At Mawazin Magazine, we endeavor to monitor challenges facing the right to access justice in Libya, and to bridge the gap in legal expertise and knowledge as a regular and reliable source for scholars and experts interested in Libya locally, regionally, and internationally. As part of that endeavor, our pilot issue includes interviews with prominent lawyers and human rights defenders in Libya. This interview was conducted by independent journalist Hassan al-Amin with lawyers who chose not to disclose their identities for personal safety reasons.
Defending victims of human rights violations
We began the interview by discussing the role of lawyers in defending victims of human rights violations in Libya. Lawyer (W.A) explained more about that role to us: “We provide legal assistance to victims of human rights violations, and judicial assistance to those who need it. This is our duty. The legal profession is a ‘rescue mission.’ It is a noble profession that requires prioritizing legal principle over financial revenue, since the right to litigation is guaranteed by the Constitutional Declaration, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Charter of the United Nations. This support to victims of human rights violations is crucial, given the tumultuous security situation in Libya and the mounting problems weighing down the country’s judicial system. In addition to that, some victims of rights violations are unable to afford legal support, and people in Libya in general lack legal awareness in regards to protecting their rights. Our role as lawyers thus becomes a real opportunity to resist the scourge of impunity, and to support building the rule of law that we seek in the country.”
Promoting access to justice
In regards to the role of the Lawyers Syndicate in promoting access to justice, Lawyer (W.E) noted, “The work of the Syndicate is professional; it is a professional umbrella that takes into account the affairs of its network of lawyers and develops their skills through training courses and dialogue sessions. The Syndicate aims to develop skilled lawyers with a high level of professionalism and comprehensive knowledge about human rights issues – who are also imbued with the conduct and values of the profession, which is the basis of advocacy and legal work alongside an awareness of the importance of voluntary or pro-bono work. The Syndicate also has a role in interacting with issues of public concern, including opposing impunity, clarifying the conditions and standards necessary for a fair trial, and educating lawyers about their rights and obligations towards victims. The role of the syndicate, of course, is to contribute in the building of a virtuous and active legal society.”
Lawyer (M.D.) stressed on the important role of lawyers in achieving justice and ensuring that victims attain their rights. Lawyers are a pillar of the judiciary and justice. (M.D) continued, “I think that the role of the Syndicate in ensuring access to justice in Libya’s transitional phase depends on the extent of its ability to inclusively serve all lawyers, by providing them with protection and opportunities for professional development while promoting their proficiency at handling the exceptional legal and advocacy situation in Libya. Certainly, this would widen opportunities for victims to access remedies and guarantees of a fair trial.”
Lawyer (W.E.) believes that “We must strive to build an aware, robust, and empowered community of lawyers, through training and dialogue. Lawyers are expected to have a role in raising public awareness in regards to legal and rights advocacy, with a focus on transitional justice.” In this regard, Dr. (T.G.) adds, “Legislative authorities must be pressured to adopt clear and effective standards for transitional justice, to achieve justice, implement the law, guarantee that perpetrators do not go unpunished, and respond to the requirements of national reconciliation, which is one of the most important prerogatives in Libya now.”
“We must strive to build an aware, robust, and empowered community of lawyers, through training and dialogue. Lawyers are expected to have a role in raising public awareness in regards to legal and rights advocacy, with a focus on transitional justice.”
Important achievements and efforts since 2011
Lawyer (M.D.) elaborated upon the notable efforts and achievements since the 2011 revolution until now, “Since the revolution in 2011 until now, a group of lawyers have diligently volunteered to monitor human rights violations, and to provide legal and litigation assistance to victims of human rights violations and armed conflict in Libya, including cases of torture, enforced disappearance, and extrajudicial murder, among other inhumane acts. This group of lawyers helped in training on how to monitor and document violations, and on how to provide effective legal assistance to victims. Their exceptional work and support helped victims to access justice and redress in cases that took place locally and internationally, in addition to advocacy and support campaigns on the local and international levels, from 2012 until now.”
“Since the revolution in 2011 until now, a group of lawyers have diligently volunteered to monitor human rights violations, and to provide legal and litigation assistance to victims of human rights violations and armed conflict in Libya, including cases of torture, enforced disappearance, and extrajudicial murder, among other inhumane acts.”
Lawyers in Libya face numerous challenges in promoting access to justice and monitoring trials. “The main challenge lawyers face in facilitating victims’ access to justice is the division of security bodies in Libya. Some victims are held in places of detention unaffiliated with official state institutions, which often prevents them from appearing before the court or having access to legal representation,” explained Dr. (T.G.).
“Articles in the Criminal Procedures Law are often ignored, especially during the investigation phase, in regards to periods for custody and precautionary imprisonment. Detainees can face unlimited extensions of this pre-trial period, amid an absence of mechanisms for grievance and appeal regarding the extension of their imprisonment,” continues Lawyer (W.E.).
“We are at a stage where we do not need to change the Criminal Procedures Law; instead, the articles of this law need to be reactivated. We are launching a campaign in support of doing so,” asserted lawyer (W.E.).
Lawyer (W.E.) continues, “Another problem lies in the non-compliance of judicial officials in implementing the public prosecution’s orders, and the weakness of judicial bodies in the country in terms of arrest and investigation. A vast number of unresolved cases has accumulated, whether in the centers or prosecution offices, which is an exhausting process for the judiciary, lawyers, and the public prosecution, and obstructs the process of addressing these files. Numerous and sundry problems exist, including the limited daily work time for court and prosecutorial staff. This is one of the obstacles that the Ministry of Justice must overcome. There is also a lack of understanding in regards to the criminal procedures to be followed.”
The role of lawyers in electoral appeals
Our interview addressed another important aspect related to the role of lawyers in electoral appeals. Lawyer (W.E) emphasizes, “Lawyers have a major role in this regard, beginning with the clarification and interpretation of the electoral law. The electoral law and its executive regulations, issued by the High Electoral Commission, pose a clear conflict, causing major confusion in the appeal stage. There is a conflict in the decisions of the Supreme Council of the Judiciary and its abrupt withdrawal of some decisions, which has exacerbated the confusion in regards to the issue of electoral appeals.” (M.E.) concludes, “The promulgation of legislation must be based on well-studied legal foundations and principles, and must not be hasty as what has occurred at this stage.”
The role of lawyers, (W.E) believes, begins first with “emphasizing the right to participate in the electoral process for the candidate and the voter.” The right to candidacy and the right to vote is constitutionally protected, he noted. Electoral lawyers are “important to electoral appeals and elections oversight, considering that they are the closest to these issues and thus the best able to understand them.”
“The right to candidacy and the right to vote is constitutionally protected…… Electoral lawyers are important to electoral appeals and elections oversight, considering that they are the closest to these issues and thus the best able to understand them.”