(Paris) – Protection of civilians, accountability for grave human rights violations during Muammar Gaddafi’s 42-year rule, and building the foundation of a rights-respecting Libyan state should be prominently on the agenda of the Libya Contact Group on September 1, 2011, Human Rights Watch said today. High level representatives of the group will meet in Paris to decide how to support Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC).
The Contact Group should press the new Libyan authorities to include all political, ethnic and cultural groups in building a democratic state based on the rule of law, Human Rights Watch said. The Contact Group should also encourage and enable the United Nations, the African Union, the Arab League and international financial institutions to provide active support for local and national authorities in post-conflict Libya, Human Rights Watch said.
“The Contact Group and the NTC should offer more than just moral support to ensure that political considerations don’t trump human rights and the rule of law,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Contact Group countries should use the same energy they mustered during the war to help Libya find the resources it urgently needs for professional policing, building a justice system, and providing all the services the country needs to function.”
The NTC has made commendable commitments to uphold human rights standards, protect civilians, and avoid reprisals against Gaddafi supporters, Human Rights Watch said. But it will need international financial, advisory, and technical support if it is to make good on its commitments and move forward with its plans to restore security, rebuild and reform the justice system and security services, and set in place the infrastructure for transparent and accountable government. As one example, the UN could deploy civilian police officers from various countries to Libya to help monitor and train local police.
The Contact Group should urge the NTC to take immediate action in a number of crucial areas including:
- Ensuring compliance of all NTC forces with the laws of war in any further military action against remaining pro-Gaddafi forces, for example in Sirte, where Gaddafi loyalists are still holding out.
- Allowing deployment of UN human rights monitors, especially to areas that supported Gaddafi and places where serious tensions may arise, such as in Tawergha, Sebha, Sirte, and some towns in the Western Mountains.
- Deploying Libyan 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.
- Treating 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.
- Providing 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.
- Planning to create a viable judicial system that could impartially and independently investigate and try serious crimes under international law as well as ordinary criminal law offenses.
- Cooperating 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.
“The full horror of the Gaddafi dictatorship has been revealed in its dying days,” Whitson said. “Libya’s friends have an obligation and an interest to help the new government make a clean break with the past.”