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Libya government promises constitutional reforms following protests

The Libyan government is considering adopting a constitution and allowing greater freedoms, Saif al-Islam, son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi [BBC profile], announced Monday in a televised address [video] following several days of protests. In the address, Saif al-Islam also called for an end to the protests, warning of instability, civil war and thousands of deaths if they are continued. The protests began Tuesday following those that had occurred throughout the Middle East and North Africa [BBC backgrounder], resulting in the resignations of Tunisian president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak [JURIST reports]. Protesters have demanded Gaddafi's resignation and government reform since the start of protests in Benghazi, Libya's second city, which was reported to be largely under the control of demonstrators [UKPA report] following the retreat of police and military forces and reported defections by military personnel over the weekend. Also on Monday, protests were reported to have spread into the capital city of Tripoli [Al Jazeera report], as several large tribes have expressed support for the protests and have threatened to cut off oil exports if Gaddafi, who has been in power since a 1969 coup, fails to step down. Following these developments, Libyan Justice Minister Mustafa Mohamed Abud Al Jeleil resigned [Quryna report] Monday, citing the government's violent response to the demonstrations. Al Jeleil is the fourth government official to resign since the start of the protests, following those of the ambassadors to India, China and the Arab League. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported Sunday that more than 230 protesters had been killed [press release] since Tuesday, with the military and government supporters using live ammunition and machine guns on protesters, a shutdown of the Internet and the arrest of those who speak to foreign press.

On Thursday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] called for an end to violence against protesters [JURIST report] in Bahrain and elsewhere, referencing recent attempts to quell protests sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa. Ban said that he is "disturbed by all these violent means of trying to disperse demonstrators, the freedom of expression, freedom of access to information, particularly the journalists." In conjunction, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay [official profile], on Friday condemned violence by the security forces in Libya, Bahrain and Yemen against anti-government demonstrators as illegal and excessively heavy-handed. Pillay blamed the protests on decades of neglecting legitimate aspirations to realize civic, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Last week, Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci said the government will end the 19-year-old state of emergency laws [JURIST report] amidst growing protests in Algeria. Earlier this month, Iranian opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi was placed under house arrest [JURIST report] in relation to calls by Karroubi and fellow opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi [JURIST news archive] for rallies in support of the recent political reform movements in Tunisia and Egypt.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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