The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights seized of a case against Libya

Press release
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Libya has 60 days to respond to an application alleging serious and widespread violations of the African Charter, including the repression of peaceful demonstrations and the use of heavy weapons and machine guns against its population

Our organisations welcome the decision taken by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) on March 3, 2011 to institute proceedings against Libya before the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Court). The ACHPR filed the complaint at the African Court following our communications sent to the ACHPR requesting such action.

“It is the first time since its creation that the Court has been seized of an application lodged by the ACHPR on the basis of NGO communications. This is an historic step taken by the African regional human rights instruments which gives hope to any individuals whose rights are violated by a State. We are glad to have facilitated such important procedure”, said Souhayr Belhassen, President of FIDH.

Based on evidence collected by our organizations, the ACHPR filed an application to the African Court against Libya alleging “serious and widespread” violations of various articles of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, ratified by Libya in 1986. The allegations made against Libya include the repression by Libyan security forces of peaceful demonstration in February 2011, the excessive use of heavy weapons and machine guns against the population and the massive arrest and detention of demonstrators.

On March 21, 2011, the African Court acknowledged receipt of the application and invited Libya to respond to the application within 60 days.

“It is noteworthy that the application lodged by the ACHPR to the African Court is not incompatible with, nor duplicates, the ICC investigation on Libya. The application before the African Court condemns the serious human rights violations committed by the State, whereas the ICC has a mandate to judge the individuals who are responsible for the most serious crimes perpetrated in the country”, said Hossam Bahgat, Executive Director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.

On March 25, the Court ruled that it had prima facie jurisdiction to accept the application, relying on Articles 3 and 5 of the Protocol Establishing the African Court (Protocol), which Libya ratified in 2003. The Court then invoked its powers under Article 27(2) of the Protocol which allows it to issue provisional measures in “cases of extreme gravity and urgency and when necessary to avoid irreparable harm to persons.” The Court ordered Libya to “immediately refrain from any action that would result in loss of life or violation of physical integrity of persons” and to report on the steps it had taken to implement the Order “within a period of fifteen [15] day from the date of receipt of the Order”. It is unclear when exactly the Libyan Government officially received the Court’s Order. However, given that it has now been 21 days since the date of the Court’s ruling, it appears that Libya has failed to satisfy the requirements of the provisional measures.

“This procedure we initiated is essential as it shall lead an African regional institution to examine the responsibility of the Libyan state for the massive human rights violations committed against its own population”, said Sliman Bouchuighir , from the Libyan League for Human Rights.

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