Libya Court Scraps Anti-Glorification Law

Editor’s Note:

“In the circumstances similar to war in which the country finds itself, it is deemed inciteful advertising to glorify Muammar Gaddafi, his regime, his ideas and his children, to glorify them and show them as being good people or heroes or loyal to the country….The penalty shall be life imprisonment.”

…Given the barbarity of this law and the extensive, documented human rights abuses rampant throughout the country, all sanctioned by NATO and the NTC, are we to believe Saif Al Islam Gaddafi will be given a fair trial in Libya?

Libyan Lawyers Condemn Amnesty And Glorification Laws
Reporters Sans Frontières Condemn New Laws Criminalizing Insulting Government Institutions

Libya: Revoke Draconian New Law – Legislation Criminalizes Free Speech
NTC Criminalizes “Glorification” Of Muammar Gaddafi
Law 37

Alexandra Valiente

Libya’s Supreme Court scrapped a new law that criminalized the glorification of ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi or his supporters on Thursday after opponents argued it violated freedom of expression.

A lawyer who appealed against the measure said the ruling was an important step in ensuring democratic freedoms weeks ahead of the country’s first free elections since last year’s war ended Gaddafi’s 42-year autocratic rule.

The Supreme Court had agreed to review the constitutionality of Law 37, which was passed by the ruling National Transitional Council last month.

The law sparked outrage among civil groups and legal experts. It prescribed prison sentences for the glorification of Gaddafi as well as for publishing news “harming the February 17 revolution”.

“In the name of the people, the court has decided to accept the appeal of Law 37 of 2012 as it is unconstitutional,” judge Kamal Bashir Dahan said in a brief hearing on Thursday.

“The ruling of this court on rendering the law 37 constitutionally invalid does not render invalid other criminal articles stipulated in other laws incriminating those who undermine the religion and defame the public institutions.”

Appealing lawyer Salah Al-Merghani welcomed the decision, which came before the country heads to the ballot box on July 7 to elect a national assembly, paving the way for a new constitution.

“This law is unconstitutional as it prevents the freedom of speech. We are nearing elections and a basic step is to ensure there is freedom of speech,” he said.

(REUTERS _ Reporting by Ali Shuaib; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Pravin Char)

Supreme Court strikes down Law 37

The Supreme Court has overturned Law 37, the so-called “anti-glorification law”, having ruled it to be unconstitutional under the NTC’s Constitutional Declaration of 3 August 2011.

The ruling concludes the first judicial review of a law passed by the NTC, and is being viewed by many as a significant milestone in the country’s commitment to respecting freedom of expression and the rule of law.

The challenge to the law was submitted to the Supreme Court by a distinguished group of lawyers, Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL), with the review of the law’s constitutionality having begun on 3 June 2012.

“Today marks a historical day for justice and the rule of law in Libya,” said LFJL director Elham Saudi. “The decision made by the Supreme Court today… not only demonstrates the Court’s commitment to the protection of the fundamental right to freedom of expression but it marks a first and vital step towards instilling confidence in the Libyan judicial system, a system which today asserted its independence and moved closer towards affirming the rule of law in Libya.

“This step must form the basis of the next phase of Libya’s democratisation process and serve to ensure that human rights and the rule of law are enshrined in Libya’s new constitution.”

Law 37 had made it a criminal offence to glorify “Qaddafi, his regime, his ideas or his sons”, with the aim of “terrorising people” or “weakening public morale” during times of war. The law defined Libya as currently being in a state of war.

In addition, anyone who “insults Islam, or the prestige of the state or its institutions or judiciary, and every person who publicly insults the Libyan people, slogan or flag”, or did anything else to “harm the 17 February revolution”, could have been jailed.

In addition to cricitism from LFJL, the law was also questioned by a number of Libyan journalists and civil society activists, as well as international rights organisations. Amnesty International had described the legislation as an “eerie reminder” of the draconian restrictions on speech deployed during the Qaddafi-era, whilst Human Rights Watch warned that “laws restricting what people say can lead to a new tyranny”.


Human Rights Watch

Tripoli — The Libyan Supreme Court’s decision on June 14, 2012, that declared unconstitutional a law that criminalized a variety of political speech is a landmark decision. The court ruled that Law 37/2012 was an unconstitutional restriction on free speech.

“Today, the Supreme Court of Libya has shown what freedom means,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “By declaring this law unconstitutional, it has affirmed free speech for the Libyan people, even for critical and controversial views.”

This is the first judicial review of a law issued by the National Transitional Council (NTC), which has been governing Libya since Muammar Gaddafi’s fall in 2011. A group of Libyan lawyers challenged the law under the interim constitutional covenant, as well as international law. The presiding Judge, Kamal Edhan, declared the law unconstitutional, but added that the decision did not affect other pre-existing restrictions on speech, such as insulting Islam.

Law 37, which the NTC passed on May 2, criminalized a variety of types of political speech, including speech that “glorifies the tyrant [Muammar Gaddafi],” did “damage [to] the February 17 Revolution,” or insulted Libya’s institutions. Human Rights Watch had criticized the law as a violation of freedom of expression and called on the NTC to revoke it.

Human Rights Watch urged the NTC and any incoming new government to abolish all laws in Libya that restrict free expression in violation of international law.

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