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Urgent Interventions

Outrage following the assassination of prominent lawyer and women activist Salwa Bouguiguis

Geneva-Tripoli-Paris, June 27, 2014. The World Organisation Against Torture(OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), within the framework of the Observatory forthe Protection of Human Rights Defenders, strongly condemn the assassination ofMs. Salwa Bouguiguis, prominent Libyan human rights lawyer and women activist,in a context where human rights defenders, including lawyers, journalists,judges and public prosecutors, are continuously victims of reprisals in thecountry.

On June 25, 2014, the day of the country's generalelection, Ms. SalwaBouguiguis, a prominent Libyan lawyer and women human rights defender, wasstabbed and shot through the head by five unknown hooded gunmen who broke intoher home in Benghazi and injured a security guard with a live bullet. She wastaken to hospital in critical condition, where she died shortly afterwards. Herhusband, who was in the family home at the time of the attack, has remainedmissing since then. It is therefore feared that he was abducted by the same menwho killed his wife.

Ms.Bouguiguis was a strong advocate for gender equality and women’s politicalparticipation. She had also actively participated in Libya’s 2011 revolutionthat overthrew the regime of Muammar Gaddafi. A former member of the NationalTransitional Council, she was since the Vice-President of the PreparatoryCommittee for National Dialogue in Libya.

Ms. SalwaBouguiguis was killed hours after she had returned from voting in Wednesday’sparliamentary election in Libya and called upon citizens to participate in thevoting process. She published photos of herself at a polling station on herFacebook page. She also gave an interview to Libya’s Al-Nabaa TV channel, in which she discussed the recentdeterioration of security situation in Benghazi where civilians are affected byfighting between army units and militias.

Wecondemn inthe strongest term the murder of Ms. SalwaBouguiguis,which seeks to silence critical voicesin the country”, saidtoday OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock. “At this critical juncture inLibya the independent voice of human rights defenders is ever more needed.Weurge the authorities of Libya to openurgent, effective and transparent investigations into the shamefulassassination of Ms.Bouguiguis. It is absolutely fundamental now to set an example in orderto discourage further acts of violence against human rights defenders”,he added.

Since the2011 revolution, the city of Benghazi has been a stronghold for militias,including jihadist groups, and the scene of attacks and assassinationstargeting notably the military, police and judges.

TheObservatory further recalls that this is not the first time that human rightsdefenders have been targeted in Libya, where they are increasingly victims ofreprisals for denouncing human rights violations, including serious acts of violence,systematic harassment, intimidation, arbitrary detention, torture anddefamation. To date all these crimes remain unpunished.

The judicial system in any country is essential in providing for the protection of human rights and civil liberties, and must be allowed to operateindependently and free from the forceful coercion of outside actors, said FIDH President Karim Lahidji. “Itshould now ensure that the assassination of Ms. Salwa Bouguiguisdoes not remain unpunished”, he added.

TheObservatory offers sincere condolences to the bereaved family and to Ms. SalwaBouguiguis' friends and colleagues and urges the authorities in Libya to adopturgent measures to protect human rights defenders and ensure that they are able to carry out theirwork without unjustified hindrances and fear of reprisals.

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