The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has voiced concern over the continuing crackdown on civic space, saying that arbitrary detentions create a climate of fear across Libya, undermining the free and open space required for political dialogue, rights-based reconciliation, and inclusive and transparent elections. 

The UN envoy Abdoulaye Bathily said in a statement published by UNSMIL to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that a thriving civic space where Libyans engage through dialogue, dissent, and mutual understanding is critical for the political process.

"Members of political parties, academics, and activists continue to languish in detention in Tripoli, Benghazi, and Sirte without access to justice. They must be immediately and unconditionally released." Bathily added.

The statement said UNSMIL is alarmed that politically active Libyans face threats, harassment, hate speech, violence, and illegal arrest. It called on Libyan authorities at all levels to protect the rights to freedom of speech and expression and end the widespread practice of arbitrary arrests and detention.

"Academics, journalists, civil society actors and politically active individuals raise awareness about the political process and elections, they safeguard the openness and transparency of the process, and ensure the effective engagement of women, youth, marginalised and disadvantaged groups." The statement reads.

"Stifling their work, silencing them, and fostering a climate of fear undermines the foundations required for Libya’s democratic transition, emboldens the spoilers, and enables security actors in particular to perpetrate human rights violations with impunity. This must end”, said Bathily.

Libyan civil society actors and human rights defenders – who embody these very values – must be supported, protected and empowered to carry out their work in safety and dignity, UNSMIL said, adding that over the last nine months, it has documented dozens of cases of arbitrary arrests and detention of men, women and children by security actors operating throughout Libya. 

"These detentions violate Libya’s national laws and international obligations and are politically motivated with all individuals held for their actual or perceived political affiliation." It said.

UNSMIL also indicated that Libya is at a critical juncture, as Bathily continues his efforts to bring key parties together to agree on a political settlement to take the country to elections. UNSMIL reminded all parties that human rights and the rule of law must be the driving force for Libya’s future.