Libya: European Parliament issues a new resolution on European policy toward Libya

In Arab Countries, International Advocacy Program, Parliament & the European Union by CIHRS

The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) and the organizations of the Libyan Platform Coalition welcome the results of the vote on the European Parliament’s Recommendation on Libya, which was approved today, 23 November 2022, in the plenary session by a majority of 454 MEPs (130 voted against, 54  abstained). The text contains a set of policy recommendations that address human rights concerns in the framework of the relations between Libya and the European Union and its member states, while presenting a detailed overview of the political, military, human rights, and economic situation in Libya.

The rapporteur, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Giuliano Pisapia, prepared the first draft of the Recommendation, which was later adopted by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament. Mr Pisapia’s work was built on months of in-depth consultations with stakeholders. Numerous representatives of Libyan, regional and international human rights organizations, including CIHRS,  participated in this dialogue. The reports of civil society organizations made a significant contribution to MEP Pisapia’s information-gathering process.  This Recommendation has revived debate in the European Parliament about the deteriorating situation in Libya. In 2022, EU interest in Libya had declined significantly amid the war on Ukraine and the deepening of the economic crisis in Europe, and was only focused on migration issues and the funding of related projects. Although the serious violations and crimes committed  perpetrated by the Libyan coast guard or in detention centers should have raised alarm about the risk of  European Union and Member State complicity in such crimes, there had been little EU attention in 2022 to the human rights of migrants and refugees in Libya.

While we appreciate the references to human rights considerations, with a focus on migrant rights, in the final draft of the Recommendation, we had also hoped for more EU pressure to limit the infiltration of extremist and criminal groups into state institutions, including executive and judicial institutions and security services.  Although the Recommendation addresses the importance of reforming the security sector in Libya, it lacks a clear position on conditioning financial or military support from the European Union to the Libyan authorities on  security sector reform. Extremist and criminal elements within Libyan security institutions  pose a great threat to the integrity of the future electoral process, and compliance by all parties to its results. The Recommendation text does not clearly address the need to ensure the accountability of armed groups for violations committed with impunity in detention sites throughout the country that are under their full control. The Recommendation also does not indicate the importance of applying pressure on the Libyan authorities to curb pressure or interference from armed and extremist groups in the work of the judiciary, and ensure the safety of lawyers, prosecutors, judges, and courts and prosecution offices.

Although the Recommendation touches on the importance of legislative reform to guarantee the protection of the right to organize, form associations, and free expression, its policy recommendations do not explicitly address the need to abolish or amend specific laws and decrees that represent a basic guarantee for these rights. These laws and decrees include articles no. 178, no. 206 and no. 207 of Libya’s Penal Code, which are mainly used to prosecute and imprison activists at home and abroad. Meanwhile, Article no. 177 of the Code of Criminal Procedure legislates an indefinite extension of pre-trial detention. The contested Law no. 20 issued by the General National Congress (GNC)  in 2016, amended  Article 291 of the Libyan Penal Code, and the penalty for insulting the state religion (Islam) was raised from two years’ imprisonment to death for non-Muslims or those who have left the Muslim faith, and ten years’ imprisonment for Muslims.

This European Parliament Recommendation mentions the importance of renewing the mandate of the current UN fact-finding mission (FFM) on Libya; the FFM documents serious crimes committed in the country that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, with a view to achieving accountability. However, the mandate of this mission will not be renewed after its end in March 2023. Human rights organizations reiterated their call  to create a new UN accountability mechanism at that time for Libya. The support of EU and UN member states is vital to creating a new accountability mechanism after the current FFM mandate ends.

In the plenary debate on the Recommendation on 22 November, the rapporteur MEP Pisapia stated that the EU must act to ensure the Libyan authorities end “the harsh repression of civil society and the shameful situation in detention centers” in Libya; similarly, many MEPs denounced illegal arbitrary detention of migrants in the country, and called for the EU and Libya to uphold their human rights commitments. MEP Barry Andrews stressed the importance of search and rescue in the Mediterranean; he and MEP Pietro Bartolo called on the EU to ensure it is carried out. Several MEPs, including Mr Pisapia, condemned impunity and the rights violations committed by armed groups in Libya. Green MEPs Mr Satouri and Ms D’Amato called on the EU to end collaboration and support for the Libyan Coast Guard due to its role in human rights violations and human trafficking. Several MEPs and European Commissioner Varhelyi also criticized foreign interference in Libya, and stressed the importance of supporting UN-led negotiations and working toward a free and fair process for elections in the country.

Signatory organizations:

  • The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
  • The Libyan Platform Coalition

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