Press Release: Politicians and Activists Gather in the Dutch Parliament to Remember Libyan Human Rights Defender Salwa Bugaighis

Press Release: The Hague, 25 June 2019.

Politicians and activists gathered in the Dutch parliament today to remember Libyan human rights defender Salwa Bugaighis, murdered five years ago in Benghazi.

One of the leading figures in the Libyan revolution, Salwa had many friends and supporters in the Netherlands, many of whom paid tribute to her today. She was assassinated moments after returning home from voting in the last general election to take place in Libya. In her final message, she urged Libyans to “fight peacefully by using your vote”.

Salwa’s murder was a watershed moment in the breakdown of Libya’s democratic transition, and decline into renewed civil war. With no serious investigation into the assassination, many women politicians and activists were subsequently subjected to threats, violence, and murder.

Dutch politicians from right across the political spectrum - including those who knew Salwa and worked with her - paid tribute to Salwa and her dream of a free, democratic and peaceful Libya. They were led by Zahra’ Langhi, who co-founded the Libyan Women’s Platform for Peace with Salwa, with Elisabeth van der Steenhoven, of Karama Europe, who also worked with Salwa.

Politicians from the following political parties spoke at the event: CDA, VVD, D66, ChristenUnie, PvdA, GroenLinks, and SP.

At the event, Martijn van Helvert, CDA, said:
“It is appropriate that we are in parliament today to remember Salwa Bugaighis, whose murder exactly five years ago was a direct attack on the very principles of democracy and the rule of law. It was an act meant to send a message, one that we can only counter by ending impunity.”9

Andre Bosman, VVD, said:
“In 2011 I received the first declaration of Salwa’s and Zahra’s network of free Libyan woman -and I shared it with other politicians. Her assassination was a truly appalling act of terror, a deliberate silencing of voices for peace. During the Dutch presidency at the UN Security Council  we specifically stressed the need to end impunity and raised the case of Salwa Bugaighis.”

Sjoerd Sjoerdsma, D66, said:
“Salwa stood for demilitarization and disarmament. We cannot stress enough how important these two factors are for building a healthy and sustainable democracy. We should all join these brave women in their plea to stop the illegal arms-trade to Libya.”

Sadet Karabult of the SP, said:
“Salwa stood for a democratic world in which everyone has an equal say and receives equal treatment – for her the first step was fair elections and disarmament! Let us all continue her battle for a just world and let’s start by preventing impunity!”

Former minister Lilianne Ploumen, PvdA, said:
“We need justice for Salwa – impunity ends here! Salwa always strived for/fought for equality for women – we should all follow her example. It of utmost importance that women everywhere can decide about their own future.”

Nevin Ozutok, GroenLinks, said:
“Equality is one of the most important foundations on which a good functioning society is built. Salwa was always striving for equality and we should hold on to her legacy. All of the brave women that continue her battle must be applauded for their work and we must help them!”

Joel Voordewind, CU, said:
“Being in the presence of brave women such as Zahra and Hibaaq reminds me once again that we have to strive equal treatment and equal opportunity- we need to strive for a fair world. Lets commemorate Salwa and never forget all that she has done.”

Reflecting on the current situation in Libya, Zahra’ Langhi, co-founder of the Libyan Women’s Platform for Peace, said:
“International investigations, prosecutions and accountability can bring an end to the impunity that is reigning Libya which its own national institutions have collapsed after 2011 uprising and military intervention. Libya’s transition would benefit from the international community’s support in establishing rule of law and ending impunity.