Human rights group calls for abolition of restrictive NGO law in Libya

CAIRO (AP) – A leading human rights group on Friday urged Libyan transitional authorities to revoke or change legislation that places drastic restrictions on civil society.

Human Rights Watch issued a statement condemning a 2019 decree that includes “cumbersome registration requirements and strict funding regulations” for non-governmental organizations in the North African country, which holds general elections in December.

A spokesperson for the Libyan government could not be reached immediately for comment.

“This decree unjustifiably restricts and muzzles civic organizations working in Libya and is particularly worrying given the need for a strong civil society ahead of the elections scheduled for December,” said Hanan Salah, Libya director at HRW, in the press release. “The Libyan authorities should urgently come up with regulations consistent with Libya’s obligation to protect freedom of association. “

The decree tasked a government agency known as the Civil Society Commission to authorize new organizations and monitor their funding and activities. It also allows the agency to revoke their licenses based on a vague set of violations.

Also on Friday, the Libyan Red Crescent reported the disappearance of one of its employees and urged authorities to investigate. Mansour Atte was last seen on Thursday evening outside his organization’s office in the coastal town of Ajdabiya, the relief agency said.

The Defender Center for Human Rights, a Libyan rights group, alleged that Atte was kidnapped for his political activism, but there has been no official confirmation of this.

Libyans still live in a labyrinth of oppressive laws dating back to the days of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who was toppled and killed following a NATO-backed uprising in 2011. The legislation continues “d ‘instill fear and seriously hamper freedom of association’. HRW added. For example, Libyans can face the death penalty if convicted of forming “illegal” associations – a crime that the penal code does not define.

Oil-rich Libya has experienced years of conflict and chaos since the fall of Gaddafi. Until October, it was divided between a UN-backed government in Tripoli and rival authorities based in the east of the country, each backed by armed groups and foreign governments.

The UN negotiated a ceasefire that has since ended most of the violence, also stipulates that all foreign mercenaries must leave, which has yet to take place. As part of the UN-sponsored roadmap, an interim government was elected in February and tasked with leading the nation to general elections in December.

The newly elected government of national unity received the blessing of the United States and European countries, who expressed optimism that Libya could finally be on the path to stability and democracy.

The ceasefire agreement significantly reduced the number of civilian casualties, but the UN continued to document several human rights violations, including killings, enforced disappearances, sexual violence, arbitrary arrests, crimes hateful attacks and attacks against human rights activists and defenders in Libya.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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