Government should do more to prevent human rights abuses in Libya, says watchdog


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The Independent Online

The Government should be doing more to prevent human rights abuses by the new Libyan regime, the Foreign Affairs select committee will be told today.

Seven months after the UK and NATO allies helped with the overthrow of Gaddafi rule and the installation of the National Transitional Council, human rights experts say there have been worrying developments including a draconian new law suppressing freedom of speech, reminiscent of the previous dictatorship.

Today David Mepham, UK Director of Human Rights Watch, will give evidence before the committee on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s 2011 report on Human Rights and Democracy.

He is expected to say that HRW is disappointed that the UK has not pushed harder for independent monitors of violations in the country, in particular recent developments that threaten imprisonment to anyone who speaks out against the Libyan people or institutions as well as amnesties granted to anti-Gaddafi forces who have committed war crimes.

“Given the UK’s central involvement in Libya over the last 12 months we have a moral responsibility to promote greater respect for human rights and we are very concerned about the human rights situation,” Mr Mepham said yesterday.

He will also call for a proper investigation into the 72 civilians the charity estimates were killed by NATO air strikes despite the alliance’s assertions that the bombing campaign was executed with “unprecedented care and precision”.

The situation in Libya is one of numerous issues expected to be raised by Mr Mepham today, insisting that while HRW supports much of the work being carried out by the FCO and wider UK Government it still falls short of its policy commitments to “pursue every opportunity to promote human rights” and tackle violations.

Also speaking today will be Jeremy Croft, Head of Policy and Government Affairs for Amnesty International, who will urge the Government not “to trade away gains made in women’s rights in negotiations with the Taliban in a bid to secure a hasty exit from Afghanistan”.