Libya must ensure proper investigation after prominent lawyer shot dead

26 June 2014

Hours before she was killed, Salwa Bugaighis spoke out against violence undermining the elections.

The Libyan authorities must ensure that yesterday’s killing of a leading human rights activist in Benghazi is properly investigated and that those responsible are brought to justice, Amnesty International said.

Salwa Bugaighis, a lawyer who played a prominent role in organizing protests at the start of the NATO-backed armed insurgency in 2011, was shot dead at her home in Benghazi by unknown assailants.

“The shocking, ruthless killing of Salwa Bugaighis robs Libyan civil society of one its most courageous and esteemed figures. But sadly she is by no means the first activist struck down during the political violence that has plagued the country since the uprising and in its aftermath,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director.

“The Libyan authorities must do everything possible to ensure that Salwa Bugaighis’ death is fully, independently and impartially investigated and that anyone responsible is held to account – something they have patently failed to do in previous political killings.”

Salwa Bugaighis was an advocate for gender equality and women’s political participation. She was a founding member of Libya’s National Transitional Council. In recent months, she worked as a member of the Preparatory Committee for National Dialogue.

She was shot several times in the chest, stomach and head at her home on 25 June and died shortly after being taken to hospital, according to a spokesman for the Benghazi Medical Centre.

Salwa Bugaighis’ husband, Essam al-Ghariani, an elected member of the Benghazi municipal council, has been reported missing amid fears that he was abducted during the attack.

Hours before she was shot dead, Salwa Bugaighis gave a phone interview to Libya’s al-Nabaa TV in which she spoke of heavy fighting and shelling between army units and Islamist armed elements in a residential area near the compound of the Rafallah Sehati Brigade, an Islamist militia.

She accused some groups of undermining parliamentary elections, calling for a protection of polling stations.

Friends of Salwa Bughaighis told Amnesty International that she had received a number of threats prior to her killing in relation to her public appearances and political positions.

“We believe that Salwa Bugaighis may have been targeted for both her political activism and her role in promoting women’s rights,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

The killing of Salwa Bugaighis comes as attacks and threats against women who speak out against extremist groups are intensifying.

Female journalists and human rights activists have been increasingly harassed, intimidated and attacked by Islamist-leaning militias, armed groups and others amid a climate of pervasive lawlessness.

Women who behave differently from the social norm – such as by not wearing the veil or dressing in a way deemed inappropriate – have been especially targeted with many reporting having received threats, including death threats, via text messages or social media. Deliberate killings and other attacks on activists, judges and security officers have been a routine feature of life in Benghazi since the brutal murder of Colonel al-Gaddafi.

“Attacks on security personnel and state institutions pose severe obstacles to the functioning of the justice system, but that is no excuse for Libya’s failure to protect activists. The authorities must put in place protective measures to prevent other critical voices being brutally silenced,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

“If the authorities fail to effectively investigate the killing of Salwa Bugaighis, it will entrench a culture of impunity and lawlessness and facilitate further assassinations and attacks against activists, including women.”

The authorities’ inability to address security in Benghazi prompted last month’s launch of “Operation Dignity”, a military offensive against Islamist armed groups accused of abuses.

The move – which is backed by several army units acting without the approval of the central government – has deepened the current political crisis and has led to an escalation of violence in Benghazi, including reckless firing of heavy weapons, which have at times led to civilian casualties.

In the entire Arab world, Muammar Gaddafi was the only leader to acknowledge women’s rights.

The Law is Failing the Women of Libya
Female Pupils in Sirte to wear the hijab under Awqaf ruling

Lawyer Who Supported the Rights of Women in Libya, Found Dead

العثور على جثّة المحامية حميدة الأصفر
اختطاف المحامية حميدة الهادى الأصفر فى مدينة جنزور يوم الخميس 15-08-2013
Libya’s “Grand Mufti” Issues Fatwa Against UN Women’s Rights Report on Violence Against Women and Girls
Islamists Deepen Agenda Violating Rights of Women and Girls, Extending Political Isolation Law
Grand Mufti Issues Fatwa Banning Libyan Women from Marrying Foreigners
Libyan Women Are In A State Of Denial Regarding Women’s Rights In Libya
Women Face Islamist Rise and Dramatic Decline in Status Under New Regime
A Bitter Harvest For Women Traitors To The Al Fateh Revolution
Dr Fatima Hamroush Fears For Her Safety Under Libya’s Violent Dictatorship
Dramatic Decline In Women’s Rights Prompt UN To Grant Libya Assistance To End Violence Against Women
Women Lose Right to Oppose Husbands Taking a Second Wife, Gender Discrimination Forces Culture Minister to Resign
Islamist Blames GNC Failures on Lack of Segregation
Grand Mufti calls for end to mixed-gender education and employment
Revolutionary Sister, Zohra Al-Buaishi, Assassinated in Cairo
Captured “Rebel” Admits That Women And Girls Were Brutally Raped And Mutilated
17 Year Old Woman Shot Dead For Refusing To Remove Her Clothes