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Briefing notes on Libya and Nigeria

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Ravina Shamdasani
Location: Geneva
Date: 18 February 2014

1) Libya

We are concerned about the potential for a new law in Libya to lead to undue restrictions on the freedom of expression and opinion, and about an increasing number of attacks against journalists in recent months.

Amendments to the penal code passed earlier this month through Law No. 5 of 2014 impose prison sentences on any person “undermining the February 17 revolution” and for “publicly insulting one of the legislative, executive or judicial authorities”.

Law No. 5 of 2014 certainly appears to go against the spirit of the February 17 revolution. In addition, decision No. 5, passed by the Libyan General National Congress in January, authorised relevant ministries to “take necessary measures to discontinue and prevent the broadcasting of all satellite channels that are hostile to February 17 revolution or those which undermine the security and stability of the country, or sow discord and sedition among the Libyans". Such broad and vague language could clearly be used to arbitrarily curtail freedom of expression and opinion.

Yesterday, Libya celebrated the three-year anniversary of the revolution. One of the key documents adopted soon after the revolution was the Constitutional Declaration, which states that freedom of opinion, freedom of communication, liberty of the press, printing, publication and mass media, and freedom of assembly shall be guaranteed by the State in accordance with the law.

We call upon the General National Congress to reconsider these legislative amendments to ensure compliance with international human rights standards, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Libya has ratified. The UN Human Rights Office, through the human rights division of UNSMIL, stands ready to provide assistance in this regard.

There has also been a worrying number of reports in recent months of killings, intimidation, abductions and other attacks against journalists and media workers across Libya. Most recently, we received reports of the abduction of five journalists in three separate incidents in Sabha, Tripoli and Benghazi, and attacks on TV stations Libya Al-Ahrar and al-Aseema in Benghazi and Tripoli respectively.

We condemn this violence and intimidation and call for impartial, speedy, and effective investigations into such attacks with a view to bringing the perpetrators to justice.

We also look forward to the beginning of the process of drafting the constitution and hope that Libya will use this opportunity to build upon the commitments made in the Constitutional Declaration and firmly enshrine human rights principles, including the right to freedom of expression and opinion, in the legal system.

2) Nigeria

We condemn in the strongest terms Sunday’s attack by gunmen against eight villages in Adamawa and Borno States, which led to the death of more than 150 people.

According to reports, about 65 persons were killed in seven villages in Adamawa State, while some 90 others were killed in Izge village, Borno State. Many residents have now fled the area for fear of further attacks by the armed men.

We are appalled by the extreme and indiscriminate violence which Nigeria has being witnessing in recent times, including the attacks on two villages on 11 February, which left 39 people dead, 65 injured and reportedly 2, 000 homes destroyed.

We urge the Government to do more to provide security and protection to civilians, especially in areas prone to attacks and where a state of emergency has been proclaimed.

We also call upon the authorities to launch a prompt and thorough investigation, and make sure that perpetrators of these gross human rights violations and killings are duly prosecuted and held responsible.

For more information or media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org) or Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org) or Cécile Pouilly (+41 22 917 9310 / cpouilly@ohchr.org )

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