Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Libya: Libyan freedom of assembly law imposes undue restrictions


Source: Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

(CIHRS/IFEX) - 3 December 2012 - The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Lawyers for Justice in Libya, New Libya Foundation, Rashad Foundation, Eugrtin Organization for Amazighi Culture and Development, Qafza Organization, and the Kufra Youth Forum express their deep concern regarding law 65/2012 recently passed by the Libyan General National Congress to regulate the right to peaceful protest.

While we acknowledge positive elements of the law, we remain concerned that many aspects of it fail to uphold international human rights standards. We believe that limiting Libyans' right to assembly and imposing undue restrictions on this right contradicts the goals and aspirations of the Libyan people.

We also believe that amending this law to bring it into compliance with human rights standards will serve to promote peace and security within Libya. As human rights organizations and activists from Libya and the Arab region, we call on the current Libyan government to redact provisions of the law which criminalize or unnecessarily limit the ability of citizens to express themselves through demonstrations and protests, whether spontaneous or organized.

We welcome the law's recognition that peaceful protest is a basic human right under the Libyan Constitutional Declaration as well as international law. Article 2 of the law makes clear that the right to peaceful assembly and the need to maintain security and order are not in contradiction with one another. Indeed, we affirm that they are complementary elements of all free and democratic societies. Several provisions of the law, however, contradict these initial assertions.

Articles 2 and 3

Articles 2 and 3 contain vague language that disallows assemblies which disrupt the functioning of public utilities, which may include roadways or government institutions. Temporary disruption of traffic or other uses of public space cannot be used as reasons to restrict assemblies. It is the government's responsibility to ensure alternative routes for traffic and to provide for public safety while also guaranteeing the fundamental right to assembly. The undersigned organizations insist that assemblies should be recognized as a use of public space no less legitimate than any other public use.

Article 4

The requirement in Article 4 of the law that states a committee of organizers is to be responsible for maintaining order during a demonstration is in violation of international standards. According to the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association (A/HRC/20/27), when assemblies take place, the state bears the primary responsibility to maintain public order and to provide for the safety of protesters and non-protesters alike, as is alluded to in Article 6(b) of the law. In this report, the UN Special Rapporteur pointed out that best practice in this area allows for organizers to appoint stewards to help in the running of an assembly, for example by informing and orienting participants. However, the report also asserts that neither organizers nor individual participants should be held responsible for the actions of others, nor should organizers be held responsible for the maintenance of public order during demonstrations, as it is the duty of the government to uphold the rights of its citizens while also providing for their safety.

Read more about the law's contradictory provisions.