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HRW urges Libya to revoke anti-propaganda law

Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Monday urged [press release] the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) [official website] to immediately revoke a new law that criminalizes criticism of the Libya conflict [JURIST backgrounder] and prohibits glorification of former leader Muammar Gaddafi [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive]. The law prohibits speech that is detrimental to the "military efforts to defend the country, terrorizes people, or weakens the morale of citizens" and will allow for charges for "insults [to] Islam, or the prestige of the state or its institutions or judiciary, and every person who publicly insults the Libyan people, slogan or flag." Those convicted under the new law could face life in prison. According to HRW, the new law violates international human rights laws as well as the country's own provisional constitution guaranteeing free speech. The advocacy group called for governments supporting the NTC to condemn the law [AP report] as an unlawful restriction on the right to free speech. HRW, along with a group of Libyan human rights lawyers, plan to challenge the constitutionality of the law in the county's highest court.

Libya has been subject to allegations of human rights and war crimes violations since last year's revolution. Last month UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] urged Libyan officials to investigate the allegations of human rights abuse [JURIST report] in the country during the uprising against Gaddafi. In February Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] accused the ruling NTC of allowing the abuse and torture [JURIST report] of supporters of the former leader by unofficial militias. In January UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] addressed the UN Security Council [official website] expressing concern over alleged current human rights violations [JURIST report] in Libya. Earlier that month Middle East rights groups alleged human rights violations [JURIST report] and that all parties involved, including NATO, committed acts ranging from use of excessive force against protesters to cruel and inhuman treatment of prisoners during detention. In September, the NTC vowed to investigate allegations of human rights abuses after AI published a report alleging that both sides of the Libya conflict are responsible [JURIST report] for human rights abuses and warning the NTC to act quickly to investigate these allegations.

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