The House of Representatives (HoR) must revoke Law No. 11 of 2021 modifying the Supreme Judicial Council’s (SJC) membership, and must stop interfering with the independence of the Libyan judiciary, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said today.
Adopted on 13 December 2021, the Law removes the Libyan Supreme Court’s President as a member and president of the SJC and makes the Head of the Judicial Body Inspection Department and the Prosecutor General, both already sitting members of the SJC, its President and Vice-President, respectively.
Law No. 11 of 2021 comes at a time when Libya is embarking on its electoral process and when legal challenges in relation to presidential candidacies are pending. The SJC is responsible for appointing judges onto the electoral appeals committees competent to hear such challenges, and its reshuffling may interfere with the decisions of these committees.
“The HoR’s attempt to influence the SJC’s composition is an attack on the rule of law in Libya”, said Vito Todeschini, Legal Adviser at the ICJ’s Middle East and North Africa Programme. “The legislature should support the judiciary, instead of seeking to tamper with it, particularly in the lead-up to the elections.”
Law No. 11 of 2021 was enacted without previous consultation with the SJC, which under Libyan law is responsible for “providing opinions in all matters related to judicial bodies, and studying and proposing legislation on [matters] related to judicial systems.”
The Judicial Body Inspection Department is responsible for taking action against judges subject to disciplinary proceedings. The fact that its Head is a member, let alone the President of the SJC, may affect the fairness and integrity of promotion decisions and disciplinary proceedings against judges. Moreover, Law No. 11 of 2021 does not remove from the SJC’s membership the representatives of the Litigation Department, of the People’s Legal Defence Department, and of the Law Department, who are not judges, and who remain accountable to the Ministry of Justice.
While Law No. 11 has not yet been published in the official gazette, the SJC already met in its new composition headed by its new President and his deputy on 14 December 2021, the day after the Law was enacted.
The ICJ previously criticized the Libyan law on the judiciary for failing to uphold fully the independence of the SJC and recommended removing the Head of the Judicial Body Inspection Department, the Prosecutor General and representatives of the Litigation Department, the People’s Legal Defence Department, and the Law Department from it.
“The Libyan authorities must safeguard the independence of the judiciary and shield it from undue influence, particularly at such a critical juncture”, Todeschini said.
The ICJ reiterates its recommendation that the Parliament and the Government be required by law to consult the SJC on all matters relating to the judiciary, including judicial reforms.
The ICJ also recommends that the SJC’s membership includes first instance courts’ judges, who are currently excluded from sitting on the SJC and have no right to participate in its elections.
Download the Press Release in Arabic: Libya-JudicialCouncilReshuffling-PR-ARA-2021
- Vito Todeschini, Legal Adviser, ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, e: vito.todeschini(a)icj.org
- Said Benarbia, Director, ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, t: +41-22-979-3817; e: said.benarbia(a)icj.org
- Asser Khattab, Research and Communications’ Officer, ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, e: asser.khattab(a)icj.org