U.N. says Libya political exclusion law likely violates rights

UNITED NATIONS Tue Jun 18, 2013 2:48pm EDT

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A new law in Libya that bans anyone linked to Muammar Gaddafi from government, regardless of their part in toppling the long-time leader, is arbitrary, vague and likely to violate civil and political rights, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

U.N. special envoy to Libya, Tarek Mitri, told the U.N. Security Council that while it was "undeniable" the law had significant political support, the implementation of it risked further weakening Libya's already shaky state institutions.

"We believe many of the criteria for exclusion are arbitrary, far-reaching, at times vague, and are likely to violate the civil and political rights of large numbers of individuals," Mitri told the 15-member council.

The law was adopted on May 5 at the demand of armed factions who helped end Gaddafi's 42-year rule in 2011. Analysts fear the decision to hold the vote under duress could embolden armed groups to use force again to assert their will over congress.

"This escalation in exerting pressure set a dangerous precedent in its resort to the use of military force in order to extract political concessions," Mitri told the Security Council.

The heavily armed groups had besieged two ministries before the passing of the law, which came into effect on June 5 and prohibits former officials from holding any high position. It does not make provisions for those who spent decades in exile and became instrumental in toppling Gaddafi

Critics and diplomats fear the law could strip the government of experienced leaders, further complicating the transition to an orderly democracy.

The head of Libya's national assembly, Mohammed Magarief - an economist and former ambassador to India under Gaddafi - stepped down last month after the passage of the new law.

U.N. EXPERTS TO LOOK AT GADDAFI FAMILY

Mitri paid tribute to Magarief and his "distinguished record in active opposition" of Gaddafi and said "we also owe him a word of praise and respect for his dignified statesmanship as he distanced himself from the Libyan political scene."

Congress members say the law could be applied to more than 20 people in the congress of around 200 members.

British U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, president of the Security Council for June, said the council had also discussed on Tuesday the whereabouts of members of Gaddafi's family. He said U.N. experts, who monitor sanctions imposed on Libya during the 2011 uprising, would look into the issue.

Oman said in March it had granted asylum to some members of Gaddafi's family, two of whom are wanted by Interpol. Algeria said in the same month that the widow of the late Libyan leader and three of his children had left its territory long ago, without saying where they had gone.

Mitri also told the Security Council that between 7,000 and 8,000 detainees, many of whom are sub-Saharan Africans suspected of fighting for Gaddafi, were still waiting to be charged or released.

They are being held in detention centers across the country, some operated by the government and some by revolutionary brigades. "The process of transferring detainees to the authority of the state moves slowly," Mitri said.

"In a number of detention centers, we have observed cases of torture," he said. "There is also evidence of deaths in custody due to torture."

The U.N. human rights agency and aid groups have accused the brigades of torturing detainees.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Jackie Frank)

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