Report: Military Trials of Civilians in Eastern Libya

  Since the General Command of the Armed Forces took control of the cities of eastern Libya in 2018, the military court has resumed its work to try the accused detainees in its detention centers, among them hundreds of opposition civilians, using of ” counterterrorism law ” to press loose charges related to terrorism, state security and security.  The national government and associating it with the violators, in preparation for turning them into sham military trials that lack the most basic conditions for achieving justice for the accused.

Military court dependency:

  The Supreme Military Court in Benghazi, whose jurisdiction has been modified according to Law No. 4 of 2017 issued by the Libyan House of Representatives, and it is affiliated with the General Authority for Military Judiciary, which in turn reports to the General Command of the Libyan Armed Forces, and is headed by Major General Salim Muhammad Al-Ferjani.

Legal Description of Military Trials for Civilians:

  The military trial of civilians is contrary to international norms that the state of Libya previously signed, according to Article (14) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. All people are equal before the judiciary, and it is the right of every individual to decide any criminal charge against him or his rights.  And his obligations in any civil case, and that his case is subject to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent, and impartial court, established by virtue of the law.

Article 26 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, signed by the State of Libya, states that “the states party to this charter must guarantee the independence of the courts.”  The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has clarified these rights in its principles and guidelines related to guaranteeing the right to a fair trial, as the commission said: “The sole purpose of military courts should be limited to strictly military offenses committed by military personnel. And it must not be for military courts in any circumstance.  Circumstances have no jurisdiction over civilia.

The military court is considered an exceptional court in violation of Article (32) of the Constitutional Declaration which prohibits the establishment of exceptional courts, and in violation of Article No. (1) of Law No. (11) of 2013 regarding amending the Libyan Military Penal Code. Amendment No. (4) for the year the 2017 amendment conducted by the Libyan Parliament that permits the military trial of civilians is an unconstitutional amendment that is being challenged by the Constitutional Department of the Supreme Court.

The number of civilians who are being tried militarily:

  There is no public information on the number of civilians appearing before the military judiciary. All trials are secret and unannounced, and families of the accused, human rights organizations and the media are not allowed to attend.

On August 28, 2018, the General Command announced the issuance of verdicts on 14 defendants, and that the “Permanent Military Court” in the city of Benghazi had sentenced three defendants to death in absentia, one defendant to life, and imprisonment for different periods of time on the rest, without mentioning their names and the cases of the accused or any  other details.

According to our information, 15 civilians were sentenced during the year 2019, 11 of whom were sentenced to death, and the rest were long prison terms.

The “United Nations Support Mission in Libya” also published a report on May 22, 2020, in which it stated that 17 civilians were tried before military courts in eastern Libya, 13 of them were sentenced to death by the Benghazi Supreme Court, and four others from Al-Bayda

Among those civilians who have been sentenced by the military court, the journalist “Ismail Bouzriba Al Zoui” was kidnapped in December 2018 by the Internal Security Agency in Ajdabiya, and was forcibly disappeared and was not brought before the prosecution for 20 months of his imprisonment in a military prison in Benghazi.  He has been imprisoned for 15 years, on charges of collaborating with a TV channel opposing the authorities in eastern Libya.

And also the case of the 41-year-old activist “Hind Abdulaziz Muhammad Al-Naas”, who was arbitrarily arrested from the city of Derna on February 13, 2020, and was transferred to the Derna Military Prosecution Office, and then transferred ten days later to a military prison in Benghazi, without obtaining any kind of guarantees.  The family or the defense lawyer was not allowed to meet her to follow the case and the reasons for the arrest.

Enforced disappearance and confessions under torture:

  In addition to the fact that the military trials of civilians are basically unlawful by virtue of international law, and most of the cases came without any physical evidence that the accused committed the crimes attributed to them, and that these cases were based only on investigations, informations, and testimonies of the security services, and sometimes even on social media posts.  Military trials of opponents in eastern Libya are related to a number of violations in various detention facilities, the most prominent of which is the subjecting of detainees to enforced disappearance and torture, as former detainees reported being subjected to beatings, psychological torture, electric shocks, threats of death, and making confessions under torture.

Violations against lawyers:

  Defense attorneys for civilians who are being tried militarily are subjected to threats and harassment that extends to detention by officers in the military court, including the chief of the court, “Salim Ferjani,” who, in one of the sessions, detained a lawyer for several hours due to a dispute with him in the courtroom.

Lawyer “Adnan al-Arafi” was also arrested in March 2020 for a period of 15 days, and he was referred to the Benghazi Military Prosecution Office, and an indictment was brought against him based on a complaint from “Salim Al-Farajani”.  Unspecified, refused to make a statement, and was arrested for investigation several times.
On March 7, 2020, the lawyer, “Siraj Ahmed Al-Fitouri,” was threatened and prevented from entering the military trial and detention by a military group under the directives of the President of the Court, “Salim Al-Ferjani.”

Claims:

  The Libyan Crime Watch calls for the necessity to stop referring civilians to military trials, regardless of the charges. It also calls for civilians to be tried before competent and impartial chambers while ensuring fair and fair procedures for litigation.

The organization calls on the legislative authorities to revise and amend penal laws and counterterrorism law in line with international human rights standards, and to amend the jurisdiction of military courts to abolish their jurisdiction over civilians.

We also demand the “General Command” to transfer civilian suspects to civilian prisons, and not to arrest them in military prisons and secret detention centers.

We call on the Interim Libyan Government, the institutions of rule of law and the judiciary, the Attorney General’s office and the Ministry of Justice to intervene to stop the implementation of the judgments issued by the military courts against civilian.

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