Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief,
Summary of cases transmitted to Governments and replies received
Urgent appeal sent on 13 February 2007 jointly with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants and the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture
148. The Special Rapporteurs brought to the attention of the Government information they had received concerning 430 Eritrean nationals, including over 50 women and children. 130 detainees, including several women and children, are detained at a detention centre in al-Marj, 1,000 km from Tripoli, while the remaining 300 are detained in Misratah, about 200 km from Tripoli.
149. Allegedly, the majority of the detainees are conscripts who fled Eritrea to avoid military service. The right to conscientious objection is not recognized in Eritrea. Military service in Eritrea is compulsory for men aged 18 to 40 and for women aged 18 to 27. Military offenders are punished without due process. The 430 individuals are facing imminent deportation to Eritrea. During their detention, Libyan authorities have reportedly beaten and raped or sexually abused some detainees. Concerns were expressed that, should they be forcibly returned to Eritrea, they may be at risk of torture or ill-treatment, as well as for potential persecution with regard to their freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Further concern was expressed for their physical and mental integrity while in detention.
Response from the Government dated 10 May 2007
150. According to the Government, the information received by the Special Rapporteurs is not true. It is taken from sources whose credibility is doubtful, relying as it does on reports from some Eritrean nationals and non-governmental organizations. There are 164 Eritreans currently being held in centres for illegal migrants after being caught attempting to migrate illegally to Europe. They are being well-treated and are provided with humanitarian and health assistance,witnessed by many foreign media representatives and delegations from States and non-governmental organizations which have visited these camps.
151. The Government further stated that Eritrean nationals come to the Great Jamahiriya, either because they are fleeing from compulsory military service or for other reasons. Most of them enter Libya as a transit zone and are bound for the northern shores of the Mediterranean Sea. This is a breach of the laws in force in the Great Jamahiriya. The Special Rapporteurs should therefore address this outrageous situation, in accordance with their mandates, with the State of origin, instead of directing insults and rash accusations at the Great Jamahiriya. The repatriation of these Eritrean nationals is an appropriate step to take, especially as this is what most of them want after failing in their attempt to migrate illegally to European shores.
152. The Government wished to add that it is important to distinguish between persons who enter the Great Jamahiriya illegally with a view to migrating to other States and those who enter as refugees seeking protection from persecution on account of their political views, race, religion or social status. Many people tend to confuse the two. Act No. 6 of 1987 regulates alien entry, residence and departure from Libya. Anyone who breaches this Act will be arrested and detained in designated places of detention and the competent authorities shall take legal proceedings against them. According to the Great Green Document on Human Rights, the Promotion of Freedom Act and the relevant laws, and pursuant to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture, to which Libya is a party, the competent Libyan authorities have no right to extradite or repatriate an individual where there is evidence to show that that individual will be subjected to torture or an unfair trial.
153. The Great Green Document and the Freedom Act guarantee freedom of conscience, expression and opinion and freedom of worship. Everyone is entitled to security of person and not to be subjected to cruel, degrading or inhuman treatment. Article 431 of the Criminal Code prescribes a sentence of imprisonment for public officials who use violence against individuals. Article 435 of the Code prescribes a term of imprisonment for any official who commits or orders torture. Some members of the police may use force during arrests in order to deal with individuals who resist arrest. One police officer has been convicted for abuse of authority. These are isolated cases and those responsible face the most severe criminal and disciplinary penalties when evidence of their guilt is presented.
154. The Special Rapporteur is grateful for the Government’s response. She would like to take the opportunity to refer to her last report to the General Assembly where she has dealt with the vulnerable situation of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced persons (see A/62/280, paras. 38-63). A refusal to perform military service in the refugee’s country of origin may give rise to a well-founded fear of persecution and relevant UNHCR documents (see ibid., para. 58) provide that refugee status may be established if the refusal to serve is based on genuine political, religious or moral convictions or valid reasons of conscience. In conscientious objector cases, a law purporting to be of general application in the country of origin may be persecutory where it impacts differently on particular groups, where it is applied in a discriminatory manner or where the punishment is excessive or disproportionately severe or where it cannot reasonably be expected to be performed by the individual because of his or her genuine beliefs or religious convictions.