Document - Libya: Investigation into killing of political activist must be thorough and independent
AI index: MDE 19/008/2013
30 July 2013
Libya: Investigation into killing of political activist must be thorough and independent
Amnesty International calls on the Libyan authorities to immediately act on their pledge to conduct an investigation into the 26 July killing of political activist and lawyer Abd al-Salam al-Mismari, in Benghazi. The investigation should be thorough and independent and have all the powers and resources necessary to be effective, including to protect witnesses. The authorities must also make sure that other activists at risk are protected.
A failure to deliver justice in what appears to be the first politically motivated targeted killing of an activist could set a dangerous precedent and have a devastating effect on the vital work of Libyan civil society, including human rights defenders.
Abd al-Salam al-Mismari was shot in the heart by a gunman in a car outside Abu Ghoula mosque in Benghazi’s Birka area. He died before he reached hospital.
Abd al-Salam al-Mismari was a founder of the 17 February Coalition, which co-ordinated opposition forces groups in Benghazi during the uprising that led to the toppling of al-Gaddafi’s government. In recent months, he was vocal in his criticism of the Muslim Brotherhood and played an active role in organizing peaceful demonstrations against militia attacks directed at state institutions, documenting violations perpetrated by militias against protesters and calling for the establishment of the rule of law.
Under al-Gaddafi’s rule, Abd al-Salam al-Mismari had played an important role in supporting the demands for truth and justice of the families of the more than 1,200 victims of the mass killing in Abu Salim Prison in 1996.
Amnesty International is concerned that, so far, the authorities have not conducted effective investigations into a wave of apparently politically motivated killings which have taken place in eastern Libya since 2011, particularly in the cities of Derna and Benghazi. According to Libyan human rights organizations, at least 50 former and current security officers, most of whom had served in one of the various security agencies that operated during al-Gaddafi’s rule, have been either shot dead or targeted with explosive devices since August 2011 by unknown perpetrators. For example, on 30 October 2012, Khaled al-Safi al-Adli, a member of al-Gaddafi’s Revolutionary Committee, was shot dead in Derna by unidentified assailants. Two security officers – a retired air force colonel and a senior police officer – were shot dead on the same day that Abd al-Salam al-Mismari was killed.
A failure by the Libyan authorities to effectively investigate the killing of Abd al-Salam al-Mismari would contribute to the atmosphere of impunity and lawlessness and facilitate further unlawful killings and attacks on the country’s judicial institutions. Two days after Abd al-Salam al-Mismari was killed, two co-ordinated bomb attacks caused extensive damage to a court building in Benghazi’s northern district, the office of the Public Prosecutor and the Benghazi branch of the Ministry of Justice. The bombings took place in the evening of Sunday 28 July and led to the injury of 43 individuals according to the Ministry of Health. These attacks followed an explosion outside a court complex in Sirte on 23 July, which led to the partial destruction of the building.
Amnesty International welcomes the government’s public pledge to investigate the killing of Abd al-Salam al-Mismari and bring the perpetrators to justice. It also notes the Prime Minister’s announcement that his government would be seeking technical forensic support from the international community and the authorities’ prompt action to conduct an examination of the crime scene. However, the authorities must promptly follow through by ensuring the investigation has at its disposal the powers, expertise and resources necessary. This must include effective protection of witnesses. And they should offer protection to human rights defenders and political activists who have been increasingly facing threats and intimidation from militia and others.