UN rights office warns against Libya penal code amendments

[JURIST] A spokesperson for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] on Tuesday warned against [press release] recent amendments to Libya's penal code. Law No. 5 of 2014 imposes prison sentences on any individual "undermining the February 17 revolution" and for "publicly insulting one of the legislative, executive or judicial authorities." Spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani stated that the amendments, as well as the recent increase in attacks against journalists in the country, go against the "spirit" of the country's revolution. She acknowledged that one of the important documents adopted after the 2011 Libya conflict [JURIST backgrounder] was the Constitutional Declaration, which guarantees the freedoms of opinion and communication, as well as liberty of the press, printing, publication and mass media, in accordance with the law. Shamdasani spoke of the importance of impartial, effective investigations against perpetrators of crimes against journalists and stated, "We also look forward to the beginning of the process of drafting the constitution and hope that Libya will use this opportunity to build upon the commitments made in the Constitutional Declaration and firmly enshrine human rights principles, including the right to freedom of expression and opinion, in the legal system." Shamdasani also reported that the OHCHR, through the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), will assist the General National Congress in reconsidering amendments to the penal code, in order to ensure their compliance with international human rights standards.

The OHCHR and other international and human rights organizations have urged the Libyan government to continue taking measures to end impunity within the country. International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website; JURIST backgrounder] Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in November urged [JURIST report] the government of Libya to address serious crimes committed in the country and encouraged the international community to end the impunity gap in Libya. Bensouda also urged Libya's government to surrender Saif al-Islam Gaddafi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] to the ICC and encouraged Libya to ensure that Abdullah al-Senussi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] receives a fair, impartial trial in Libya. The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) in May called for [JURIST report] the participation of Libyan women in the Constitution Drafting Assembly. In March Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged [JURIST report] the Libya government to ensure the protection of civilians.

 

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