Libya Bans Religious Political Parties

Libya Bans Religious Political Parties

By Carolyn Abdenour
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

TRIPOLI, Libya – On Wednesday, 24 April, the National Transitional Council (NTC), Libya’s governing body, enacted a law that banned political parties founded on religious, tribal, or geographic ideals.  However, parties that stand on Islamic principles intended to campaign for assembly seats during the 19 June election.  Parties including the Muslim Brotherhood denounced this surprise move.

Women demonstrating in Libya. (Photo Courtesy of Deutsche Welle)

NTC spokesperson Mohammed al-Hareizi emphasized the law encourages “national unity”.  He said, “Parties are not allowed to be based on religion or ethnicity or tribe”.  He added, “We don’t want the government to be divided by these ideological differences.”  The NTC developed this law to regulate the swelling of political parties in Libya.

This law also combats geographical division in the nation.  This month, eastern Benghazi has called for autonomy and possibly secession from Tripoli as the area prepares for its local council elections.  Libyans throughout the nation are calling for TNC leaders to resign because they failed to establish a functional government.

In two months, Libyans will elect a 200-member assembly responsible for forming a government and compositing a constitution.  Independent candidates will fill 120 of these seats while political organizations will fill the remaining 80 seats.  Free elections will occur in Libya once this assembly has fulfilled its objectives.  Diplomats believe several strong religious leaders will run in the free election once the country ratifies a new constitution.

Parties and organizations intending to campaign for these seats must receive approval to run.  For approval, parties must have at least 250 founding members where organizations need at least 100 founding members.  Mustafa Landi, a member of the NTC legal committee, clarified these groups “cannot be an extension of a political party abroad or receive foreign funding.”

The Muslim Brotherhood, Libya’s most organized political group, founded the Freedom and Development party and the Justice and Construction party this year.  The Muslim Brotherhood reported that rather than directly contesting these elections, the organization will advocate for social issues and development in Libya.  During his dictatorship, Moammar Gadhafi banned many of these political organizations

Spokesperson for the Freedom and Development party Mohammed Gaira asserted “This is not democracy” after the law passed.  He added, “We don’t understand this law…It could mean nothing, or it could me that none of us can participate in the election…We are a nationalist party and Islam is our religion.  This law is unacceptable and only suits liberals.”

For further information, please see:

All India Radio – Religious Political Parties Banned in Libya – 25 Apr 2012

Deutsche Welle – Libya Bans Party Formation Based On Religion, Tribe – 25 Apr 2012

The Telegraph – Libya Tries To Hold Off Rise Of Religious Parties With New Election Rules – 25 Apr 2012

The Voice of Russia – Religion-Based Parties Banned in Libya – 25 Apr 2012

The Washington Post – Libya Bans Political Parties Based On Religion; Islamists Denounce Move – 25 Apr 2012

Notes From Kampala: The First Note in a Series of Reflections and First Hand Accounts From a Law Student’s Summer in Uganda

By Reta Raymond
Associate Special Features Editor

Kampala, Uganda (Photo by Reta Raymond)

I’m a second-year law student from Syracuse University and was fortunate enough to have spent the summer in Kampala, Uganda to work in the area of human rights law. I worked for a small Ugandan law firm that works on a variety of public interest constitutional matters, human rights issues, and also represents the three-time presidential candidate, Dr. Kizza Besigye. In addition, I worked for another human rights organization and volunteered at an orphanage. While in Kampala I lived at a guesthouse adjacent to the orphanage where I volunteered. The orphanage generates desperately needed income, as the government does not support organizations caring for the nearly two million orphans in Uganda.

I came to Uganda at a turbulent time. Two weeks earlier the police responded to the month-long protests with live ammunition and tear gas. Unfortunately, these events were largely unreported or downplayed by the international media. I decided to keep a journal of my experiences in Uganda, detailing the issues that were plaguing Ugandan society. The most striking of these issues include high rates of child abandonment, structural problems in the law, pervasive corruption, state-condoned police brutality, separation of power issues, and executive power breaches. This series of articles will serve to highlight some of these issues, raise awareness, and give a voice to the Ugandans who are fighting so hard for change.

The capital city of Kampala is constantly bustling, from the claustrophobic markets to the ever-present traffic jams. The old second-hand cars and stripped-down Volkswagen Vanagon taxi buses spew black exhaust, which combine with the burning trash to pollute the air to a near asphyxiating degree. Due to the electric company’s mismanagement, the city often loses power for hours at a time, even in the center of the city. For a city that only has twelve hours of daylight but many residents who travel by motorcycle, it can be rather dangerous speeding through the city without streetlights. However, Kampala is generally safe and there is a strong presence of police in full military attire who carry assault rifles. The police presence is particularly heavy in the center of the city, as there are dozens in the Constitutional Square, although they are usually sleeping in the grass. But where the police fail, the lynch mobs usually pick up the slack.

For example, one morning around 7:30 a.m. a colleague arrived at the office and told us to look out the window. There was a mob after a man who had tried to steal a car. The mob of fifteen to twenty people had partially stripped the thief of his clothing, which they do to humiliate the man, and were beating him with their fists and stones. The man lay in a pool of blood in the gutter while the group watched for movement. He feigned death, his only hope for survival. His lack of movement mostly satisfied the mob, but they gave him intermittent blows regardless.

Our office is in the center of the city only two blocks from the Constitutional Square, but it took forty-five minutes for an ambulance to arrive. Once the ambulance pulled up, the driver talked to some of the mob participants but decided to drive away without the man. Some of the onlookers followed the ambulance and demanded it return for the man. Shortly thereafter, a police truck showed up with four or five men with assault rifles, who restrained the mob and eventually ordered the ambulance to take the man away. By that time, the man had been lying in a pool of blood for an hour. My colleagues and I watched as the ambulance was sent in the direction of Mulago Hospital, the government-run hospital, and the truck of officers went in a different direction. If the man survived the incident, he would probably not face any criminal charges.

In the aftermath, some of my colleagues joked about how “gangster” they are in Uganda and voiced their opinions on the mob mentality. It seemed clear that mob violence increases when there are larger societal problems; it is really a result of displaced anger. There is no rationale for killing a would-be car thief otherwise.

Many Ugandans feel that President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power since 1986, lacks legitimacy. In April, the opposition parties led a peaceful “Walk-to-Work” campaign to protest high commodity and fuel prices. The military responded with liberal use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and live ammunition, killing at least ten civilians including two children. The government has yet to investigate these deaths. Then in July, Kampala’s taxi drivers, business owners, students, and teachers all went on strike. Uganda seems to face insurmountable problems, but the government’s current responses to these problems have been insufficient and Ugandans are clearly not going to stand for much more.

Senate Supporters of Russia Rights Bill Press On Despite Warning

Press Release
Erik Wasson

Senate supporters of a Russia human-rights bill linked to trade said Tuesday that they are pressing forward despite a warning from the Russian ambassador this week that the bill will impair relations.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), would freeze the assets of Russian officials allegedly involved in the suspicious death of Russian whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky in November 2009.

Ranking member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) said that he is fighting to get the bill voted on, and he and Cardin dismissed the comments by Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak that it would cause a “significant” reaction in Moscow and impair relations. “I accept that he made that assessment, but I would point out that this bill arises in the course of trying to do a number of things that will assist our relations with Russia, whether in trade or diplomacy, and it appears to me that the Magnitsky issue does make a point about our regard for human rights of citizens,” Lugar said.

Cardin said that his bill is meant to benefit the Russian people and said the United States is just reaffirming international norms. “This is for the Russians, it’s not for us,” he said, citing words of support from ordinary Russians he has received. “This is not meddling.”

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is moving toward considering the bill.

Lugar told reporters on Tuesday that the bill is no longer on the docket for a meeting this week, but he continues to press for passage. “The chairman has decided to take the Magnitsky issue off the table,” Lugar said. He added that Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) has been in consultations with the White House in making his decision.
Kerry spokeswoman Jodi Seth said the bill was never up for discussion this week, however, and that Kerry is supportive of the bill and is working toward its passage.

One of the items under discussion is finding a way to make the bill about human rights more broad rather than just about the situation in Russia, sources said. The Senate proponents of the bill are linking its passage to the extension of permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) to Russia. Passing the Russia trade bill is the top trade agenda item for the White House this year. Russia will join the World Trade Organization regardless of congressional action — if PNTR is not passed, U.S. exporters will be penalized with higher tariffs than those faced by other WTO members. PNTR supporters argue that because of this self-injuring aspect to the bill, it is not the right vehicle to press Russia on rights.

Cardin expressed confidence that he was winning the fight, however. “There is a growing consensus in Congress and on the part of the administration that it is going to be a part of PNTR,” Cardin said. “I think we have the votes on its own merits but I think it will be helpful to have it as a part of PNTR.”

For more information, please visit:

The Hill—Senate Supporters of Russia Rights Bill Press on Despite Warning— 24 April 2012



China Reportedly Halts Repatriation of North Korean Refugees

By Brianne Yantz
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – Reports began to surface last week that China has suspended its policy of deporting North Korean defectors back home in accordance with a plea from South Korean officials.  The move is said to have been in response to North Korea’s failure to inform China about the specific plans regarding its recent missile launch earlier this month and, if true, indicates the Chinese government’s displeasure with North Korea’s intentional incitement of international tensions.

Activists Protest China's Repatriation of North Koreans
Activists in South Korea protesting China's repatriation of North Koreans earlier this year. (Photo Courtesy of Al Jazeera)

Allegedly, China has been demanding that North Korea refrain from acts of international aggression and provocation, which the North Korean government has evidently ignored.

Before this recent fall out, China had been dealing with North Korean defectors under its domestic laws, classifying them as “illegal economic migrants” and deporting them back home.  These actions have drawn heavy international criticism from human rights activists, who called the repatriations inhumane.  It is widely known that North Korea has been torturing and, in some instances, executing its repatriated refugees, but until now, China had been ignoring these practices.  It is uncertain exactly if and when China purportedly began to halt these deportations.

The number of North Korean defectors entering China has grown intensely since the death of former leader Kim Jong Il last December.  According to a source working for the Chinese authorities, at it’s height, as many as thirty North Koreans had been escaping to China on a daily basis.

Now, according to reports, tensions between China and North Korea have led Chinese officials to halt its practice of returning all captured defectors.  Furthermore, in a move against North Korea, China has allegedly allowed five North Korean defectors who had been under arrest in a diplomatic office in China for the last three years to leave for Seoul, South Korea earlier this month.

At this time, it is unclear whether North Korea’s blatant disregard for China is the sole reason why China has supposedly halted deportations or for how long this suspected suspension will last.  However, in late March, Chinese President Hu Jintao indicated that China would be more flexible in its deportation policy and that it would be respectful of South Korea’s strong opposition to the mal-treatment of North Korean defectors.

While the U.S. has yet to confirm if these reports are true, State Department spokesman Mark Toner indicated that officials in Washington are hopeful.

“We consistently urge China to adhere to its international obligations as part of the UN Convention on Refugees,” Toner stated.


For more information, please see:

AFP – US Takes China ‘at Word’ on N. Korea Sanctions – 20 April 2012

Voice of America – Panetta: China Assisted North Korea Missile Program – 20 April 2012

Daily Yomiuri – China Stops Deportations of N. Koreans – 19 April 2012

Chosunilbo – China Halts Repatriation of N.Korean Defectors – 19 April 2012

Korea Herald – China Said to Have Stopped Repatriating N. Korean Refugees – 18 April 2012

Syria Human Rights Violations Report: 22 April 2012

Idleb, Jabal Ez-Zawiyyaah

Dozens were injured and many were killed as the regime’s forces pounded residents’ homes with rocket shells. The injuries on this casualty victim illustrate the extent of the shelling.

Douma, Damascus suburbs

This young man was killed by a sniper on his way to work on Sunday.

At-Tal, Damascus suburbs

The family of this young man bids farewell to him after was killed by the relentless gunfire at the hands of the regime’s forces during a demonstration.

Hama, Hama Province

The killing and destruction by the regime’s forces in Hama continues after the United Nations monitors left the town. This video captures the regime’s forces on a high building gesturing and threatening residents that a violent onslaught is about to begin again.

This is leaked video footage of the regime’s forces bragging about the pictured items (the chairs, fan, etc.) which they stole from residents after killing them.

This footage shows the pain of a mother crying to the United Nations monitors that she hasn’t heard from her son in months after he was arrested by the regime’s security forces, and that they refuse to give her any information.

Dar’aa, Khirbet Ghazala

These residents, at great risk, were able to capture footage of the regime’s checkpoint at the entrance of the town, where every vehicle entering and leaving is stopped and residents are berated by the regime’s forces, who often steal what is in the vehicles.

Homs, Al-Qusair

None of the points in the Annan Plan have been respected by the regime’s forces, and the tanks, military chekcpoints and armoured vehicles remain in the streets.

Homs, Al-Holeh

Even water is being prohibited from the residents, after the regime’s forces targeted the water tanks of the town in order to force the residents to flee as one basic necessity after another is taken away by the regime from residents.

Homs, Joret Al-Shayyah

Nothing is left in the town but massive destruction after the relentless shelling attacks on a daily basis by the regime’s forces.


Videos Courtesy of:

Syrian Network of Human Rights – Violations Report – 22 April 2012