Libya high court deems controversial speech law unconstitutional

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Libya on Thursday nullified a controversial law [Law 37, PDF, in Arabic] that criminalizes and punishes speech and propaganda endangering the security of the state or glorifying former leader Muammar Gaddafi [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive]. In a brief hearing, the court's constitutional chamber announced that the law is unconstitutional. The law prohibits speech and other expression that would interfere with "military efforts to defend the country, terrorizes people, or weakens the morale of citizens" and allows for charges for "insults [to] Islam, or the prestige of the state or its institutions or judiciary, and every person who publicly insults the Libyan people, slogan or flag." Saleh al-Marghani, the lawyer challenging the law, had argued that Law 37, passed last month by the country's National Transitional Council (NTC) [official website, in Arabic], violates the right to freedom of speech. The court had agreed [JURIST report] last week to review the controversial speech law.

Libya is still attempting to recover from the effects of its months-long conflict [JURIST backgrounder] and the fall of Gaddafi's regime. While the country is in the process of bringing the parties responsible to justice, it is still facing criticism for numerous human rights violations. Last week the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] postponed [JURIST report] the transfer of Gaddafi's son, Safi al-Islam Gaddafi [BBC profile], to the ICC's jurisdiction after the Libyan government challenged the admissibility of the case in the ICC. On the same day, the Libyan government began its prosecutions [JURIST report] of various senior officials who had served Gaddafi. Among them is Libya's ex-intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senussi, who faces charges [JURIST report] of illegally entering the country of Mauritania. In addition to these proceedings, the NTC has faced criticism for enacting laws that opponents claim are not based on the rule of law, such as a law passed [JURIST report] in May that allows police to detain people who are considered "threats to security" for up to two months. In March, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] urged [JURIST report] Libya to investigate into the alleged human rights violations committed during the Libya conflict.

 

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