HRW Calls to Suspend Death Sentences

The conflict between anti- and pro-Gaddafi forces was raging in Sirte in September 2011. The anti-Gaddafi forces gained control of Sirte on October 20, 2011, in the process killing Muammar Gaddafi and his entourage.

As far as Human Rights Watch has been able to determine, military and civil criminal courts in Misrata, Zawiyah, Benghazi, and Tripoli have issued 28 death sentences, 12 of them in absentia, since the end of the 2011 conflict. These include cases related to the 2011 conflict, as well as common crime cases – mostly for murder.

Of those convicted, Ibrahim and Dabnoon and four other fighters sentenced to death in absentia with them are the first who were not formal members of the military to be sentenced to death for crimes committed in relation to the 2011 conflict, which ended Muammar Gaddafi’s 42-year rule. The case included four other defendants, who were sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to five years.

On June 5, the Misrata Military Court sentenced to death two soldiers for murder and indiscriminate firing on civilians during the 2011 conflict. On March 13, the Benghazi Criminal Court issued five death sentences against people convicted of an armed robbery that resulted in five deaths. Between January and August, the Zawiyah Criminal Court issued four death sentences in three separate cases, all involving murder. On September 26, the Tripoli Appeals Court issued three death sentences in a murder case.

No death sentences have been carried out by formal state courts since 2010.

Human rights law upholds every human being’s inherent right to life, and for countries that have not agreed to ban the death penalty completely, it limits the death penalty to the most serious crimes, typically crimes resulting in death. In Libya, the death penalty appears frequently in legislation as a proposed punishment for various crimes. Provisions for the death penalty can be found in at least 30 articles of the Libyan Penal Code, including for acts of a political nature, sabotage, and forming any organizations or formations deemed “illegal” without further specifying the prohibition.

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