Libyans: We care for our homeland, for civil rights and we want living conditions to be improved
The United Nations Support Mission in Libya and the Dutch Ambassador to Libya presented to Presidential Council President Mohammed Menfi Wednesday a list of seven human rights principles and recommendations based on consultations with more than 500 Libyans.
The document is the culmination of a series of dialogues organized in 2022 and 2023 by the Working Group on International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, co-chaired by UNSMIL’s Human Rights Section, the Netherlands and Switzerland as part of the International Follow-Up Committee on Libya of the Berlin Process. Participants included civil society actors, human rights defenders, activists, youth, government actors, workers, lawyers, women’s groups, victims’ groups, experts, academics, and journalists.
“During the dialogues, Libyans identified human rights abuses, exclusion, and marginalization as the root causes of nearly every driver of conflict and instability in Libya,” said Suki Nagra, Director of the Human Rights, Transitional Justice and Rule of Law Section for UNSMIL. “Libyans said they care for their homeland and for their civil and political rights and they want their living conditions to be improved.”
Dialogue participants spoke out against impunity and stressed the need for the justice system to be reformed and strengthened with an emphasis on investigating and prosecuting the perpetrators of human rights abuses.
Many raised concerns about the armed groups that have multiplied across Libya since the February Revolution, undermining human rights and the rule of law, and identified security sector reform as key to the country’s stability.
Participants also highlighted the importance of ensuring fundamental rights, such as access to basic services, freedom of expression, assembly, and association, and political rights, including their right to vote and to political participation.
A majority of dialogue participants reported that living conditions had deteriorated in 2022.
Participants called for elections to legitimize Libya’s institutions and for representation at all levels in politics of women, youth, ethnic minorities and persons with disabilities.
“I haven’t ever been able to vote,” lamented one participant. “I want to exercise my right to vote.”
Arbitrary restrictions on civic space and civil society organizations must be lifted, they said, as these organizations, as one participant put it, “represent the strength of Libyan society.” Many Libyans said they didn’t feel safe to freely express their opinions.
Participants also called for violence against women and girls to end.
“We should guarantee women’s rights to participate in public and political life,” one participant said, “including in the political and national reconciliation process.”
The Working Group on International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights co-chairs will support the Presidency Council and other Libyan stakeholders in actioning the recommendations.
“The goal of this exercise is to echo and amplify the voices of everyday Libyans, so their needs and interests are represented as the political and reconciliation processes move forward,” Nagra said.
The full document is available here.