Human Rights Committee oncluding Observations on the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (4th Report)

On 15 November 2007, the Human Rights Committee published its Concluding Observations on the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (UN Doc. CCPR/C/LBY/CO/4).

The Committee found violations of the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and of the right to equality and non-discrimination for the implementation of a system of forced detention for women with protection purposes:

9. The Committee regrets that Libyan laws permit the forced detention of women who have not been convicted in so-called social rehabilitation facilities, for their own protection according to the State party, without the possibility to challenge their detention before a court. (arts. 3, 7, 26)
The State party is urged to reconsider the legal provisions which now allow to detention of women in so-called rehabilitation facilities against their own will.

The Committee also found Libya not respecting its human rights obligations on prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and of the right to equality and non-discrimination for not having adopted legislation for protection of women from violence:

10. The Committee also remains concerned that the State party has not yet adopted legislation concerning the protection of women against violence, especially domestic violence. (arts. 3, 7, 26)
The State party should take all necessary measures to effectively combat violence against women, including the enactment of appropriate legislation. The State party is requested to provide detailed information on this subject as well as disaggregated data on prosecution in its next periodic report.

The Committee also judged not in conformity with the Covenant’s human rights obligations the regime of inheritance and divorce towards women:

11. While the Committee takes note of some positive developments regarding the advancement of women, in particular regarding the admission of women to the judiciary and the establishment of a centre for women’s studies as well as a Department for Women’s Affairs, it reiterates its previous concern that inequality between women and men continues to exist in many areas, in law and practice, such as, notably, regarding inheritance and divorce (arts. 3, 17, 24, and 26).
The State party should review its laws in order to ensure equality between men and women in matters of personal status, in particular regarding divorce and inheritance. The State party should furthermore guarantee that equality is ensured in law and in practice.

The Committee also criticised the definition of terrorism and Libya’s counter-terrorism measures as not being in compliance with human rights:

12. While taking note of the State party’s assurance that all counter-terrorism measures taken by the State party are in compliance with international law, the Committee nevertheless is concerned that the terrorism-related elements in the draft penal code are not fully in conformity with the Covenant, and that it lacks a clear definition of “terrorism”. The Committee also regrets the lack of information regarding the safeguards provided by article 4 of the Covenant in times of emergency. The Committee also regrets the lack of information regarding the alleged rendition to Libya by other States of Libyan nationals accused of terrorist crimes (arts.. 4 and 9)
The State party should ensure that the draft penal code in its application to terrorism is compatible with the Covenant and that presently applicable counter-terrorism measures are in full conformity with the Covenant. The State party should also provide the Committee with information regarding the where abouts of the Libyan nationals that have been subject to rendition to Libya.

On death penalty, the Committee made clear its push towards abolition and the strict limits it applies to it:

13. The Committee reiterates its concern that under current legislation the death penalty can be applied to offences which are vague and broadly defined and which cannot necessarily be characterized as the most serious crimes under article 6, paragraph 2, of the Covenant. It also notes that the delegation did not provide sufficient details on the full range of offences punishable by death. The Committee notes the data provided by the State party regarding executions in the past six years which were allegedly for murder and theft, without clarification of the numbers for each offence. The Committee also regrets the absence of information in respect to death sentences (arts. 6 and 15).
The State party should take urgent steps to reduce the number and to specify, also in the envisaged revision of the penal code, the types of crimes for which the death penalty can be imposed. The State party should also provide the Committee with more detailed data regarding death sentences imposed and executions carried out in the past six years. The State party is furthermore encouraged to abolish the death penalty and to consider the ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the Covenant.

The Committee highlighted the denounced large amount of enforced disapperances and extrajudicial executions:

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 (arts. 6, 7 and 9).
The State party should urgently investigate all forced disappearances and extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, prosecute and punish the perpetrators of such acts and grant effective reparation including appropriate compensation, to victims or their families. The State party should provide the statistics required in this respect by the Committee in its previous concluding observations. The State party should ensure that the inquiry into the events in Abu Salim prison of 1996 is finalized as soon as possible and that the full report is made available.

On torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment in detention facilities, the Committee reported many flaws:

15. While the Committee notes that the oversight of detention facilities is exercised by the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Ministry of Justice, it remains concerned at continuing reports of systematic use of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and the lack of information by the State party regarding the prosecution of these cases. The Committee is also concerned by the testimony of the Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor that they had allegedly been subject to ill-treatment and were forced to sign papers absolving the State from any
responsibility regarding their torture or ill-treatment. (arts. 2, 7, 9 and 10).
The State party should take urgent and effective measures to stop the use of all forms of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and to ensure prompt, thorough, and impartial investigations by an independent mechanism into all allegations of torture and ill-treatment, prosecute and punish perpetrators, and provide effective remedies and rehabilitation to the victims.

The Committee repeated that corporal punishment by amputation is a violation of the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment:

16. The Committee remains deeply concerned that corporal punishment such as amputation and flogging are prescribed by law even if rarely applied in practice. They constitute a clear violation of article 7 of the Covenant. (art. 7)
The State party should immediately stop the imposition of all corporal punishment and repeal the legislations for its imposition without delay, as stipulated in the previous concluding observations of the Committee.

On impunity:

17. The Committee notes with concern that the continued practice and legal provisions regarding qisas (retribution) and diyah (payment), which may contribute to impunity, remain in force. (arts. 2, 7, 10 and 14)
The State party should review the laws and practice of qisas and the diyah in light of the Covenant.

On asylum-seekers ill-treatment and non-refoulement, the Committee encountered serious human rights violations:

18. While noting the establishment of a committee to draft a law on refugees and migrants, the Committee is concerned by reports that the State party routinely and collectively sends back refugees and asylum-seekers to their countries of origin where they might be subject to torture and other ill-treatment. The Committee furthermore notes with concern the persistent allegations by migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees of being exposed to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment upon arrest and particularly in detention centres. (arts. 7, 10, and 13)
The State party should adopt legislative and administrative structures to ensure that detention as well as extradition, expulsion or deportation of aliens do not lead to their being subjected to torture or other ill-treatment. The State party should also ensure that aliens claiming risks of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment can file an appeal against their forced removal with suspensive effects.

On arbitrary detention the Committee addresses the excessive length of pre-trial detention and protested at cases of use of incommunicado detention:

19. The Committee reiterates its concern at reports about the excessive length of pre-trial detention. The Committee is also concerned by the persistent reports of substantial numbers of detainees being held incommunicado, especially in cases of concern to the State security bodies. The Committee is furthermore concerned regarding reports about arbitrary arrests without judicial review and in violation of the provisions of the Covenant (arts. 9 and 14)
The State party should take all necessary measures to ensure that remand in custody and pre-trial detention is not excessively long in law and in practice, particularly through independent judicial supervision and prompt access to lawyers. The State party should also immediately stop arbitrary arrests and ensure that all persons under its jurisdiction are guaranteed the rights contained in the Covenant.

On special courts, the Committee repeated its opposition to their use in light of the ICCPR:

22. While acknowledging the abolition of the People’s Court in 2005, the Committee is concerned that the need for and the mandate of the new State Security Court, as well as the method of appointment and the period of tenure of the judges of this court are unclear, as is the difference between the State Security Court and the former People’s Court. The Committee regrets the reluctance of the State party so far to review the cases decided by the People’s Court (art. 14).
The State party should take urgent measures to ensure that all rights and guarantees provided under article 14 of the Covenant are respected in the composition, functions and procedures of the State Security Court, including that accused persons are granted the right to appeal against decisions of the court. The State party should provide the Committee with information regarding its mandate, legal basis, its composition, and its competence. Finally, the convictions and sentences handed down by the People’s Court should be reviewed by the State party’s judicial authority in the light of the guarantees contained in article 14 of the Covenant.

On freedom of expression and death penalty, finally, the group stressed the arbitrary character of such a punishment:

24. The Committee notes with concern that under Law 71 of 1972 and article 206 of the Penal Code, the death penalty can still be imposed for the establishment of groups, organizations or associations based on a political ideology contrary to the principles of the 1969 Revolution or calling for the establishment of such groups. (arts. 6 and 22)
The State party should provide statistical information on the number of and grounds for people sentenced to death or to prison based on having violated Law 71 of 1972 and Article 206 of the Penal Code. The State party should abolish these legal provisions in light of the Covenant.
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