ISSN 2330-717X

Libya: Calls To Amend Vetting Regulations For Candidates, Officials

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Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) should amend regulations to eliminate vague and broad prohibitions on who may serve as a government official or become a candidate for election, Human Rights Watch said today. Libya’s first national elections since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi are scheduled for June 2012.

The current regulations prohibit people from holding senior government posts or running for office if they were “known for glorifying” the previous government or they “stood against the February 17 revolution” that overthrew Gaddafi. The standards and procedures to determine whether an individual meets these and a host of other criteria are unclear, Human Rights Watch said.

“After decades of corrupt dictatorship, public officials should meet high standards of integrity,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “But exclusion from public office should be based on concrete and provable claims of wrongdoing, rather than poorly defined connections with the previous government.”

Anyone the NTC or transitional government wishes to bar from public office should be presented with evidence of specific wrongdoing that warrants the exclusion, and given the chance to rebut the charges before a neutral body, Human Rights Watch said.

The government body mandated to vet senior officials and candidates is called the High Commission for the Implementation of the Integrity and Patriotism Standard, created on April 4 by NTC Regulation No. 26. The NTC appoints the commission’s chair – currently Hilal Ezzedin Sanussi – and its members.

The Integrity and Patriotism Commission, as it is known, vets candidates for the elections as well as NTC and transitional government members, senior security officials, ambassadors, heads of government institutions and companies, heads of universities, and heads of unions.

The commission is required to vet people seeking top government posts within 21 days of receiving a filled-out questionnaire, curriculum vitae, and financial disclosure statement. What happens if the commission does not complete a review within that time is unclear. Under the regulation, the commission may conduct investigations, but the parameters of those investigations are not specified.

It is also unclear if the vetting applies retroactively to people currently holding senior positions in the NTC or transitional government.

People rejected by the vetting commission may appeal to an appeals court within 10 days, and a judge must issue a final ruling within 21 days after the appeal has been filed.

The commission has an expedited procedure for people wishing to run in the June elections. The commission has five days to review these applications and, under an amendment to the electoral law passed on April 17, the court must review an appeal within five days of its submission.

NTC Regulation 26 says the commission will have procedural rules, but those rules have not been made public. Without clear operating guidelines for the commission, the process of vetting and reviewing appeals remains disturbingly vague, Human Rights Watch said.

“It is terribly unclear how the vetting commission will decide who can and cannot participate in the new Libya’s political life,” Whitson said. “Clear criteria and transparency are needed to make sure the process is democratic and based on principles of law.”

NTC Regulation 26 also presents the criteria that individuals must meet to hold public office. It says that people may hold senior posts – including ministers, ambassadors, heads of security and military agencies, and officials in the Interior and Foreign Ministries – if proven without doubt that they “joined the February 17 Revolution before March 20, 2011.” The definition of “joined” is not specified.

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