[The following report was issued by Bokra Youth Organization and H2O Team on 8 May 2013. This is the seventh in a year-long series of reports covering the actions of Libya`s General National Council. This issue focuses on the period from 15 March to 1 April 2013. Click here to access the previous report.]
Eye on the Libyan General National Congress: Seventh Report
The General National Congress held five meetings in this period beginning Sunday March 17, after a weeklong suspension due to the events that were discussed in the previous GNC report.
The most significant developments of this period included the approval of the budget, demands from the government to remove subsidies on goods, and the addition of an article in the local government act to provide financial resources immediately to local councils. The GNC requested clarifications from Prime Minister Ali Zidane, and some GNC members discussed amendments to the constitutional declaration regarding the establishment of a selection mechanism for the constitution`s constituent committee as well as the strengthening of the political isolation law. A vote took place as per the request of the Alliance bloc on dismissing two of its members. The GNC also issued a public law as well as a set of mandates including the family allowance law, and the clearing of illegal armed protests from Tripoli.
Summary of GNC Sessions
On Sunday, 17 March2013, Juma Atigha (First Deputy Chairman of the GNC) opened the meeting with a speech addressing the events of the previous GNC meeting, stating, "We believe that this unfortunate incident provides an opportune moment for us to engage in self-criticism and soul-searching regarding the achievement of the expectations that our people have entrusted us with. This is a moment for us to improve our performance, rectify our mistakes and unite. There is no room for polarization and competition, which do not serve our goals. We must proceed with a new spirit and renewed determination and awareness, and move away from wasting time and energy and be patient and serious, persevering and accountable."
Abdel-Qader Juma Radwan was appointed Attorney General during the session, following the resignation of counselor Al Hasadi. The GNC continued to discuss the general budget law for 2013, which they had agreed to put to the vote on Tuesday, 7 March 2013. The GNC also approved a draft resolution on the clearing of illegal armed protests from Tripoli, and to evacuate all public offices and private estates from militia from outside the city. It is important to note that this draft was submitted by members of the Tripoli region. In addition the GNC reviewed the conclusions the political isolation committee reached after the resignation of its chairman and deputy, and scheduled its submission of a report during the following session. Also, GNC members submitted a memorandum to the president to recall the prime minister to discuss his report and visit to the United Nations regarding the documentation of violence against women and the latest Security Council resolution (No. 2095) on Libya. The meeting was held at the headquarters of the Congress Hall in the basement, due to continuing maintenance of the main hall and the whole building.
On Tuesday, 19 March 2013, the most prominent issues on the agenda were continued discussion of the 2013 draft state budget and the constitutional amendment on the political isolation law. Additionally the state budget was approved with 142 votes. In a statement to the Solidarity News Agency GNC member Mohamed Ammari said that the GNC adopted the general budget law, with some of the articles passed by an overwhelming majority, and others unanimously. Ammari also stated that the general budget of this year is 66.861.514.000 L.D, based on government projections of the average price of a barrel of oil to be ninety dollars.
Ammari also pointed out that members of the GNC felt the budget estimate is overrated and that all governments that produce oil at the same level of Libya estimated the price of a barrel of oil to be less than ninety dollars, so high expectations will incur a deficit. He also stated that the administrative procedures for the disbursement of the budget will begin, in the care of the interim government, finance ministry, and Central Bank of Libya, noting that they are working on putting the budget in place as soon as possible.
Before the vote on the budget a number of amendments were made to it, the most important of which was to require the government to prevent the duplication in salaries, not pay salaries after August 31, 2013 without national IDs, remove subsidies on goods by August 31, 2013, and to add an article to the local government act that allows for the immediate distribution of financial allocations to local councils. It is worthy of note that the issue of the constitutional amendment on the political isolation law was supposed to be discussed.
The evening session was postponed so that GNC members could participate in the 19 March anniversary celebration in Benghazi.
In the morning session on Sunday, 24 March 2013, Prime Minister Ali Zidane spoke on a number of issues, including his visit to the United States and France as well as the details and outcome of the investigations regarding the incident of alcohol poisoning, which claimed the lives of nearly one hundred people and caused blindness for many. Seventy-five members of the Congress directed questions to the government executive, although only seventeen of them were answered during the day`s session, with the rest scheduled to be completed during the next two weeks, although the satisfaction level regarding the accountability of the government varied among GNC members.
Justice and Construction Party GNC member Nizar Kawan described the question and answer session as a positive step and expressed his thanks and appreciation for the interim government`s quick response to the request of the Justice and Construction bloc. Kawan also mentioned that some abuses took place during the hearing because it is a new procedure, and explained that this is the first attempt to establish parliamentary traditions and develop the role of parliament. Therefore, it was necessary to keep the government accountable for the alcohol poisoning disaster, and he emphasized that the purpose of returning to discussion of this subject was to uphold human rights in Libya.
Mr. Abdelfattah Labeeb also commented on some of the government`s answers, describing them as unconvincing; if the government does not provide clear answers the accountability session will be transformed into an interrogation session in accordance with the procedural rules of the Congress. Labeeb was surprised at the silence of the National Forces Alliance bloc, which did not direct any questions to the government, and clarified the reasoning behind the government accountability mechanism is to correct its path and ensure the country is moving forward. GNC member Mageda El Fallah stated that the GNC seeks full disclosure of the government`s actions for the sake of transparency, and mentioned that the GNC has asked the interim government to provide regular reports on foreign visits, especially the Paris and New York meetings. She emphasized that news on government visits comes to the GNC through the media rather than directly from the government; while GNC members understand that the government is still learning how to function, there will therefore be another session with the government to evaluate its performance and ensure accountability.
On Tuesday, 26 March 2013, the GNC discussed a number of laws and pieces of legislation, including the draft of constitutional amendment No. 1 of 2013, which adds a new article to the Interim Constitutional Declaration to prevent certain individuals from participating in politics for a temporary period. The GNC also discussed legislation to restructure the judiciary and proposals on transitional justice, torture, criminalization, and forced disappearances submitted by the justice ministry. GNC member Asma Sareeba said that the GNC discussed the draft law criminalizing torture, forced disappearances and abductions submitted to the legislative committee for reconsideration. Sabeela added that the law might affect some rebels, but the real rebels (who rebelled against injustice and for rights) should be accepting of the law, because it will ensure the rights they rebelled for. This law will be voted on next week.
The most noteworthy article discussed in the meeting was the amendment of the Local Government Act submitted by the legislative and constitutional committee, approved by 124 votes, to establish municipalities and elect governors and councils, delegating functions and authorities temporarily to provincial councils. Spokesman Omar Humaidan said in an evening press conference that the decision submitted by the legislative and constitutional committee establishes service facilities such as hospitals and schools, and an internal municipality budget will transform the council of ministers, explaining that the current provision of local councils will end as soon as municipal councils are elected. The law allows the prime minister to initiate the establishment of municipal and general elections, and would ensure real decentralization and provide municipalities with financial and administrative independence, able to manage their projects, as well as security activities and thus reduce the burden on the central government. A law was approved to protect Kufra, and the government committed to take measures to ensure the safety of residents from kidnapping, murders, and the presence of a large number of illegal foreigners. Ali Abubaker Kadura was also approved as Minister of Welfare of the Families of Martyrs and Missing.
The legislative committee rejected the request from the National Forces Alliance to withdraw two of its candidates, agreeing that the party has no right to sack or replace a member, except for reasons described in the Constitutional Declaration – in the cases of resignation, reasoning from the Integrity Commission, or death.
The National Forces Alliance proposal was rejected by eighty-six out of 106 votes. The two candidates the party requested to withdraw from the GNC are Ibtisam Stita and Abdul Jalil Al Zahi. The GNC Legal Committee commented on the request of the party, stating that it was not clear and does not necessitate replacement. Also GNC member Sanusi Algami added that the administrative procedures of the GNC only allow the replacement of candidates in cases of death or resignation, but the reasons the Alliance gave for the replacement do not provide justification unless GNC members vote; members have immunity to protect themselves from replacement as political representatives regardless of their political affiliation. Abdul Majid Mliqth (steering committee chair for the National Forces Alliance) mentioned that the reasons the party requested thereplacement included absenteeism, impropriety, and voting against the party, despite being warned many times. Ibtisam Stita stated she is not subordinate to the Alliance.
Milad Safwan expressed his dissatisfaction with absenteeism of GNC members in the regular meetings, expressing his confusion at the causes for it, especially as there were many important issues on the agenda of the previous Tuesday`s session; perhaps the absences were a result of circumstances preventing them from attending or they were evading voting on issues such as political isolation law. Notably, Safwan was among those who filed a petition to the GNC expressing his dissatisfaction, and requested to punish absenteeism, especially when there is an article or law to be voted on.
On Sunday, 31 March 2013 Second Vice President of the Congress Salah El Makhzom chaired the session. Discussion continued regarding constitutional amendment No. 1 (2013) on the constituent committee for developing the constitution, and whether they will be selected via election or appointment. The discussion was postponed until the following Tuesday, so block could discuss it first and produce a unified draft. The decision would need to be approved by two-thirds of members (126 members). The GNC also discussed the political isolation law and changing the majority ratio from two- thirds to a smaller number, though these proposals were postponed as they were very substantial matters. The GNC also discussed the restructuring of the National Elections Commission. According to Salah El Makhzom, the most important item the GNC discussed in the morning session was the constitutional amendment.
Laws Approved by the National General Congress
- Law No. 5/2013 to add a rule to law No. 13/1980 on social security: The law states "If the salary of the country employees have increased, the pension of retirees will increase at the same rate of the corresponding salary after retirement, for pensioners who have a hypothetical salary and for those whose salaries were not subject to the provisions of Law No.15/1981 on salaries, their salary will increase by an average percentage between the maximum increase, which was approved."
- Law No. 6/2013 on the family grant: On March 20, 2013 the GNC issued Law No. 6 (2013) to ensure that all Libyans under the age of eighteen receive a monthly grant of 100 L.D, which can be cashed for the period starting January 1, 2013. The law also included a number of financial and legal terms relating to cashing this grant for those eligible.
- Law No. 7/2013 on the state budget for 2013: The GNC issued Law no. 7 for the 2013 state budget of 66,861,514,000 L.D and the expenditures not yet spent from fiscal year 2012. It also authorized the Minister of Planning to coordinate with the relevant authorities concerning rollovers from 2012 to support important allocations projects and the basic needs of citizens after the issuance of the necessary financial authorization.
Decisions made by the General National Congress
- Decision No. 23/2013 to appoint a delegate for Libya: The GNC issued decision No. 32 on 7 March 2013 to appoint Mr. Ashour Hamad Abo Rasheed as delegate for Libya in the Arab League.
- Decision No. 25/2013 to accept the resignation of the Attorney General: The GNC issued decision No. 25 on March 20, 2013 to accept the resignation of Abdul Aziz Abdul Hamid Alhsady from his position as the Attorney General.
- Decision No. 26/2013 to delegate the Attorney General: The GNC issued decision No. 26 on 20 March 2013 to delegate Abdelkadir Radwan in the Supreme Court as the Attorney General.
- Decision No. 27/2013 to clear Tripoli from illegal armed protests: The GNC issued decision No.27 on March 20, 2013 to clear Tripoli from any illegal armed protests, including all of Tripoli and its suburbs, from all armed illegal militias, and to place security forces outside the city. All locations and residences occupied by armed groups or persons—whether estates, camps, administrative headquarters, land spaces or farms publicly owned, private or belonging to pro-Gaddafi forces. The law prevents the entry and exit of arms from Tripoli, allowing the confiscation of all illegal weapons and military equipment to be delivered to the head of the Army Staff. It also assigns the Ministries of Interior and Defense to implement the provisions of this law in cooperation with the relevant authorities, and treats any victims of the law`s implementation as martyrs of the revolution. Implementation of the provisions of this decision will take place in accordance with the legislation in place, and the Ministry of Finance allocated the necessary funds to support the authorities designated by the Ministries of Interior and Defense to implement the provisions of this decision.
- Live broadcasts of GNC sessions
- Official website of the GNC
- GNC Facebook page
- Libyan News Agency
- Libyan Newspapers
- Solidarity News Agency
- Various Facebook pages of members and parties in the GNC
[Click here to download the full report.]
[Click here to download the report in Arabic.]