The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) welcomes the publication on October 6, 2021 of a new draft law regulating civil society, drafted and shared by sixteen Libyan organisations and four Libyan public figures. The law has been prepared to guarantee civil society’s independence and freedom, as affirmed in the Libyan organisations’ announcement of the law, in line with Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and its interpretation by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association.
As the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies announces its support of this initiative, it calls on other Libyan civil society organisations to collaborate and join in reviewing and sharing feedback on the proposed draft law, with the aim of developing and improving it, adopting its demands, and pressing for its adoption by the Libyan authorities. A link has been made available for individuals and organisations for this purpose, by the sixteen organisations that drafted the law, welcoming an enriching discussion on it.
Today, Libyan civil society, as well as international organisations operating in Libya, remain subjected to repressive Gaddafi-era legislation, in addition to unlawful executive decrees and decisions that give state-affiliated armed groups extensive powers to restrict, suspend and dissolve civil society organisations throughout the country. Under the latest of these decrees, proposed by the Government of National Unity in Tripoli on 31 July, organisations need prior authorisation from the Civil Society Commission to register, open a bank account, communicate with a foreign entity and accept funding. Their work is also subjected to the oversight of security institutions and affiliated armed groups, and can be dissolved without a judicial decision. Functioning organisations are also forced to re-register.
In this context, the proposed draft law represents a stark departure from these regulations, which put civil society completely under the thumb of state authorities.
The proposed draft law guarantees the right to create an organisation through simple notification and protects organisations from arbitrary dissolution. It also protects them from state and security services interference in their work, including in their access to funding and communications with foreign entities, all the while establishing adequate regulations to ensure transparency and accountability. The law stipulates the creation of a “Commission for Support and Care of Civil Society Affairs”, an independent regulatory administrative body that shall guarantee the exercise of the right of association and peaceful assembly. The draft also introduces a right to petition by mandating Libyan authorities to respond to popular petitions from organisations and citizens.
CIHRS’ support of this initiative is in line with its long-standing advocacy for freedom of association in the region, notably in Libya since 2016, and is based on the Institute’s belief in the critical role of civil society, whether in providing humanitarian support, supporting transitional justice or ensuring the integrity of electoral processes. In order to protect prospects for peace and democratic transition in Libya, CIHRS stresses the importance of supporting this legal proposal in defense of the right of Libyan civil society and organisations active in Libya to operate freely and independently and to fulfill their expected role.