Libya: Law against cybercrime threatens human rights
Geneva, 21 November 2022
In a rapidly shrinking civic space and continued political and military instability in Libya, the new “Anti-Cybercrime” law adopted by the House of Representatives on September 27th 2022 is merely the latest of many repressive measures adopted by the authorities. To highlight the various ways in which this legislation is violating basic human rights and criminalising the use of encryption, the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in collaboration with the Libyan Anti-Torture Network (LAN), published today a briefing paper titled “New Anti-Cybercrime law in Libya exacerbates the phenomenon of impunity”.
“The instrumentalisation of the law by the authorities and affiliated armed groups endangers human rights defenders, media professionals and victims of human rights violations. It will most likely exacerbate the chronic impunity for human rights violations in Libya”, said Gerald Staberock, Secretary General of the OMCT.
WhatsApp, the encrypted messaging app, counts over 2 million active users in Libya. According to the “Anti-Cybercrime” law, all these people could be technically considered in violation of the law for using an encrypted app without authorisation. They risk up to 10 years of imprisonment and a fine between 20,000 and 100,000 LYB Dinars (between 4,000 and 20,400 USD).
The law allows the Libyan authorities to conceal and block all digital content viewed as “strife” or “ideas that undermine society's security, stability and social peace”. This vague and ambiguous wording could be used as a cover to harass and silence human rights defenders, who could then be at risk of being spied on by the State and blocked from using online platforms. Hundreds of migrant and Libyan survivors of human rights violations who use the internet to seek accountability risk also being muzzled. This will, in turn, lead to more crimes being concealed, thus worsening the already systemic impunity in Libya.,
According to the many reports published on the human rights situation in Libya, violations committed by the authorities and armed groups affiliated with them have been on the rise in recent years in an environment where impunity is endemic. This new law will further contribute to the crackdown on civil society and the restriction of freedoms.
As part of the mobilisation efforts of Libyan civil society and international human rights organisations to put pressure on the authorities to either repeal or amend the “Anti-Cybercrime” law, the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the Libyan Anti-Torture Network (LAN) support the petition recently published by AccessNow.
Read our briefing here.
The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) is the largest global NGO group actively standing up to torture and protecting human rights defenders worldwide. It has more than 200 members in 90 countries. Its international Secretariat is based in Geneva, Switzerland.
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Libya: Widespread and systematic patterns of human rights violations