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Libya: Africa’s Rights Body Should Act Now

Groups Urge Continent’s Human Rights Commission to Take Steps to Halt Abuses

(London) - The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights should impose immediate measures on the Libyan government to end the massive human rights abuses occurring throughout the country, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), Human Rights Watch, and INTERIGHTS said today. The three human rights organizations submitted a joint request to the commission on February 24, 2011, asking it to act on Libya during its  meeting in Banjul, Gambia, which began on February 23.

The African Commission is the continent's principal human rights body, charged with implementing the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, to which all African countries, including Libya, are parties, except Morocco. Libya's ruler, Muammar Gaddafi, has previously claimed a leadership role in the African Union (AU), whose predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity, adopted the Charter.

"Colonel Gaddafi has long claimed a leadership role for Libya in Africa," said Clive Baldwin, senior legal adviser at Human Rights Watch. "Africa's human rights body should act now, when some of the continent's worst atrocities are taking place in Libya."

The organizations' letter sets out human rights violations  in Libya since February 16, as documented by Human Rights Watch and others. These include the apparent unjustified killings of  hundreds of people who participated in largely peaceful protests by state security forces and mercenaries and  efforts to shut down the Internet and exclude foreign journalists, violating freedoms of expression and of information.

The three organizations asked  the commission to impose immediate "provisional measures" on Libya to stop the human rights violations, including the  unlawful killings, and to ensure that those responsible for crimes are held accountable.

"Africans need to see the commission taking action to deal with abuses of the scale we see in Libya," said Hossam Bahgat, executive director of EIPR.

Earlier on February 24, the Peace and Security Council of the AU issued a communiqué on Libya in which it said it "strongly condemns the indiscriminate and excessive use of force and lethal weapons against peaceful protesters, in violation of human rights." It joined the United Nations Security Council, the European Union, the United States, Russia, and others who have made similar statements. The Arab League has suspended Libya from membership.

"Recent events in Libya and Egypt have shown the terrible human cost of states failing to respect human rights," said Joanne Sawyer, litigation director at INTERIGHTS.  "We urge the African Commission, as Africa's principal human rights body,  to deal swiftly with our request and grant the measures sought. The African Commission should press the Libyan authorities to end immediately the brutal repression and killing of protesters airing their grievances."

 

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