Header image for news printout

Press briefing notes on Libya, Malaysia, Thailand and Venezuela

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Location: Geneva
Subjects:  (1) Libya, (2) Malaysia, (3) Thailand and (4) Venezuela
Date: 10 February 2015

(1) Libya

We are publishing today a report*, which will be formally presented to the Human Rights Council in March, describing the situation of human rights in Libya during 2014. It paints a bleak picture of increasing turmoil and lawlessness, fanned by a multitude of heavily armed groups amid a broadening political crisis. Rampant violence and fighting, including in the country’s two biggest cities, Tripoli and Benghazi, as well as many other cities and towns across the country, is badly affecting civilians in general and a number of specific groups in particular, the report says.

During 2014, civilians were victims of indiscriminate artillery and air attacks. Unlawful killings and summary executions, including targeted assassinations, were commonplace. Footage appearing to show a number of beheadings in Benghazi and Derna emerged in November. And a number of hospitals, schools as well as airports and other public infrastructure were attacked and damaged, or used for military purposes.

A broad cross-section of society has been impacted. Children have suffered tremendously, with large numbers unable to go to school in their hometowns, and some killed or maimed at home or during attacks on schools and hospitals.

In addition to indiscriminate attacks, the report documents numerous incidents of targeted violence, with cases of harassment, intimidation, torture, numerous abductions, and summary executions of human rights defenders, civil society activists, journalists and other media professionals, as well as members of the judiciary, politicians and law enforcement officers.

The report, produced in conjunction with the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), also describes numerous incidents of violence against women over the past year, including reports of threats, attacks and killings of female human rights defenders, politicians and other women in public positions.

Minority groups, including Egyptian Coptic Christians, have also been increasingly targeted.

The report also highlights the extremely vulnerable situation of migrants in Libya, especially those in areas affected by the fighting, and of internally displaced people.  Migrants face arbitrary detention and very poor conditions of detention, marked by overcrowding, poor sanitation and exploitation. The number of internally displaced soared from some 60,000 at the beginning of the year to an estimated 400,000 by mid-November. They were displaced as a result of the fighting as well as the intentional destruction of residential properties, farms, factories and other businesses by armed groups targeting perceived opponents, for example in Warshafana and in Benghazi. Some, like the Tawerghans, have been displaced multiple times.

Thousands of people remain in detention – mostly under the effective control of armed groups -- with no means of challenging their situation as prosecutors and judges are unable or unwilling to confront the armed groups. UN human rights staff have received reports of torture or other ill-treatment in many places of detention.
The deteriorating security environment has impacted heavily on the justice system, which is no longer functioning in parts of the country. Prosecutors and judges have frequently been subjected to intimidation and attacks, in the form of court bombings, physical assaults, abduction of individuals or family members and unlawful killings.

The reform process has been severely undermined with little progress on the establishment of a new fact-finding and reconciliation commission or measures of redress for victims.

The report highlights the need to strengthen State institutions, ensure accountability for human rights violations and support the ongoing political dialogue. While the continuing violence has had a disastrous impact on the running of some key institutions, others continue to function but need support, most notably the Constitution Drafting Assembly.  The National Council on Civil Liberties and Human Rights, Libya’s national human rights institution which has been forcefully shut down in Tripoli, must be allowed to resume its work. 

* The full report can be found here: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session28/Documents/A_HRC_28_51_ENG.doc

(2) Malaysia

We are disappointed by the Federal Court ruling today to uphold the Appeals Court decision of March 2014 sentencing Mr. Anwar Ibrahim, the opposition leader, to five years in prison on charges of sodomy, a crime that should not exist under international human rights law.

Mr. Ibrahim has faced a number of charges and lengthy judicial processes since his removal from the Government in 1998. There are allegations that this case has been politically motivated and the trial marred by violations of due process rights in relation to the opportunities provided to the defence, raising concerns about the fairness of the judicial process. In addition, Mr. Ibrahim has been investigated and his lawyers prosecuted under the 1948 Sedition Act for speaking about the case.

We are highly concerned by the increasing use of the Sedition Act in an apparently arbitrary and selective fashion, against political opposition, human rights activists, journalists, lawyers and university professors in Malaysia since 2014.  

(3) Thailand

We are concerned that a number of proposed amendments to the 1955 Act on the Organization of Military Courts due for consideration this week are not in line with international human rights standards. The National Legislative Assembly that was appointed by the military government in 2014 is expected to adopt the amendments on Thursday.

We are particularly concerned that the proposed amendment to section 46 would authorize military commanders to issue detention orders for both military personnel and civilians under the Criminal Procedure Code for up to 84 days with no judicial oversight. Since the May 2014 coup, military courts have had jurisdiction over civilians for specific offenses, including lese majeste, security offences and violations of Orders of the National Council of Peace and Order. The proposed amendment could be applied in such cases. 

Detention without judicial review breaches the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a state party. Under Article 9, a person detained on suspicion of a criminal offence is to be brought promptly before a judge. The Human Rights Committee that oversees the ICCPR has interpreted “promptly” to mean within a few days.

OHCHR notes assurances by the current Government of its commitment to uphold its international human rights obligations. We urge the National Legislative Assembly to revise the proposed amendments in line with international human rights standards, including the right to judicial review of detention, right to counsel and right to appeal. We call on the Government to restrict the use of military courts to military offences committed by military personnel. Under the ICCPR, Thailand has a duty to ensure that everyone has the right to a “fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law,” (article 14) and the Human Rights Committee has underlined that the military character of a trial should in no way affect these rights.

(4) Venezuela

We are concerned by recently passed Resolution 008610 of the Ministry of Popular Power for Defence of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela which describes the norms to be followed by the Bolivarian Armed Forces when controlling public assemblies and demonstrations published on 23 January.

The use of the military for law-enforcement purposes should only be an exceptional way to respond to an emergency situation, when there is a need to support the civilian police. In such cases, the use of the military should only be temporary and the military should act under civilian command and control.

In line with international standards, the use of lethal force must be the last resort, only applied along the principles of necessity and proportionality, and only in situations where it is strictly unavoidable in order to protect life. The Venezuelan Constitution (Article 68) recognises the right to peaceful demonstration and bans the use of fire arms and toxic substances in the control of peaceful demonstrations.

We urge the Venezuelan Government not to use the armed forces in the control of peaceful demonstrations, and to adhere in all circumstances to the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials and its own Constitution. 


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

UN Human Rights, follow us on social media: