UNSMIL: Online Harassment Against Women Increased in Libya

UNSMIL: Online Harassment Against Women Increased in Libya
UNSMIL: Online Harassment Against Women Increased in Libya

The co-chairs of the Working Group on International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights under the Berlin process – the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) called on all Libyan actors and authorities to ensure that human rights are at the centre of the ongoing peace process.

In a statement, the representatives of the Netherlands, Switzerland and UNSMIL said, “today we join millions of people around the world and together stand up for human rights, calling for dignity, freedom, and justice for all.”

They added that, “as long as human rights violations go on, unabated and with widespread impunity for perpetrators, even for the most heinous crimes, sustainable peace will remain a distant prospect for Libya.”

On the 8th of December, to mark International Human Rights Day, United Nations (UN) Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya, Abdoulaye Bathily, on behalf of the Working Group on International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, hosted a digital dialogue on human rights with more than 300 participants from across Libya.

Most participants expressed concern at the prevailing security situation and serious deterioration in basic services, including access to healthcare, education, housing and electricity. They also called for elections. “Ordinary Libyans – women and men, youth and cultural components from all parts of the country – are the victims of the perpetual stalemate that has marred Libya; they must be part of the solutions going forward and human rights are at the centre of these solutions,” Bathily said.

The statement noted, “human rights and peacebuilding go hand in hand. As we have seen throughout the world, lasting peace requires a vision, a vision that seeks to address the root causes and drivers of conflict, where the legitimate grievances, concerns and human rights of the people are the heart of any process.”

“For current and future agreements in Libya to truly take hold, ordinary Libyans must be meaningfully engaged in all stages of the process, only then it will be truly Libyan-led and owned,” they added.

The statement confirmed that Libyans called for a “democratic country where law prevails; a unified Libya in which everyone lives in freedom, peace and lives a decent life.” Consistent concerns and recommendations of Libyans were raised during the inclusive dialogues and the digital dialogue on human rights.

According to UNSMIL, Libyans noted that armed groups and militia, including armed actors, perpetrate widespread international humanitarian law and human rights violations with impunity.

In the dialogues, Libyans said that security-sector reform is critical to reduce the power of armed groups, dismantle militias, create a unified army, and achieve security and stability.

Nearly all participants stated that living conditions and provision of basic services have seriously deteriorated in the last year, with a daily impact on Libyan’s lives.

They raised challenges in accessing adequate healthcare, electricity, food and housing, and complained of low salaries that make it impossible for people to meet their basic needs.

An overwhelming majority of Libyans stressed that the political crisis must end, and their political rights must be guaranteed. They further called for agreement on the constitutional framework for elections.

“Widespread impunity and lack of accountability lead to more human rights violations, people said, highlighting arbitrary detention of thousands of individuals as a major violation. To tackle impunity, justice systems should be reformed and strengthened, and additional tools such as sanctions could also be used.”

Violence against women and girls, including insecurity, restrictions on women’s role in society, so-called ‘honour killings’, and an increase in online harassment, hate speech and threats, needs to be addressed, including by integrating gender approaches into national policies and programmes, and setting laws to protect women and their rights.

Libyans further highlighted the need to protect women and guarantee their right to participate in public and political life.

More than 60 per cent of the participants involved in the digital dialogue said they do not feel safe to freely express their opinions. Libyans called for the lifting of restrictions limiting civic space, including for civil society organisations, as “they represent the strength and organisation of Libyan society.”