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CHRDA & 37 NGOs : Palestine: Israeli Apartheid – The Legacy of the Ongoing Nakba at 75Statements
Seventy-five years have passed since the Palestinian people were ethnically cleansed and forcibly expelled from their homes, lands, and property in their ancestral land during the 1948 Nakba (meaning ‘catastrophe’ in Arabic). Palestinian society was decimated during the Nakba, 531 Palestinian villages were destroyed, and more than 70 massacres were carried out against innocent civilians, killing more than 15 thousand Palestinians between 1947 and 1949. The legacy of the Nakba events is that about two-thirds of the Palestinian people became refugees in and around 1948 and a quarter of those who remained within historic Palestine geography were internally displaced and denied their right to return to their villages, towns, and cities of origin ever since.
Since 1948, Israel established a regime of racial domination and oppression over the Palestinian people primarily in the domains of nationality and land. In the immediate aftermath of the Nakba, Israel adopted a series of laws, policies, and practices, which sealed the dispossession of the indigenous Palestinian people, systematically denying the return of Palestinian refugees and other Palestinians who were abroad at the time of the war. At the same time, Israel imposed a system of institutionalized racial discrimination over Palestinians who remained on the land, many of whom had been internally displaced. Such Israeli laws have constituted the legal architecture of the Israeli apartheid that continue to be imposed on the Palestinian people today.
The 1950 so-called ‘Absentee Property’ Law became the main legal instrument of dispossession. Israel used it to confiscate the property of Palestinian refugees and displaced persons, who were deemed ‘absentees’ despite the State denying their return. Seventy-five years later, this ‘Absentee Property’ Law continues to advance Israel’s Judaization of parts of the West Bank including the city of Jerusalem and to alter its Palestinian character, demographic composition and identity.
In turn, the 1950 Law of Return and the 1952 Citizenship Law cemented Israel’s institutionalized racial discrimination in law. Establishing domination, both in law and in practice, Israel granted every Jew the exclusive right to enter the State as an immigrant and to obtain citizenship. At the same time, Palestinian refugees have been categorically denied their right to return, to their homes, lands, and property from which they were illegally dispossessed.
Such Israeli laws compose the legal foundation of Israeli apartheid, perpetuating its systematic racial domination and oppression over all Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line, and refugees and exiles. Seven and a half decades on, Israel has strategically fragmented the Palestinian people into at least four separate geographic, legal, political, and administrative domains as a tool to impose and maintain apartheid. Israel’s strategic fragmentation of the Palestinian people ensures that they cannot meet, group, live together, or exercise any collective rights, particularly their right to self-determination and permanent sovereignty over their natural resources. Strategic fragmentation is further entrenched through the illegal closure and blockade of the Gaza Strip, the Annexation Wall, and Israel’s permit regime consisting of checkpoints and other physical barriers, severely impacting the freedom of movement of Palestinians.
As we commemorate 75 years since the Nakba, the Israeli government continues its de jure and de facto annexation of the West Bank, which represents the continuation of Israel’s land grab, pillage, and displacement of Palestinians through the maintenance of its apartheid. As reaffirmed by successive United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, Israel’s continued annexation plans are a testament to Israel’s 21st-century apartheid, leaving in its wake the demise of the Palestinians’ right to self-determination.
The crimes of the Nakba, including the ethnic cleansing and expulsion of Palestinian refugees, extensive destruction of Palestinian property, mass killing, and the prolonged denial of Palestinian refugees’ right to return, have never been prosecuted or remedied. Just five years ago, the Israeli occupying forces, implementing its shoot-to-kill policy, mass killed some 60 unarmed Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip on the eve of the 70th Nakba commemoration. The injustices of the Nakba and the ongoing denial of the right of return led to the Great Return March civil demonstrations every Friday in Gaza for two years, which Israel repressed with lethal force, with impunity.
This year, as Palestinians commemorate the 75th Nakba, Israel’s most right-wing and racist government intensifies its oppression of the Palestinian people, including daily raids and extrajudicial killings in the West Bank including East Jerusalem. On 9 May, Israel carried out a 5-day horrific unprovoked military assault on the 16-year besieged Gaza Strip targeting residential buildings resulting in the killing of 33 Palestinian civilians, some of them in their sleep, including six children and four women. In addition, 147 others were wounded, including 48 children and 26 women.
On Nakba Day, we call on States, the UN, international organisations and civil society organisations from around the world to take effective legal and political measures to bring perpetrators of suspected war crimes and crimes against humanity to justice at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Situation in Palestine. The ICC Prosecutor Mr Karim Khan must expedite his investigation and start issuing arrest warrants, and deliver justice to Palestinian victims of mass atrocity crimes.
At this critical juncture in the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, support is also needed for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA) until a durable solution to the Palestinian refugee question, based on the full realization of the Palestinian people’s inalienable human rights.
Finally, we call on all stakeholders to recognize and join the human rights movement crystalising consensus that the situation on the ground is that of Apartheid imposed on the Palestinian people. There are many possible paths to a just future, but none should be based on permanent occupation, settler colonialism, and the domination and oppression by one group of people over another. Apartheid has no place in our world and Israel’s apartheid must be dismantled now.
See how the Nakba has transformed Palestine since 1948 with this map by Visualizing Palestine marking the Nakba at 75: https://today.visualizingpalestine.org/?blm_aid=8507392
JOINT PRESS RELEASE – ICC arrest warrants: An encouraging step for justice in LibyaStatements
JOINT PRESS RELEASE – 18/05/2023
Libya Crimes Watch (LCW), Defender Center for Human Rights (CHRDA), and Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL) welcome the recent announcement of arrest warrants by the International Criminal Court (ICC or the Court) against suspects allegedly involved in committing international crimes Libya. This development marks a promising first step towards accountability, redress for victims, and upholding justice.
Concrete steps must be taken to bring the accused to trial before the ICC, as arrest warrants alone do not achieve justice for victims. We urge the international community to support the ICC’s efforts to hold perpetrators accountable and bring justice to the victims, including by arresting wanted suspects within their jurisdiction and transferring them to the Court, and by calling on Libyan authorities to do the same.
In the case that the immediate arrest of the suspects against whom warrants have been issued is not possible, we call on the ICC to disclose their names to ensure transparency, as a result fostering public knowledge and confidence in ICC proceedings. The ICC should also take effective steps to ensure that victims can meaningfully participate in potential future proceedings.
These warrants should also not impede the ICC from investing further resources to issue additional warrants for other suspects most responsible for committing crimes against humanity and war crimes in Libya.
Finally, as human rights organisations working to document international crimes and human rights violations committed in Libya, we acknowledge the ICC Prosecutor’s commitment to strengthen engagement with Libyan authorities, as well as civil society in Libya. However, without a safe and enabling environment for civil society in Libya there can be no genuine cooperation. We also call on the Prosecutor to publicly acknowledge the growing reprisals and draconian regulations that put at risk the very existence of civil society operating inside Libya, and to demand that Libyan authorities cease this crackdown as an integral part of their cooperation with the ICC.
We remain committed to the pursuit of justice for victims of international crimes in Libya and will continue to work towards creating a culture of accountability in the country.
Violating women’s right to freedom of movement is an insult to Libyan women and a contravention of the constitution and lawStatements
Statement on discriminatory measures restricting women’s travel in Libya
13 May 2023: We, the undersigned activists and civil society organizations, express our strong condemnation of the discriminatory measures imposed by the Internal Security Agency of Libya’s National Unity Government on women’s freedom of movement.
These discriminatory measures mean that every Libyan woman traveling alone is required to complete an official declaration providing: her reasons for travel, an explanation of why she is traveling alone, and details of her travel history.
This procedure constitutes a violation of women’s constitutional right to freedom of movement.
As we look forward to the effective participation of Libyan women in the upcoming national elections, this regressive policy represents policymaking based on discrimination, violence, and persecution against women, reinforcing the dominance and repression of the security system over the country.
This discriminatory measure violates the principle of equality enshrined in the Temporary Constitutional Declaration of 2011 (Article 6, Article 14) and Article 31 of the Political Agreement. It is also in conflict with Libyan legislation that guarantees women’s right to movement and travel as full citizens with all the guarantees of citizenship. Moreover, this measure constitutes a grave violation of all international covenants and agreements on human and women’s rights that Libya has ratified, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and other binding international standards protecting the rights of “equality, freedom of movement, residence, and travel.”
In this context, we signatories condemn the specious arguments put forward by some female members of the House of Representatives in written statements justifying the measures in terms of supposed vulnerability and susceptibility of women to becoming victims of fraud and the exceptional circumstances the country is going through. As the country prepares for an upcoming election under delicate circumstances, there is an urgent need to create suitable conditions for free and fair elections, ensuring the basic rights of all individuals, including the right to freedom of movement, travel, and peaceful assembly. This is to renew political legitimacy, achieve the desired stability, and begin building a state of institutions and the law, based on the rights of citizenship and non-discrimination.
We demand that the National Unity government immediately repeal this discriminatory decision, which humiliates Libyan women and represents a regression and violation of the basic rights and freedoms guaranteed constitutionally, legally, and internationally, and ensure the adoption of measures that preserve national security and safeguard the dignity of Libyan women.
– The Libyan Women’s Platform for Peace
– Adala for All Organization
– Libya Future Center for Media and Culture
– Defender Center for Human Rights
– WASHM Organization
– Nawazi Organization for Gender Studies
– Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
– Aman Against Discrimination
– Karama International Organization
– Tafarud Empowerment Organization
– Amazonat Organization
– Solidarity Organization to advocate for Women’s Issues
Joint statement : UN rights body fails to further justice in LibyaStatements
13 April 2023
UN rights body fails to further justice in Libya
“Civil society organisations dismayed by inadequate Human Rights Council Libya resolution despite worsening situation”
On 4 April, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted resolution 52/L.33 on “Technical assistance and capacity-building to improve human rights in Libya” that fails to establish a mechanism to follow-up on the work of the UN Independent Fact-Finding Mission (FFM). The 52nd session of the HRC marked the end of the FFM’s mandate.
In its latest and final report to the HRC, the FFM found reasonable grounds to believe that crimes under international law, including crimes against humanity and war crimes, and other serious human rights violations and abuses have been and are being committed by all parties in Libya with impunity. The resolution ignores the findings of the FFM and requires only that the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) provide technical assistance and capacity-building to Libyan authorities.
The adoption of the resolution comes amidst an escalating crackdown on both domestic and international civic groups and human rights defenders in Libya that puts at risk the very existence of the vast majority of civil society operating inside the country. The undersigned organisations documented the targeting of human rights defenders through arbitrary arrest and detention and unfair trials, some resulting in long prison sentences. A legal opinion issued on 8 March 2023 by the Law Department of the Supreme Judicial Council triggered a series of executive orders by the Government of National Unity’s (GNU) Prime Minister’s office that would dissolve civil society organisations unless they conform with a repressive 2001 Law on NGOs, even though that law was effectively suspended in 2011 with the adoption of the interim constitution. Despite the UN Security Council’s recent statement reiterating the importance of establishing a safe environment for civil society in Libya, the HRC’s resolution on Libya appears to give the authorities and the groups exercising de facto control over parts of the territory in Libya a free rein to further clamp down on freedom of expression, including independent and dissenting voices.
The resolution places a strong emphasis on technical assistance and capacity building but fails to clearly lay out vetting criteria for beneficiaries of this assistance, despite the large number of officials and militia and armed group members operating in state institutions who were not vetted for possible involvement in serious crimes under international law and other human rights violations or abuses. Rather than break the cycle of impunity, this may simply fuel it.
The resolution requires the Libyan authorities to monitor the implementation of their international human rights obligations and the recommendations of the FFM, although successive Libyan authorities have consistently demonstrated over the past decade that they are neither able nor willing to adequately investigate human rights violations and abuses, let alone provide credible justice and access to effective remedies and reparation to victims. The Tripoli-based GNU has yet to implement recommendations from previous FFM reports as it competes for legitimacy and control with the de-facto authorities that control territory in the south and east of the country. While noting the commitment of the Libyan authorities to establish a senior committee to study the FFM’s final report and recommendations, the undersigned organisations emphasise that it is not a substitute for the much-needed independent monitoring, documentation and public reporting on the country’s human rights situation.
In light of the above, the undersigned recommend that:
Joint statement : Libyan organizations call on authorities to stop draconian laws and civil society crackdownStatements
On 13 March 2023 the Director of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation at the Office of the Prime Minister for the Government of National Unity (GNU) in Libya issued circular no. 5803 effectively instructing Libya’s Civil Society Commission to revoke the licenses given to all non-governmental organisations (NGOs) established since 2011. This renders all civil society organisations (CSOs) illegal, ultimately closing down Libya’s civic space entirely.
Circular no. 5803 is based on a legal opinion held by the law department of the High Judicial Council on 8 March 2023. The law department’s opinion concludes that NGOs can only legally operate on the basis of legislation. In this case, Law 19 of 2001 on the organizing of NGOs should be applied as the most recent (and only) legislation enacted. Law 19 is a Gaddafi-era law that requires an NGO to have the approval of the security apparatus and allows the executive de facto control of their activities. To silence dissenting voices critical of the current status quo, the GNU and particularly the office of the Prime Minister Abdel Hamid Dbaiba, has reverted to Gaddafi-era laws to shut down civic space and muffle independent voices.
However, as a result of criticism from within and outside of Libya, on 21 March 2023, Prime Minister Dbaiba issued ministerial Circular no. 7, an indication that the GNU has backtracked slightly from the initial 13 March decree. The Circular allows the continuation of the work of local and international NGOs provided they regularise their status under Law 19 through the procedures approved by the Committee for the Study of the Registration of Civil Associations that was established on 19 February 2023 under decree 138. The Libyan authorities have yet to publish clear and concrete guidelines for the committee’s activity. Similarly, noting the committee’s critical mandate as final decision-maker in approving or rejecting NGO registration requests, criteria for selecting qualified and independent members to this committee have yet to be published.
The 13 March circular is the latest of a series of attacks on Libya’s civil society. Since the fall of the Gaddafi regime in 2011, NGOs have played a vital role in documenting human rights abuses, supporting the victims of international crimes, building social cohesion, and providing humanitarian assistance. These organisations have continued working despite threats from armed groups and militias, and continued violence targeted at human rights defenders. In a recent incident on 23 February 2023, international organisations working in Sabha were raided and several staff were detained for hours by the Criminal Investigation Department.
Libyan human rights defenders who advocate for the protection of human rights in international fora are also criminalised, tried, and sentenced by the Libyan authorities. This was observed in the detention of activists associated with the Tanweer movement. From November 2021 – March 2022, seven young men were arrested by the Internal Security Agency in Tripoli. Videos of forced confessions by the detainees under coercive circumstances were posted on Facebook, with various charges brought against them. What was first an arrest under decree 286 has shifted to charges under the penal code where the men can face up to ten years in prison. In December 2022, four of the men were sentenced to three-years imprisonment “with hard labour” and fined by a domestic court in Tripoli.
The lawfare directed at civil society is one part of a broader repressive tendency which limits the exercise of rights including freedom of opinion, expression and the right to the freedom of assembly. The same tendency is visible in the use of the Anti-cybercrime law issued 27 September 2022 that has recently been utilised as a tool to silence non-conformist voices. This crackdown has been highlighted by rights groups, UN bodies as well as member states in their UN Security Council briefings. The final report of the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) to Libya, mandated by the Human Rights Council, states: “Libyan authorities, notably the Internal Security Agency, are curtailing the rights to assembly, association, expression and belief to ensure obedience, entrench self-serving values and norms, and punish criticism against authorities and their leadership”.
Restricting the work of NGOs contravenes Article 15 of Libya’s constitutional declaration of 2011 which guarantees the freedom of association: “The state shall ensure freedom of establishing political parties, associations and other civil society organizations, and shall adopt a statute for their regulation.“ It is also in breach of Libya’s international legal obligations, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Libya is a signatory.
As Libya gears up for potential elections in 2023, civil society is set to play a vital role in this process, including by monitoring the integrity of the voting process. However, as the 13 March memo effectively criminalises independent election monitoring, this renewed crackdown only demonstrates the paranoia and bad faith of the current government and raises reasonable question of its intent to transition the country towards democracy.
Libya’s competing governing bodies appear to be able to put aside their violent disagreements and unite over one thing: suffocating civil society. CSOs in Libya are under attack, left in a situation of deep uncertainty, with little clarity on their legal status and no guarantee of security or protection.
In response to this, the undersigned call on the Libyan authorities to:
Human rights organisations warn of the deteriorating situation of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in Libya and the worrying shrinking civic spaceStatements
We, activists and members of civil society organisations working on ongoing human rights violations against migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in Libya, express our deep concern regarding the general climate of impunity and lack of accountability in the country. This volatile situation is further hampered by the shrinking of civic space, especially in light of through the criminalisation of activists and the crackdown on civil society organisations.
In the last 6 years, since the Italy-Libya Memorandum of Understanding was signed, almost 185,000 people have been intercepted at sea by the so-called Libyan Coast Guard and brought back to detention centres in Libya. In these centres, which are at the hands of violent militias, they are at high risk of being subjected to mistreatments, forced labour, rape, torture and trafficking. A recent research carried out by Tilburg University concluded that at least 200,000 refugees (mostly from Eritrea) have been enslaved and trafficked in Libya between 2017-2021.
The OHCHR Report Unsafe and Undignified: The forced expulsion of migrants from Libya, as well as the June 2022 report from the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya, found evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the specific case of migrants’ detention centres.
Since 2021, some of the “official” detention facilities are being run by the Stabilisation Support Authority (SSA), which, according to Amnesty International, is a “a state-funded militia that operates with impunity” and who also intercepts migrants at sea.
In its latest report dated 30 January 2023, the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Libya said that “arbitrary detention in Libya has become pervasive as a tool of political repression and control”, and that “Libyan authorities must take decisive steps to provide justice and redress to the vast number of victims suffering from long-standing violations of human rights and international humanitarian law”.
Externalisation policies, pullbacks and pushbacks
The EU and its Member States continue to further develop externalisation policies and try to contain migration by all possible means. They do so by equipping and supporting the so-called “Libyan Coast Guard”, who intercepted and returned 24,684 people to Libya in 2022, and almost 3,046 so far in 2023. Evidence shows how some of these interceptions are facilitated by Frontex through aircrafts and drones.
The International Organisation for Migration reports that in the whole year 2022, 525 people died and 848 went missing in the Central Mediterranean route. These numbers are likely to be much higher due to the complete absence of information regarding many shipwrecks taking place along this route. As reported by Alarm Phone, pushbacks by merchant vessels are also common.
The situation at land borders is also extremely worrying: according to official statistics reported by OHCHR, “in 2019 and 2020, at least 7,500 migrants have been expelled from Libya’s external land borders”, most of them Egyptians, Sudanese and Chadians. More recently, forced returns have increased to Niger, Sudan and Chad. Also, boat departures of Egyptians from the East of Libya are on the rise: in 2022, Egyptians were the second nationality of migrants arriving in Italy (after Tunisians), while in 2021, more than 26,500 Egyptians were stopped at the Libyan border. The situation of asylum seekers and refugees inside Libya who are registered with the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, and are also victims of arbitrary detention and deportation, is very concerning as well, as is the lack of a legislative framework for the protection of migrant workers in the country. Hundreds of migrants are expelled by Libyan forces to get starved or kidnapped by ransom gangs. In January 2023, 600 migrants detained in Al Kufra facility controlled by the Department for Combating Illegal Immigration (DCIM) were expelled by the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF). This number included Sudanese asylum seekers registered at the UNHCR. Many are believed to have died in the desert and most went missing.
At the same time, the European Union is committed to further “strengthen capacity of Libya to prevent irregular departures”, as stated in the Action Plan on the Central Mediterranean, and to disburse EUR 45 million to Libya and Tunisia to strengthen border management, including supporting Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres (MRCC) and the “training academy for border guards in Libya”. The EU is also committed to “explore ways to improve process to disembark migrants in Libya”, as stated in the 12-point MOCADEM Action file on Libya.
Libya is not a safe place for disembarkation for migrants, and despite the numerous acknowledgements of this fact by UN bodies and the Council of Europe, and the many denunciations of agreements, the EU remains silent. On 6 February 2023, Italy handed over the first of the five announced patrol vessels to the Libyan Coast Guard (under EUTF budget), in the presence of European Neighbourhood and Enlargement Commissioner Várhelyi.
It is clear that the way the EU and some EU Member States collaborate with Libyan authorities in the field of migration is further hindering the stabilisation process in Libya. It also fosters a cycle of violence linked to interception and detention which strengthens local militias and human traffickers who are making money out of the lives of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees.
We, the undersigned organisations, ask that:
The EU and its Member States:
List of signatories: