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Mahmoud Jebril

Interim Prime Minister, National Transitional Council

Benghazi, Libya


Dear Mr. Jebril:

After much sacrifice and struggle, the people of Libya may finally have their chance to build a nation that fully respects human rights and the rule of law.  We commend the National Transitional Council’s efforts to ensure that Libya’s revolutionary struggle adheres to these principles. We especially appreciate the strong statements you and other NTC leaders have made in the last few days urging supporters of the NTC to avoid acts of revenge, to preserve vital state institutions, and to pursue reconciliation.

As the NTC works to secure Tripoli and prepare a political transition, there are several specific requests we would like to make.

Protecting Vulnerable Facilities and People:   We hope that the NTC can immediately identify a number of capable security units, and give them the authority and mandate to perform the following tasks:

  • Secure all detention facilities where the Qaddafi government may have held political prisoners.  Release any people who may still be unjustly imprisoned, and determine the fate of those who are missing.  We have shared our list of suspected facilities with the NTC.
  • Secure police stations, buildings belonging to state security institutions, and other government facilities that were symbols of the Qaddafi government’s repression, and which people may wish to destroy or loot.  These facilities likely contain documents and other evidence of crimes that must be preserved so that Libyans can create a record of past abuses and bring those responsible to justice.
  • Secure arms depots, including those that were bombed by NATO, so that people who are not members of the NTC armed forces do not take away weapons and munitions that could fuel lawlessness or insurgency.   As you know, several such facilities have been looted already in eastern Libya, the western mountains, and reportedly during the approach to Tripoli. 
  • Protect civilians, including those who were displaced to Tripoli from other parts of Libya, who may be suspected – whether fairly or not -- of being Qaddafi supporters or fighters.  Groups of vulnerable displaced persons have been living in numerous locations around Tripoli, including hotels, resorts, and company housing.   It is very important that NTC leaders continue to urge that no one commit violence against such people, and that this message is delivered by every means possible, including by religious authorities, through television and radio, social media, and text messaging.  Any committing such violence should be arrested and prosecuted.

Access to Prisoners in NTC Custody:  You have repeatedly stressed that NTC forces must treat all prisoners humanely, in accordance with the Geneva Conventions and human rights law.   We hope you will ensure that the International Committee for the Red Cross is able to visit all prisoners captured in the fight for Tripoli – especially former senior officials and, if captured, Muammar Qaddafi and members of his family – as soon as possible after their detention.  Detainees should be brought before a judge as soon as that is feasible.   A Human Rights Watch team plans to be in Tripoli shortly, and we hope to be able to visit prisoners as well, as the NTC has permitted us to do in other parts of Libya. 

International Monitoring:  In the past, the NTC has spoken about a potential role for the United Nations in helping to organize elections in a post-Qaddafi Libya.   We hope you will also consider asking the United Nations to play additional roles.  For example, the UN could deploy civilian police officers from various countries to help monitor and train local police in Libya.  It could also deploy civilian human rights monitors to those parts of the country (for example Tripoli, Tawergha, and Sirte) where serious tensions may arise in the coming months.  Such monitors would help to deter abuses or report them if they occur, and give all Libyans, whether they supported or opposed the revolution, confidence that their rights will be protected during this sensitive time.  We would encourage the NTC to raise the possibility of such a UN mission with the members of the Libyan Contact Group when you meet them in Paris this week.

Cooperation with the International Criminal Court:   The NTC has in the past pledged to cooperate with the ICC, which, as you know, has requested custody over Muammar Qaddafi, Seif al-Islam Qaddafi, and Abdullah Senussi.  We understand that many Libyans would like to see leaders responsible for crimes tried on Libyan soil.  But if these men are taken into custody, we would encourage the NTC to turn them over to the ICC.  Such a decision would be consistent with UN Security Council Resolution 1970, and with the NTC’s desire to see a democratic Libya become a member of the ICC.  There are practical reasons for this course as well.  It will take time for Libya to establish judicial institutions trusted and independent enough to conduct trials of such enormous significance and sensitivity.  Meanwhile, holding such high profile suspects securely in a country where many people wish to take revenge upon them will be difficult.  Transferring them to the ICC would relieve the transitional government of this burden, allowing it to focus on the countless other complicated challenges ahead – including bringing other suspects to justice, and beginning a process of reconciliation.  We would also note that the ICC could hold a trial on Libyan soil, if security conditions allow and that is what the Libyan people wish. We also hope you will fulfill your commitment to ratifying the Rome Statute as soon as you can.

Thank you once again for your consideration of our requests.  We hope to be able to meet with you and your colleagues soon in Tripoli.


Yours sincerely,

Tom Malinowski

Washington Director

Human Rights Watch

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