Statement on International Human Rights Day by the Co-Chairs (Netherlands, Switzerland and UNSMIL) of the International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Working Group of the International Follow-up Committee on Libya

Press releases, 10.12.2022

"Human Rights Must be at the Centre of the Political Process"

On International Human Rights Day, marked annually on 10 December, the co-chairs of the Working Group on International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights under the Berlin process – the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) – call on all Libyan actors and authorities to ensure that human rights are at the centre of the ongoing peace process.

"Today we join millions of people around the world and together stand up for human rights, calling for dignity, freedom, and justice for all", the representatives of the Netherlands, Switzerland and UNSMIL said. "As long as human rights violations go on, unabated and with widespread impunity for perpetrators, even for the most heinous crimes, sustainable peace will remain a distant prospect for Libya", the co-chairs added.

On 8 December, to mark the International Human Rights Day, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya, Mr. Abdoulaye Bathily, on behalf of the Working Group on International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, hosted a digital dialogue on human rights with more than 300 participants from across Libya. Most participants expressed concern at the prevailing security situation and serious deterioration in basic services, including access to healthcare, education, housing and electricity. They also called for elections. "Ordinary Libyans – women and men, youth and cultural components from all parts of the country – are the victims of the perpetual stalemate that has marred Libya; they must be part of the solutions going forward and human rights are at the centre of these solutions", Mr. Bathily said.

The legitimate concerns raised by Libyans and the recommendations and solutions they put forward must form the blueprint for any road map towards peace in Libya. "Libyans have a voice, they have spoken and must be heard for Libya’s political transition", said Mr Bathily. "As we head towards 2023, which marks the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we need to use this important milestone to initiate a Libya-wide consensus on human rights that will form the basis for the peace process", he added.

Human rights and peacebuilding go hand in hand. "As we have seen throughout the world, lasting peace requires a vision, a vision that seeks to address the root causes and drivers of conflict, where the legitimate grievances, concerns and human rights of the people are the heart of any process" said the Netherlands, Switzerland and UNSMIL. According to Libyans, their ideal future for Libya is a safe, stable, and unified country. "For current and future agreements in Libya to truly take hold, ordinary Libyans must be meaningfully engaged in all stages of the process, only then it will be truly Libyan-led and owned", they added.

Note to Editors: Outcomes of the Digital and in-Person Dialogues

The digital dialogue was part of a series of inclusive dialogues conducted by the co-chairs of the IHL/HR Working Group (the Netherlands, Switzerland, and UNSMIL-HRS), aimed at soliciting the views of Libyans, including civil society actors and women’s groups, on the current human rights situation. More than 500 Libyans have engaged in the human rights dialogues online and in person during the past few months.

Libyans called for a "democratic country where law prevails; a unified Libya in which everyone lives in freedom, peace and lives a decent life". Consistent concerns and recommendations Libyans raised during the inclusive dialogues and the digital dialogue on human rights include:

  • The role of armed groups and militia, including armed actors who control security and law enforcement agencies. Libyans noted that these actors perpetrate widespread violations of international humanitarian law and human rights with impunity. Security-sector reform, said Libyans in the dialogues, is critical to reduce the power of armed groups, dismantle militias, create a unified army, and achieve security and stability.
  • Access to fundamental rights and essential services. Nearly all participants stated that living conditions and provision of basic services have seriously deteriorated in the last year, with a daily impact on Libyan’s lives. Dialogue participants particularly raised challenges in accessing adequate healthcare, electricity, food and housing, and complained of low salaries that make it impossible for people to meet their basic needs.
  • Elections. An overwhelming majority of Libyans stressed that the political crisis must end, and their political rights must be guaranteed. They further called for agreement on the constitutional framework for elections.
  • Widespread impunity and lack of accountability lead to more human rights violations, people said, highlighting arbitrary detention of thousands of individuals as a major violation. To tackle impunity, justice systems should be reformed and strengthened, and additional tools such as sanctions could also be used.
  • Violence against women and girls, including insecurity, restrictions on women’s role in society, so-called ‘honour killings’, and an increase in online harassment, hate speech and threats, needs to be addressed, including by integrating gender approaches into national policies and programmes, and setting laws to protect women and their rights. Libyans further highlighted the need to protect women and guarantee their right to participate in public and political life.
  • Freedom of expression, opinion, and association was highlighted as fundamental right. More than 60 per cent of the participants involved in the digital dialogue said they do not feel safe to freely express their opinions. Libyans called for the lifting of restrictions limiting civic space, including for civil society organisations, as “they represent the strength and organisation of Libyan society”.