STATEMENT: Libya Must Overcome Political Divisions and Adopt an Inclusive Constitution Protecting Women and Minority Rights

Article 19
Wednesday, November 6, 2013 - 19:00
Northern Africa
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Initiative Type: 

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Libyan political parties in the General National Congress (GNC) to overcome their political divisions and unblock the new Constitution's drafting process which should be inclusive and ensure the protection of fundamental freedoms, including women and minority rights.
“Libyan political parties must show true political leadership by ensuring the constitutional process goes ahead through an inclusive process of both women and minorities' representatives” said Thomas Hughes, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19.

Two years after the fall of the authoritarian Gaddafi regime, Libya is facing many serious challenges hampering its progress towards the building of a democratic state where rule of law, human rights and security are guaranteed. The drafting of a new constitution is a crucial step in this direction. However, power struggle between the different political factions and the increasing insecurity in the country have created an environment that has derailed GNC from the urgent task of drafting a new Constitution.

“A meaningful inclusion of women and minority representatives in the constitutional drafting process is essential for the credibility and sustainability of the Libyan constitution” said Hughes.

The law on the election of a Constituent Assembly reserved only six seats for women, and two seats for each of the three ethnic minorities groups who are the Amazigh, Tawareg and Tabu. They both demanded that the law be amended in order to increase their representation and guarantee that their voices are heard in the Constituent Assembly so that they can defend their specific rights and freedoms.

The women's bloc in the GNC abstained from the vote in protest of the unfair limitation of women's representation in parliament. Women's rights activists and the cross-party women's bloc within the GNC had been campaigning for the law to provide 15 seats for women.

Members of the GNC belonging to ethnic minorities, especially the Amazigh, Tawareg and Tabu fear that their “symbolic representation” may not be effective as the approval of the Constitutional draft is by a simple majority vote, and demand that their specific linguistic and cultural rights in the draft constitution be approved by consensus rather than by a majority vote.

Members of the GNC belonging to ethnic minorities have opposed the current constitutional process due to the low number of seats allocated to them. Resistance to these demands from the GNC pushed minority representatives to boycott the election as well as the GNC.
Women's rights activists and women's bloc in the GNC argued that women who constitute around half the population of Libya, should have their role in the 17 February revolution recognised by increasing their quotas so that they can ensure that their rights are guaranteed by the Libyan Constitution. However, despite their determined campaigning, the GNC limited their representation to six seats. In reaction, the women's bloc in the GNC abstained from the vote in protest.

“ARTICLE 19 supports the women's rights groups and members of GNC who are continuing to campaign for women's rights to be recognised and protected by the Libyan constitution” Hughes said.

In parallel to these protests from minority groups and women's rights organisation, the process of registration of candidates for the election to the Constituent Assembly has been slow in its implementation. The deadline for registration which was set for 31 October has been extended for another week due to lack of candidates.


The August 2011 Constitutional Declaration provided a process for the drafting of a permanent constitution and trusted the GNC with the task of forming a 60-member "Constitutional Committee" within 60 days of its election.
However, on 5 July 2012, the GNC passed the Constitutional Amendment No. 3 which stipulated that a 60-member Constituent Assembly should be elected by the Libyan people and will have 120 days from its first meeting to complete the drafting of a new constitution. It was only a year later, on 16 July 2013, that the GNC has managed to pass a law (Law 17-2013) on the election of a Constituent Assembly. It was approved by 124 in favour out of 172 congress members present.

The law, which was passed after heated debate, contains 20 articles which outline the rules and guidelines for the election of sixty members. It imposes on candidates for the Constituent Assembly to meet the requirements set in the Political Isolation Law which excludes anyone that held a senior position in the Gaddafi regime from holding office again for 10 years; to comply with Islamic Sharia, public order and ethics during the electoral campaign; and to abide by the prohibition from using speeches during the election campaign that could constitute an incitement or slanderer of other candidates or stir tribalism, regionalism or ethnic sentiments.

The law allocates 20 seats to each of Libya's historic provinces: Cyrenaica, the Eastern coastal region; Tripolitania, which includes the capital city Tripoli and the North-western region of the country; and Fezzan, the South West region. The allocation of the same electoral quotas to regions of huge population difference has also been criticised. The populations of the three provinces are vastly different—the west has about 60 percent of the population, the east 30 percent, and the south 10 percent—yet they have equal representation in the Constituent Assembly.