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“Every one has the rights to life, liberty and security of person”

Philippine Hostages and Libyan Hostages

1. The Libyan League for Human Rights has received a communication dated 2 September 2000 from the so-called “ Gaddhafi International Foundation for Charity Associations” complaining about the League’s perception of human rights in Libya as detailed in its press release of 1 September 2000 comparing the Libyan Government’s tremendous efforts to release the Abu-Sayyaf hostages and its terrible human rights policy towards the Libyans, inside Libya, whose human rights are permanently violated. The league called, therefore on the Government to release, for the sake of its own credibility in Abu-Sayyaf's affair, to release all Libyan prisoners of opinion and conscience who are being held hostage in Libyan detention centres under similar circumstances as those of Abu-Sayyaf.

2. The “Gaddhafi Foundation” accused the League of ignoring its activities in the field of Human rights and reminded the League that the “Foundation “was really involved in numerous actions, which re-affirmed its adoption of the humanitarian aspects”. It then claimed three actions. The first was a plea addressed on 8 December 1999 to “the leader of the revolution, the first supporter of human rights ...requesting him to issue a distinguished {selected} pardon {amnesty}..” The second action was taken on 9 March 2000, as claimed by the communication, when the “Foundation sent a memo to all competent authorities to form a committee for the inspection of reform institutions {Prisons}”. As to the last action, it is alleged to have been taken on 29 April 2000 and consisted, according to the Foundation, of “a request sent to the competent authorities in relation to the release of a number of prisoners in line with the increasing attention to human rights”. The communication concluded in para.7 that “IT IS CHALLENGING THE PRESENCE OF ANY PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE”.

3. This being said, the League welcomes the initiative of the “Foundation” in so far as this is the first time that the Government, and the Foundation is a Governmental organ, responds, albeit negatively, to the League’s concerns over gross violations of human rights in Libya. It is also the first time that the Government, indirectly, admits that the League’s concerns are real and that Human Rights violations do exist as attested by the amnesty request, subject of the Foundation’s letter to “the First supporter of Human Rights {President Gaddhafi}”. It is also the first time that a Governmental organ, the “Foundation”, clearly identifies “the First Supporter of Human rights {President Gaddhafi}”, to whom it wrote on 8 December 1999 for a “ distinguished pardon {amnesty} on the 30th anniversary of the great Fateh”, as the responsible for maintaining the reprehensible human rights situation in Libya despite the Foundation implied concerns and objection.

4. The communication also claims that it wrote on 29 April 2000 NOT to “the first supporter of Human Rights” but, this time, to ”the competent authorities in relations to the release of a number of prisoners”. It also informed us that, this time, its “demands were met and a number of prisoners were released” without specifying their number or the dates of their release, let alone their names. It is to be noted here, and this is very important, that nothing was said on the outcome of the foundation’s amnesty request to President Gaddhafi and the League assumes, therefore, that the request was turned down because it concerned primarily the release of prisoners of opinion and conscience while the one addressed on 29 April 2000 to ”competent authorities” was acted upon immediately because it concerned primarily common Law prisoners whose release, contrary to the release of prisoners of opinion and conscience, may not require the express clearance of President Gaddhafi.

5. Despite its affirmation that it is concerned by the human Rights situation in Libya and its claim of contributing (three specific actions) to the release of prisoners, the “Foundation” concluded its communication with the usual Government rhetoric that “it is challenging the presence of any prisoner of conscience or position {opinion} in the Great Jamahirya”. And the question here is: If the Foundation is so sure that there is no single prisoner of opinion and Conscience in Libya; why then did it send the plea to issue a “selected Amnesty” to “the first supporter of Human rights”?. Did the requested AMNESTY concern the release of PRISONERS or What? Why did it request “competent authorities to release a number of prisoners? And how about those prisoners whom the “Foundation” claims were RELEASED? Released from jails or from what?. The many deliberate contradictions of the communications leave no doubt that the Government is still neither serious nor credible in its human rights claims. This is clearly corroborated by the lack of any official announcement on the pretended release of prisoners during the last few years. There is no evidence that prisoners have been released on the occasion of the 30th anniversary or any other occasion since March 1988. The League takes this opportunity to request the “Foundation”/Government to publish the list of prisoners it claimed were set free.

6. From its communication, “The Foundation” seems very confused over the meaning of human rights which throughout the communication have been mixed up with imprisonment and release of prisoners from incarceration Centres. In fact the “Foundation” seems to consider the release of prisoners as the highest stage of respect of human rights thus forgetting, by ignorance or calculation, that incarceration and imprisonment are consequences, NOT CAUSES, of violations by the Government of basic human rights as enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international covenants. The release of those prisoners does not mean at all that their rights have been re-established. The release does not by itself guarantee the enjoyment of any rights by former prisoners who, in the long run, will find themselves physically “free” or more specifically in a “bigger prison” with the same conditions as those that caused their previous arrest and incarceration. The release, to be meaningful in terms of human rights, should be accompanied by measures that should be able to prevent the Government from violating the rights of its citizens again. The release, to be meaningful, should be accompanied by measures that lay down the foundation of a Government of law that guarantees basic human rights to every Libyan, including the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the rights to freedom of association, including freedom to form and join political parties and trade unions, the rights to participate in genuine elections by universal suffrage and secret ballot and the rights to have independent Justice.

7. Only through the full enjoyment of these rights can the Government be restrained from resorting to force and imprisonment of people who do not share its opinion and ideas. A mere release of prisoners of opinion and conscience is a humanitarian action that is personal in its nature and temporary in its effects. It is a suspended sentence that depends on the continuous relinquishment by those released and the citizens in general of their basic human rights such as their right to freedom of opinion and expression, their rights to freedom of association etc. There is no guarantee that any one who merely claims his/her human rights does not lose his/her “physical“ freedom and sometimes his/her life altogether. And it is certainly not Governmental Agencies such as the “Qaddhafi Foundation” or the “Libyan Arab Committee on Human Rights in the Age of the Masses “ that will secure to Libyans the enjoyment of their basic Human rights. These Agencies have so far proven to be what they really are: Government bodies whose main function is to cover up and vindicate governmental human rights violations. They are, in terms of independent human rights, nothing but additional governmental instruments of human rights distortion and oppression.

8. We have no doubt that The “Qaddhafi Foundation” is fully aware that the actual legal system in Libya is not geared towards guaranteeing any rights, to anybody. And in case of doubt let us remind the “Foundation” of the regime’s most detestable anti human rights instruments. They are:

(a) Abolition of the Constitution:
- The Libyan Government is probably the only Government in the world that, having abolished the constitution in September 1969, still governs the country without a written Constitution specifying the nature of the political system, regulating relations between the authorities, detailing the rights and obligations of citizens and guaranteeing legal protection for those rights. Although several years have passed since Libya’s representatives announced before the United Nations Human Rights Committee, in 1992, that the regime had drafted a national Constitution which would be submitted to the “people’s congresses” for approval, and in spite of their repeated references to the provisions of that long-awaited Constitution before international treaty-monitoring bodies in an attempt to illustrate the extent of their respect for human rights, that Constitution has not been proclaimed.

(b) Other Laws:
- Moreover, the series of legislative enactment that the Libyan Government has promulgated allows broad scope for threats to, and violations of, those rights. These are:

- The Protection of the Revolution Act of 11 December 1969 which makes provision for the execution of anyone who bears arms against the republican regime or participates in any manifestation of opposition to the aims of the Revolution.

- Under the terms of Act No. 45 of April 1972, any exercise of the Right to freedom of assembly or expression, such as strikes or sit-ins, constitutes a criminal offence and may be punishable by death penalty.

- The Prohibition of Party Politics Act No. 71 of May 1972 designates any independent political activities or party politcs as high treason against the country, which carries the death penalty.

- Act No. 5 1988 under which the People’s Court was established, undermines the authority and independence of the judiciary and vests the Office of the People’s Prosecutor with authority to investigate political offences, without stipulating the need for judicial authorization of detentions or the right of detainees to contact the outside world and receive medical care.

- The Revolutionary Legitimacy and Revolutionary Programme Document of March 1990 regards the observations and directives of the « Leader of the Revolution » as binding, enforceable and not subject to review or discussion.

- The Promotion of Freedom Act No. 20 of 1991, which permits imposition of a death sentence on anyone whose continued existence would pose a threat to society or lead to its disintegration, stipulates that citizens have a right to exercise authority and self-determination solely through the people’s congresses and committees.

- The so-called Purification from Nepotism, Bribery, Atheism and Narcotic Drugs Act No. 10 of 1994 prescribes the penalty of amputation of the hand not only for anyone who, by engaging in small- or large-scale economic activity without authorization, could be regarded as a thief but also for anyone convicted of corruption or embezzlement of public or private funds.

- Act No. 15 of July 1996, which regulates the holding of foreign currency, prescribes very severe penalties, including amputation of a hand or a leg, for anyone holding foreign currency illegally, any dealings in or circulation of dollars outside the framework of the Central Bank being regarded as high treason.

- The « Code of Honour » of 9 March 1997 designates as a criminal offence any act which affects the people’s development, advocates tribal extremism or involves the bearing or smuggling of arms, trafficking therein or the sabotage of public property. The said Code also adopts the concept of collective punishment, which constitutes a flagrant violation of the principle of the personal nature of punishment in international law, insofar as a town, a village or a local, tribal or family council which covers up for perpetrators of those offences is liable to the penalty of deprivation of services (water, electricity, gas, telephone, food supplies, etc.), prohibition of participation in local councils, suspension of all development projects and discontinuance of State social services.

9. We are sure that the « Foundation » will agree with the League that the adoption and the application of this legal system has led to violations of the right to life, liberty, security of person, ownership of property and a fair trial and has left no scope for freedom of opinion, thought, assembly and association. For years, the « people’s revolutionary committees » have been holding sham trials of political opponents and there are also various forms of special, field, military and people’s courts. The « purification » and « volcano » committees that have been established have exercised the power to detain businessmen, traders and shopkeepers on suspicion of corruption, trading in foreign goods or funding Islamic groups, as a result of which many of them have been forced to wind up their businesses. The committees that have been established to combat « atheism » (Zandaqa) have engaged in arbitrary practices and the authorities have subjected opponents within the country and abroad, as well as their families and relatives, to harassment, pressure, threats and physical liquidation, in addition to the widespread resort to the demolition of houses as a form of reprisal.


This is the enigma the “foundation” failed to explain.

6 october 2000

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