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(New York) – The National Transitional Council (NTC) should take urgent steps to secure a political transition in Libya that respects its human rights obligations and lays the foundation for a new government based on the rule of law, Human Rights Watch said today.

In light of the fall of the Gaddafi government, Human Rights Watch sent letters to Mahmoud Jebril, the interim prime minister, and Mustafa Abdul Jalil, chairman of the NTC. Human Rights Watch commended the council’s efforts thus far to avoid reprisals against Gaddafi supporters, and made a number of recommendations for the critical first days of an apparent transition.

“The National Transitional Council has set a good tone for the transition with forceful statements about justice and human rights,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “But concrete steps are urgently needed to avoid revenge, protect vulnerable people, and help promote the rule of law.”

The Human Rights Watch recommendations include:

  • Deploy security units to protect:
    • vulnerable people, such as government supporters – real and suspected, displaced people who fled NTC-held territory, and dark-skinned Libyans and sub-Saharan Africans who have frequently been accused of serving Gaddafi as foreign mercenaries;
    • vulnerable facilities, such as prisons, police stations, courthouses, and other government facilities that were symbols of the Gaddafi government’s repression, but that any new government will need to maintain law and order;
    • government records and archives, to ensure the security of documents necessary for government operations and accountability for past crimes and human rights abuses; and
    • arms depots, including those bombed by NATO, so that people who are not members of NTC forces do not take away weapons and munitions that could fuel lawlessness or insurgency.
  • Treat all detainees, from captured fighters to members of the Gaddafi family, humanely and in accordance with international human rights and humanitarian law standards. This includes the right to a prompt review before an independent judicial panel.
  • Provide immediate access for the International Committee of the Red Cross to all detainees in NTC custody, as the NTC has granted in other parts of the country.
  • Cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) by surrendering to the court people in NTC custody who are subject to an ICC arrest warrant, in line with Security Council resolution 1970 and an NTC pledge to the ICC Prosecutor’s Office in April.

Human Rights Watch also said the NTC should consider asking the United Nations to play a role in post-conflict Libya. The UN could deploy civilian police officers from various countries to Libya to help monitor and train local police, Human Rights Watch said. The UN could also send human rights monitors to parts of the country that supported Gaddafi and places where serious tensions may arise, such as in Tawergha, Sebha, Sirte, and some towns in the Western Mountains.

“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,” Human Rights Watch wrote in the letter.  

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