(New York) - Reports that opposition forces in Libya will begin exporting crude oil from areas under their control raise concerns about the transparency of oil revenues, Human Rights Watch said today. Libya's people have a right to information about a major national resource, Human Rights Watch said.
Human Rights Watch called on the self-appointed opposition authority, the Interim Transitional National Council, to respect internationally accepted standards of transparency for all sales of crude oil and gas that it arranges. In contrast, oil and gas transactions by the Gaddafi government have been opaque and lacked accountability for many years, Human Rights Watch said.
"Any emerging Libyan authority should break with past practice in Libya and open the books on oil and gas transactions," said Arvind Ganesan, business and human rights director at Human Rights Watch. "Failure to do so could lead to continued mismanagement and corruption. The Libyan people have a right to know what's happening with a precious national resource."
In particular, Human Rights Watch called on the Interim Transitional National Council, which has de facto control in eastern Libya, to provide full documentation of all future oil and gas transactions. It should also commit to publish independent auditing reports in the future of any financial transactions associated with oil and gas licensing and sales, Human Rights Watch said.
The Interim Transitional National Council announced on April 1, 2011, that it had reached a deal with Qatar to market Libyan oil. Qatar should also abide by international standards of transparency and support its Libyan interlocutors to do the same, Human Rights Watch said.
An oil tanker with a capacity of 1 million barrels reportedly arrived at the Marsa al-Hariga terminal near the port of Tobruk in eastern Libya on April 5. This would mark the first export of oil from rebel-held areas of Libya since the conflict began six weeks ago.
Prior to the conflict, Libya was Africa's third largest oil producer, exporting 1.6m barrels a day.
The Interim Transitional National Council has said that it will work for Libya's economy "to be used for the benefit of the Libyan people."
"Opposition forces and Qatar should work to respect the best practices of transparency now, before problems develop." Ganesan said.