News / Middle East

Constitution Delay Frustrates Libyans

Libyan follower of Ansar al-Shariah Brigades chants as he carries the Brigades flag, with Arabic writing that reads,
Libyan follower of Ansar al-Shariah Brigades chants as he carries the Brigades flag, with Arabic writing that reads, "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger, Ansar al-Shariah," during a protest in front of the Tibesti Hotel, in Benghazi,
Diplomats were urging Libya’s new rulers as long ago as last summer to move quickly on deciding the process for drafting a new constitution. But six months after the country held an election in July, the first one in half-a-century, nothing has happened.

Slow process

Libyans are frustrated by the slow pace of change in the country and say the delay on the constitution isn’t helping the central government to persuade tens of thousands of rebel militiamen to lay down their arms. 

One of the biggest holdups on deciding how to go about writing a new Libyan constitution is disagreement about whether the members of a 60-strong drafting panel should be elected or appointed by the country’s new parliament, the General National Congress.

Another is that politicians can’t agree on how to make the process inclusive to ensure that Libya’s three regions - and women - have an opportunity to shape the constitution.

Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, a German member of the European Parliament who headed an observation team to Libya, says speed is now important.

"The decision on the procedure for the selection of the members of the constitutional committee must urgently be  made. The continued success of the transitional Libya depends on this committee’s work," he said.

No representation

Libyans celebrate one year on since the country was declared liberated from former dictator Moammar Gadhafi, at Martyrs Square in Tripoli, Oct. 23, 2012.
Libyans celebrate one year on since the country was declared liberated from former dictator Moammar Gadhafi, at Martyrs Square in Tripoli, Oct. 23, 2012.
Women fear they will have little influence on a draft constitution that has to be voted on in a referendum before it can become the law of the land. They are insisting they have fair representation on any drafting panel, however it is chosen.

"We therefore believe that it should be inclusive and that means having women on the committee. We believe that is the best way to arrive at a constitution that commands the broad support of all sections of society," said Lambsdorff.

Diplomats and international legal experts say for the process to be inclusive there must be plenty of time for Libyans to have a chance to make their views known to the panel - and that alone could take three months.

“The more pragmatic way is to organize a broad public consultation process prior to the official start of the committee’s work. That public consultation process could easily be three months and would allow regional interests to be voiced, civil society interests to be voiced and women’s interests to be voiced," said Lambsdorff.

Egyptian example

Women activists warn that Libya’s government should not follow the example of President Mohamed Morsi in neighboring Egypt, where a rushed process led to accusations of a lack of inclusiveness and prompted a violent standoff last year.

Former Tripoli school principal and political activist Lutfia al- Tabib says some Libyan men claim they know about women’s rights and what’s best for women. She disputes a notion that there don’t have to be women on the committee.

"At least 35 percent of the committee should be women," she said.

Women parliamentarians have now formed a cross-party bloc with the aim of ensuring fair female representation on the constitutional drafting committee. But the extent of their participation remains in hot debate.

You May Like

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs