UN Takes Stance Against Libya Penal Code Amendments

Libya has recently amended its penal code, drawing the ire of the United Nations. Law No. 5 of 2014 imposes prison sentences on any individual “undermining the February 17 revolution” and for “publicly insulting one of the legislative, executive or judicial authorities.” Decision No. 5, passed in January, also allows authorities to “take necessary measures to discontinue and prevent the broadcasting of all satellite channels that are hostile to February 17 revolution or those which undermine the security and stability of the country, or sow discord and sedition among the Libyans.” It seems like Libya’s new regime is no better than Gaddafi, the man they overthrew. One totalitarian regime has been quickly replaced by another. 

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner For Human Rights recently issued a press release that is rightfully critical of the new amendments. The first sentence reads: “[w]e are concerned about the potential for a new law in Libya to lead to undue restrictions on the freedom of expression and opinion, and about an increasing number of attacks against journalists in recent months.” It goes on to further state that Law No. 5 of 2014 “[goes] against the spirit of the February 17 revolution.” In essence, the UN is concerned that the sweeping and vague language of the new law “[can] be used to arbitrarily curtail freedom of expression and opinion.”

It appears that the Libyan rebels have taken a play strait from Gaddafi’s playbook- they’ll take any steps necessary to maintain power, regardless of the oppressive consequences. This is actually pretty common of most “revolutions” – a new regime violently challenges the old, making hollow promises of change, only to come in and assert new, equally oppressive laws. One need only look to Cuba to find an example. It seems the new Libyan government is quick to take cues strait from Fidel Castro’s playbook too.

Do you think the new Libyan government is any better than the one they overthrew? Will Libyans ever have hope for true freedom of expression?    

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