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International trade unions renew call for action over ongoing attacks on Libyan trade unionist

25 November 2017

A fresh appeal to protect the freedom and safety of a Libyan trade unionist has been launched by the ITF this week via online platform LabourStart.

Nermin Al-Sharif, general secretary of the ITF-affiliated Dockers’ and Seafarers’ Union of Libya, is an active and renowned advocate for human, workers’ and women’s rights on both the national and international stage. She has been subject to ongoing attacks, including several attempts on her life.

In the latest incident, Nermin was detained for several days and had her passport confiscated, barring her from travelling to an international ITF event in Morocco where she was due to address women activists from across the world. Nermin sent a video message to the conference and was offered overwhelming support by the 250 participants on behalf of their unions. The conference outlined the commitment of the ITF to offer support and solidarity to women transport workers victimised as a result of their activism. The conference report reads:

“The conference expressed serious concerns at the impact of the current industrial and political situation faced by women transport workers and demanded that the future of work for women transport workers be embedded in all activities of the ITF.

The ITF will continue to ensure support for women who are targeted by governments and employers because of their trade union activities.”

In London last week representatives from ITF Dockers’ and seafarers’ unions called for action over the campaign of intimidation and violence against Nermin. In a collective statement they said:

"ITF Dockers and Seafarers strongly condemn the recent action taken against prominent leader of the Libyan Dockers' and Seafarers' Union, Nermin Al-Sharif. We demand that her passport is given back to her immediately so she can travel freely. We further demand that she is allowed to continue the important work she does for working men and women in Libya and elsewhere without restriction nor retaliation from any entity and that she is given the necessary protection from her government. Finally, we demand that any undue investigation against her must cease.

Nermin Al-Sharif's relentless work for the promotion of human rights in general, workers' and women’s rights in particular and a healthy democratic debate is admirable and must be allowed to continue without restrictions, detention threats nor threats to her life and health."

ITF president Paddy Crumlin followed up saying: “The international trade union community won’t stand by and let this kind of outrageous treatment continue. Nermin is an activist, a trade unionist and an esteemed comrade.

“We urge every trade unionist, every ordinary working woman and man, everyone who cares about human rights and the right to freedom and justice to support this campaign. These are fundamental principles and we cannot afford to let them be eroded in this way.”

The ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation) has offered support to the appeal. General Secretary Sharan Burrow said: “Nermin is a well-known figure in the international trade union movement. She is an activist with countless years of experience and activity for the protection of workers.

“The extreme and explicit violation of her human rights through violent attacks and most recently infringement of her basic right to freedom of movement, is symptomatic of a country where the rule of law is not respected. We are firmly behind this appeal and are offering every support to Nermin and to the ITF.”