest and incarceration, and discrimination.

In the political realm, the Action Plan for Libya, a program that requests the Libyan Political Agreement amendment, organisation of a National Conference, elections preparations, and humanitarian assistance provision, has been launched by the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).  

CURRENT STATE OF AFFAIRS IN LIBYA

Weak Formal Security Sector

The former government’s policy legacy coupled with the 2011 revolution’s organic nature meant that the post-revolution security sector would encounter substantial problems which it has not been able to surmount. The consequence of this being that the Libyan state post-2011 has been incapable of exercising the monopoly of violence use under typical state building interpretations. 

Due to the new Libya’s political realities, efforts to assimilate militias into military structures and formal police after the revolution such as via the Libya Shield forces and the SCC were flawed. Lack of confidence in the new administration and the absence of a clear vision for the country’s future meant that guerrillas were disinclined to yield the potential sway they had won via their possession of arms, or their novel standing as revolutionary combatants. The General National Congress (GNC) and National Transitional Council (NTC) in response geared towards an amalgam security force model, involving the formations of assortments of militias as security-providing paramilitary forces. This led to the shallow combination of militias which hold little regard for the formal command chain into security systems, while official security services have deteriorated under a deficiency of resources or degenerated into divisions with factional allegiances.

Proliferation of Arms

Libya is inundated with arms. The Gaddafi government amassed huge amounts of light and heavy non-nuclear arms in reserves all over the nation. While several of these stores were damaged during NATO aerial attacks in the course of the uprising, others fell into the hands of revolutionary militias. The contents of these reserves were either moved to other places or the reserves themselves stayed under the control of the revolutionary forces. Extra arms were also imported into the nation during the uprising by international actors backing anti-Gaddafi militants and weapons are still being smuggled into Libya in spite of the ongoing arms embargo. By laying hold on some of the former government caches, certain stronger-armed Libyan groups, specifically combating forces in Zintan, Misrata and under the Libya National Army (LNA) possess heavy weapons supplies. These weapons comprise antiaircraft guns, artillery, tanks and a limited aircraft supply, whichhave been used actively in combat with devastating outcomes since July 2014.

The ongoing heavy weapons accessibility affords militias the ability to carry out utmost destruction and lowers the need to cooperate during political negotiations. The provisions listed in the draft political accord under negotiation the UNSMIL-assisted political discourse entails the surrender of heavy arms. The provisions demands militias to yield heavy arms within a month of putting pen to paper on the political accord. 

While preparation is moving forward, at the time of compiling this report, it is unclear still how efficient these procedures will be or how eager guerrillas will be to surrender control.

Present Health Circumstances

The want of data on health makes it tough to evaluate the intensity of the public health impact of the conflict. Essential medicines, orthopaedic supplies, haemodialysis, oncology drugs and HIV medicines, among other surgical and medical supplies are needed urgently, especially in regions with a highly IDP influx. There is diminished health care access for patients with mental health disorders and chronic illnesses, and greatly diminished care and rehabilitation amenities access for disabled patients (comprising those who have recently become disabled as a result of the crisis). Due to a devastation suffered by a Benghazi medical stock warehouse in July 2017, surgical and medical supplies shortage have taken place in eastern Libya. It’s a similar case in the southern and western parts of the nation due to security concerns and road closures. A number of hospitals, majorly in eastern Libya are out of supplies and incapable or receiving new supplies as a result of logistic issues. Hospital access is still a challenge for global aid workers and the domestic health staff.

Till date, there has been no report of an outbreak of a communicable disease in Libya. Nonetheless, given the summer months increasing temperatures, more increases in instances of diarrhoeal illnesses can be expected in jam-packed living settings and as a result of the very bad sanitation and water condition in the major cities, especially within Benghazi. The uncontrolled border and feeble surveillance system present the danger of the introduction of communicable infections, including the much-dreaded Ebola.

Internally Displaced Persons

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) projected that in Libya as of September, 217,000 personswere internally displaced. Based on IOM figures, most displaced persons were from Ubari, Misrata, Benghazi, and. Sirte

Authorities and militias in Misrata keep on preventing 35,000 Tawergha residents from returning to their bases, in spite of GNA June 19 announcement that it had endorsed a UN-brokered accord between Tawerghans and Misratans to end their conflicts and allow the former to get back to their bases. The representatives of Misrata, who indicted Taweghans of having perpetrated grave wrongdoings as ousted Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi supporters in the course of the revolt that threw him out, called for, as outlined in the accord, the establishment of a fund by the Government of National Accord (GNA) to compensate individuals who had been imprisoned and families of missing or killed victims between mid-February and August 2011. GNA, as at the time of compiling this report, has yet to create such a trust, and Misrata guerrillas kept on blocking displaced Tawerghan families from getting back to their houses.

Based on figures from the Tripoli exile-based Benghazi municipal council, roughly 3,700 Benghazi households have been displaced forcibly since 2014 and have tried to find somewhere to stay in western cities of Zliten, Khoms, Misrata and Tripoli, after militants associated with the LNA intimidated them, attacked, incinerated or took their houses and levelled allegations of terrorism against them. Tripoli and Misrata authorities have kept some persons displaced from Benghazi in custody, usually on questionable allegations of terrorism. Due to the eastern conflict, an extra 9,200 Benghazi households were displaced internally in western parts of Libya.

Abductions and Forced Disappearances

Local militias with affiliations with several authorities of government in western and eastern Libya, and criminal gangs abducted or by force vanished dozens of people for ransom, extortion and political gain. Jabin Zain, an activist based in Tripoli is still missing since his abduction in the capital on September 25, 2016 by an armed set affiliated with the Interior Ministry of the GNA. Abdel-Nasser Al-Jeroushi, a Benghazi prosecutor and Abdelmoez Banoon, a civil society activist, were both kidnapped by unknown persons in 2014 and remains missing.

Ali Zeidan, a former prime minister of Libya, was abducted in a hotel in Tripoli in August 2017 by an armed society with links to the GNA. He was released after being held for not less than nine days.

HUMAN RIGHTS CIRCUMSTANCE IN LIBYA

The Constitutional Declaration

The National Transitional Council (NTC) in August 2011 approved a temporary Constitutional Declaration. This document contains a number of human rights securities but neglects others―thereby falling short of Libya’s international responsibilities. The voted Constitution Drafting Assembly is currently working on an entirely new constitution for the country. 

Legislative Structure and Policy

Various measures and laws aimed at handling previous abuses of human rights in the country have been approved. GNC sanctioned the Law on Transitional Justice instituting accountability, fact-finding and compensation mechanisms for human rights violations victims. Also passed was a law to institute a committee whose responsibility is to investigate the mass murder of not less than a hundred dozen prisoners in Abu Salim Prison four years before the millennium. A decree providing for legal support and compensations to sexual violence victims who suffered in the hands of stage agents under Gaddafi and at the time of the 2011 uprising, was legislated in 2014.  

These measures, however, remain inoperative largely as a result of political infighting and poor security that have tainted the transitional phase. Penal Code reforms have since not been conducted. Provisions that are not in compliance with international human rights standards and laws are still in effect. For instance, torture’s definition as a misconduct under 2013 Law 10 on “Criminalising torture, enforced disappearance and discrimination” is belowinternational criteria, and 2012 Law 38 on “Some Special Procedures during the Transitional Period” weakens efforts to realise justice for victims. The GNC, in May 2013,approved the Law on Political and Administrative Isolation (No.13), which prevents Gaddafi-era officers from occupying positions of responsibility in public establishments for 10 years. While it promises the right to challenge decisions, its standards for barring are overly extensive and nebulously worded. The House of Representatives, elected halfway through 2014 as the GNC’s replacement, voted to rescind the law in February 2015. It is still unclear how this verdict will be effected in light of the present political fighting and crisis.

REFERENCES

Bring, Ove &, Mahmoudi, Said, Sverige och Folkrätten, 3rd ed., Norstedts Juridik, Stockholm, 2007, p. 154. On the other hand, according to article 55 and 56 of the Charter, Member States are obliged to take both joint and separate action in the objective of ensuring respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.

Economic and Social Council, Resolution 5 (I), 29 January 1946, UN Doc E/RES/5(I) (hereinafter ESC Resolution 5 (I)).

Libya must ensure proper investigation after prominent lawyer shot dead, 26 June 2014, available at: http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/Libya-must-ensure-proper-investigation-after-lawyer-salwabugaighis-shot-dead-2014-06-26

Hodge, C. C. (2013). Full circle: Two decades of NATO intervention. Journal of Transatlantic Studies, 11(4), 350-367. doi:10.1080/14794012.2013.843883 

Independent International Commission on Kosovo. (2000). The Kosovo report: Conflict, international response, lessons learned. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/0199243093.001.0001

Shaw & Mangan, Illicit Trafficking and Libya’s Transition: Profits and Losses, Peaceworks, United States Institute of Peace, 2014.

Smits, Janssen, Briscoe & Beswick, Revolution and its discontents: state, factions  and violence in the new Libya, Clingendael Institute, September, 2013.

United Nations, 2015 Libya: Humanitarian Needs Overview, United Nations Humanitarian Country Team for Libya, September 2015.

Werenfels, I. Qaddafis Libyen, endlos stabil und reformresistent? Stiftung für Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP), Studie S 7 2008. 

Yann, B. Niane Lebeau, A. Piriou & M. Saint Martin (eds.), Etat et acteurs émergents en Afrique. Démocratie, indocilité et transnationalisation, Paris: Karthala, 200.

Züricher, C. and Koehler, J. Institutions and Organizing Violence in Post Socialist Societies. Berliner Osteuropa Info 17, 2001.