TRIPOLI: Human Rights Watch said Wednesday that Libya is far from ready in political, judicial or security terms to hold free and fair elections as sought by the United Nations.
UN special envoy Ghassan Salame has submitted an action plan to stabilise Libya centred on holding legislative and presidential elections this year.
However, "for elections to be free and fair, they need to be held in an environment free of coercion, discrimination, or intimidation of voters, candidates, and political parties," HRW said.
A 2015 UN-brokered deal that saw the establishment of a Government of National Accord (GNA) was meant to overturn years of chaos that followed the ouster of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in a 2011 revolt.
But Libya has remained mired in violent turmoil as the country is riven by divisions between the GNA in Tripoli and a rival administration backed by military strongman Khalifa Haftar in the east.
"Libya today couldn’t be further away from respect for the rule of law and human rights, let alone from acceptable conditions for free elections," said Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East and North Africa director of the New York-based HRW.
"The authorities need to be able to guarantee freedom of assembly, association and speech to anyone participating in the elections," said Goldstein.
The rights watchdog said that "restrictive laws have undermined freedom of speech and association in Libya, and armed groups have intimidated, harassed, threatened, physically attacked, and arbitrarily detained journalists, political activists, and human rights defenders".
"The legal framework for holding elections remains opaque," according to HRW.
After his rise to power in a 1969 military coup, Kadhafi banned elections and abolished the Libyan constitution. Following his fall, legislative polls were organised in 2012 and 2014.
Out of a population of six million, 2.4 million Libyan voters have so far been registered. A new constitution has to be put to a referendum and an electoral law adopted before polling.