Summary of the human rights situation in Libya during the year 2022
Summary of the human rights situation in Libya during the year 2022
Defender Center for Human Rights
Paris – February 13, 2023
Libya remains a safe haven for human rights violators in light of the widespread impunity and lack of accountability, as well as the continuing political division that has become entrenched in the presence of two competing governments. After the rounds of dialogue between the political parties failed to reach a tangible agreement allowing the elections to be held, the streets of Libya witnessed, on the first of July, a massive wave of protests, in the east and west, calling for the overthrow of all political institutions and the organization of elections.
The crackdown on civil society and human rights defenders has also escalated. This caused panic among civil society and forced many organizations and activists to curtail their activities for fear of arbitrary arrest and other reprisals. While Libya does not enjoy freedom of the press, Journalists and activists are still subjected to enforced disappearance, and the House of Representatives passed the Anti-Cybercrime Law, which poses a serious threat to freedom of expression and the press. The tragedy of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers who are subjected to arbitrary detention, torture, murder, sexual violence and kidnapping for ransom continues, and the internally displaced communities and individuals continue to suffer from homelessness and living under harsh conditions. The year 2022 also witnessed a deterioration in the situation of Libyan women, as many reports recorded an increase in incidents of violence and assaults on women, and this was confirmed by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, following a visit to Libya at the end of the year. The Independent Fact-Finding Mission in Libya faced various challenges to renew its mandate, especially from the Libyan authorities. The mission’s mandate was eventually renewed for the last time, and it will complete its work by March 2023.
Libya is in a maze
In the aftermath of the abject failure of the Libyan authorities to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in December 2021, the country entered a new political crisis, as the House of Representatives announced on February 10 that it had chosen the former Minister of Interior in the Government of National Accord, Fathi Bashagha, as the new prime minister, to succeed Abdul Hamid al-Dabaiba. Al-Dabaiba rejected the decision of the House of Representatives and announced his continuation in his position as Prime Minister, and at that time he enjoyed the continued support of the United Nations. In May, Tripoli witnessed violent clashes during Bashagha’s attempt to enter the capital to claim power. Bashagha withdrew hours after the failure of the attempt, which almost plunged the country into a new bloody conflict.
But while the country was temporarily spared a resumption of infighting, the political struggle continued unabated between rival political factions in the east and west. The United Nations Support Mission in Libya sponsored a dialogue between the Libyan parties, with the aim of reaching a consensual constitutional framework that would allow the holding of elections as soon as possible. However, the dialogue rounds did not lead to a tangible result.
On July 1, 2022, Libya witnessed a massive wave of protests against the deteriorating living conditions and the worsening political crisis. Where protesters stormed the parliament headquarters in Tobruk in the east of the country and set it on fire. Tripoli also witnessed protests, in which the participants demanded elections, the overthrow of all political authorities and the holding of elections. The protests spread to Al-Bayda, Misurata and some other cities, and the protesters threatened to declare civil disobedience until their goals were achieved.
All political parties, which are calling for the protests to be overthrown, were quick to express support for the demonstrators, understand their demands, and call for elections. In an apparent attempt to circumvent the demands of the rejecting protesters, who held all political institutions responsible for the deterioration of living and security conditions, as well as causing the political crisis to enter a dark tunnel, which prompted citizens to protest in the streets and demand that all officials leave.
A conference for national reconciliation is expected to be held in Tripoli in the first quarter of 2023, under the supervision of one of the parties to the conflict, the Presidential Council, and with African sponsorship, in light of the lack of sufficient information regarding the arrangements for the conference, the criteria for selecting participants from the political parties, or whether there is political will for serious civil society participation in the conference.
Although the justifications for the timing of the conference are not clear considering a suffocating political crisis and an ongoing institutional conflict, however, in principle, any reconciliation efforts must be supported and endorsed, but at the same time, the measures taken must be clear, public, and transparent. All Libyan citizens have the right to know what is going on regarding the conference, including the early stages of preparation for it, passing through the positions of all parties, and negotiating mechanisms, and even announcing the results, which must reflect the interests of all Libyans and not one or two groups.
Renewal of the mandate of the fact-finding mission
To end the cycle of impunity for gross violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, The United Nations Human Rights Council issued a resolution in June 2020 establishing a fact-finding mission to Libya to investigate violations committed in the country since 2016. However, due to the liquidity crisis in the United Nations and the postponements caused by the outbreak of COVID-19, it was only very late that the mission was able to operate at full capacity.
Despite this, the independent fact-finding mission was able to issue two reports of high significance, in October 2021 and in March 2022. The mission confirmed that “there are reasonable grounds to believe that war crimes have been committed in Libya,” noting that the violence in prisons and against immigrants may amount to crimes against humanity. It also confirmed the existence of evidence that all parties to the conflicts in Libya have committed violations of international humanitarian law, and that some of those parties have committed war crimes. It highlighted the abuses migrants, asylum seekers and refugees are subjected to, whether at sea or places of detention and at the hands of human traffickers.
Furthermore, the mission addressed violations against Internally Displaced People (IDP), child recruitment, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and sexual and other forms of violence against vulnerable groups. It monitored the arrest and detention of people by armed groups because of their views on the elections or their support for a particular candidate, the continued assault on the judiciary, and the continued impunity for attacks directed against women involved in politics.
Aware of the importance of continuing the work of the mission, Libyan and international human rights organizations called for the renewal of the mandate of the mission during the fiftieth session of the Human Rights Council in 2022. Libyan human rights organizations, including Defender Center, have formally communicated with the Libyan authorities, urging them to support the independent international fact-finding mission in Libya and renew its mandate. Throughout all these efforts, it was evident that Libya lacked the political will to support the mission, end impunity, and put an end to human rights violations. In the end, the mandate of the mission was renewed for the last time, and it was decided to end its work in March 2023. The Libyan government did not announce the justification for its refusal to continue the work of the mission after next March, which poses a great challenge in the absence of another alternative mechanism for documenting human rights violations in Libya.
The authorities continue to systematically suppress civil society
As a result of the absence of the political will of any of the successive Libyan governments after the revolution to remove arbitrary legal restrictions that contradict international standards for freedom of civil society associations and contradict the Interim Constitutional Declaration, the security authorities in Libya continue to stifle civil society with more restrictions and legal obstacles, through the Civil Society Commission in Tripoli. Despite the demands of Libyan and international human rights organizations to end the crackdown on civil society and to release those arbitrarily detained. However, the authorities ignored the voices and calls demanding freedom of association, expression, and assembly. The Civil Society Commission in Tripoli also continued its policy of restricting organizations and continued to issue decisions that contradict constitutional rights in accordance with Articles 14 and 15 of the Interim Constitutional Declaration, international standards for freedom of association and association, and Libya’s international obligations in the field of human rights.
And while the year 2020 witnessed unremitting efforts to abolish the independence of organizations and nationalize civil work, in 2021 we began to witness the transformation of social media into an arena for targeting human rights defenders, especially women. In 2022, the repressive campaign against civil society organizations and human rights defenders escalated, including arbitrary detention, defamation, and incitement through the media and media communication sites, in addition to the authorities imposing more arbitrary restrictions, through the Civil Society Commission in Tripoli, on the work and activity of organizations. This is in violation of the Libyan Constitutional Declaration and international standards for freedom of forming civil society associations. The year of 2022 also witnessed the alliance of religious discourse with the narrative of the Internal Security Agency hostile to human rights organizations, and this was evident in the exploitation of religious platforms to incite hatred speech against human rights activists and accuse them of being a tool in the hands of Western countries seeking to destroy the values and traditions of Libyan society.
The Defender Center recorded a climate of fear and panic among human rights defenders across the country, and some civil society organizations have frozen or curtailed their activities in fear of legal and security prosecution. For example, the Tanweer movement, a Libyan civil society organisation, announced that it would completely stop its activities. And while it indicated in its latest statements that Libya lacks a margin of freedom that allows discussion of cultural and intellectual issues, it called on the authorities to stop persecuting its members and to release those arrested. It is worth noting that it is not the first time that a Libyan civil organization has been forced to stop its activities for fear of the safety of its members. In December 2020, the Tanarout Gathering for Libyan Creativity announced the suspension of its cultural activities until further notice, after it was subjected to a smear campaign by the General Authority for Endowments and Islamic Affairs.
Unfair sentences were issued against several human rights defenders who were arrested during the campaign launched by the security services against activists and human rights groups since December 2021. In July 2022, a 10-year prison sentence was issued against one of the defenders, on charges of belonging to a group that was established in violation of the law and the dissemination of destructive ideas that threaten the values of Libyan society and the misuse of the Internet. In October 2022, four others were sentenced to 3 years in prison based on the same charges referred to above. The fate of the rest of the defenders languishing in the Libyan detention centers remains unknown considering the media blackout, the lack of reliable information, and the parents’ fear that the media coverage of their children’s cases will result in their exposure to retaliation and ill-treatment from the security services.
While reports in the first half of the year indicated restrictions imposed on several international humanitarian organizations across the country, and documentation of the authorities’ resort to imposing “unusual” demands, and increased harassment of humanitarian workers, the security campaign escalated in the second half of 2022 against international organizations operating in Libya, including humanitarian organizations. On November 17, 2022, a circular issued by the Ministry of Local Government banned dealing with the International Committee of the Red Cross in Libya. This is based on a correspondence issued by the Internal Security Agency on October 4, 2022, alleging that the committee is carrying out activities contrary to its declared terms of reference and in a way that threatens the country’s national security. And on November 27, 2022, another circular was issued by the Office of the Minister of Local Government to cancel the aforementioned circular, “because there are no reasons for it based on the testimony of the competent authorities.”
The Civil Society Commission is a tool of oppression
On April 6, 2022, the Civil Society Commission in Tripoli published a circular prohibiting civil society organizations or individuals affiliated with them, from participating in any activity outside Libyan territory, including trainings and workshops, or cooperating with or receiving support from international organizations, until after Obtaining the Commission’s approval, which in turn communicates with the security authorities before making its “decision”. This is a further step in the path taken by the Commission towards the systematic restriction of freedom of assembly and establishing civil society associations.
Since the issuance of Resolution 286 regarding the adoption of the regulations organizing the work of the Civil Society Commission in March 2019, Libyan human rights organizations have highlighted the violations included in the resolution to the Interim Constitutional Declaration (Articles 14 and 15) and to international standards for freedom of association. The Commission sought to impose more control over the civil society associations by adding a new document to the papers related to the procedures for registering associations and renewing licenses. Where the founders of these associations are forced to pledge not to deal with foreign embassies and consulates at home and abroad, and international governmental and non-governmental organizations in all forms of dealing, whether by holding meetings and gatherings, or inviting them, or responding to their invitations, or signing any agreements or contracts in general, except after requesting permission and approval from the Civil Society Commission. This is what Libyan human rights organizations warned against and considered it tantamount to nationalizing civil work and isolating civil society from the outside world.
It is worth noting that, until recently, many organizations resorted to registering with the Civil Society Commission in Benghazi, to escape the arbitrary restrictions imposed by the Civil Society Commission in Tripoli on the registration of associations. However, in a negative development that indicates the worsening situation of freedom of civil society associations in Libya, the Benghazi Commission issued on March 29 a circular threatening to freeze the activity of organizations that do not update their data and submit their reports periodically without the support of the law. This circular came only two days after another circular issued by the Tripoli Commission, in which it announced the suspension of the registration of organizations that did not regularize their status in accordance with Regulation 286 of 2019.
Moreover, the Tripoli Civil Society Commission has supported the ongoing crackdown on civil society organizations. Where the Commission issued a statement supporting the repressive measures against the organizations, including the arbitrary detention of a number of human rights defenders. The Civil Society Commission in Tripoli also issued a similar statement in which it used verses from the Qur’an in its criticism of the statement of a Libyan civil society organizations in which it commented on the security measures against activists, which is a very dangerous matter in a societal context that has experiences in using the weapon of “takfirism” and bloodshed in the name of religion.
On the other hand, some officials of the Civil Society Commission in Benghazi were subjected to harassment and violations that amounted to the fact that the Internal Security Agency detained the Executive Director of the Commission, Ibrahim Al-Maqsabi, on December 18, 2022, in addition to detaining the Director of the Registration, Documentation, and Branches Affairs Department of the Commission, Salem Al-Maadani, on December 22, 2022. Al-Maqsabi was released on January 19, 2023, before Al-Maadani was released on January 26, 2023. We believe that the detention of Al-Maqsabi and Al-Maadani came within the framework of the security services’ efforts to dominate civil society in Libya, nationalize its activities and manage its affairs through employees and officials subject to security instructions.
Over the past year, we have noticed that many organizations have resorted to registering with the Civil Society Commission in Benghazi. To escape the arbitrary restrictions imposed by the Commission in Tripoli on the registration of associations. It seems that some Libyan parties, which wish to suppress freedom of civil society and its associations in Libya, have shared this observation with us and have begun to take measures to fill the “loop” that Libyan human rights organizations and international humanitarian organizations benefit from.
It is worth noting, in this context, that during December 2022, the former chairwoman of the Civil Society Commission in Benghazi canceled a decision issued by the Commission to grant work licenses to 37 international non-governmental organizations operating in Libya, which prompted Al-Maqsabi, the Executive Director, to issue a statement the next day. In it, he affirms that the decision was issued by Mrs. Mabrouka Baltamr after withdrawing confidence from her and assigning the Vice-President, Mr. Mahmoud Issa Al-Barasi, to temporarily assume the duties of the Chairman of the Council, and the Executive Director requested international non-governmental organizations operating in Libya to continue the procedures for renewing licenses. This made several Libyan human rights organizations believe that the reasons for detaining Al-Maqsabi and Al-Maadani go beyond what is being raised about the administrative dispute within the Commission, and that they may be paying the price for their policies in support of civil society and their attempts to facilitate the procedures for the registration and work of non-governmental organizations.
For years, Libyan human rights organizations have asserted that the solution to the freedom of civil society associations’ crisis in Libya lies in issuing a civil society associations’ law that complies with international standards for freedom of forming associations. Not only did the concerned Libyan organizations and experts demand the drafting of a new law, but they have already prepared a draft law on associations that complies with international standards and was submitted to the House of Representatives in October 2021. The draft law received the support of ten members of the House of Representatives according to the internal regulations of the House, and it was referred to the Legislative Committee of the Council in preparation for presenting it to the members in an official session, but the Legislative Committee has failed to do so, so far. This confirms the lack of political will in Libya to respect freedom of associations and protect human rights defenders.
Migrants and Refugees: Endless Suffering
In its report on migration in Libya in October 2022, the International Organization for Migration estimated the number of migrants in Libya at about 683,8183 migrants from 42 countries, a substantial increase in number of migrants compared to their number at the beginning of the year, which was 635,051 migrants in January 2022.
On January 10, the Norwegian Refugee Council and the International Rescue Committee said in a joint statement that the Libyan authorities had arrested more than 600 migrants and refugees while they were camping outside a former humanitarian aid center in the capital, Tripoli. The two organizations said that some refugees were injured during their arrest, and that one of them was shot with live bullets. Last January, the authorities used excessive force to break up a sit-in for a large number of migrants and refugees in front of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the capital, Tripoli. About 2,000 people participated in the sit-in, according to information received from Belady Foundation for Human Rights. Belady has confirmed that the Libyan authorities detained women and children during the dispersal of the sit-in and transferred them to the Ain Zara detention center of the Anti-Illegal Immigration Agency.
According to information contained in a report issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, during the first five months of 2022, the Libyan Coast Guard forces carried out 73 interceptions of migrants and refugees, during which they managed to forcibly return 6,325 migrants to Libya. It is worth mentioning here that the Italian-Libyan memorandum of understanding, which was signed more than five years ago, constitutes a cover for the continuation of acts of exploitation, enslavement, and violence against migrants by obstructing their movement to Europe and forcibly returning them to Libyan territory.
In October 2022, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a report stating that “migrants are often forced to accept assistance to return to escape arbitrary conditions of detention, threats of torture and ill-treatment, sexual violence, enforced disappearance, extortion, and other human rights violations and abuses. Together, these conditions create a coercive environment that often conflicts with freedom of choice.” The report emphasized that many migrants, especially those in detention centers, are unable to make a truly voluntary decision to return in accordance with international human rights standards, including the principle of free, prior, and informed consent.
As a result of the inhumane conditions that migrants suffer from in detention centers, a 19-year-old Sudanese man named Mohamed Abdel Aziz was found hanged in his cell in Ain Zara detention center last June. The Sudanese immigrant was one of the participants in the sit-in in front of the headquarters of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and he was among those who were assaulted during the dispersal of the sit-in before he was transferred to the detention center. According to what we received from the Belady Foundation, on April 20, Ain Zara center witnessed the shooting of a migrant believed to be from Niger, and there is no information available about his health condition. Other reports said that the Ain Zara detention center also witnessed, among the many violations, the exploitation of migrants and their forced labor.
While human traffickers and violators of the rights of migrants and refugees in Libya enjoy impunity, because of the lack of political will of the Libyan authorities to end the suffering of migrants and refugees, as well as the complicity and involvement of the security services and armed groups with strong influence in the country, some efforts in Europe to hold human traffickers and violators of migrants’ rights accountable sometimes bear fruit. In February 2022, the Court of First Instance in Palermo handed down a sentence to 20 years in prison for two Bangladeshis for the detention and torture of migrants in Zuwara.
In its report issued in March 2022, the Independent Fact-Finding Mission to Libya confirmed the conclusion reached in its first report issued last year, which is that migrants in Libya are subjected to violations that may amount to crimes against humanity. The mission documented the continued exposure of migrants to killing, torture, inhumane acts, rape, persecution and enslavement by some state authorities, armed groups, and human traffickers. The mission also documented the interception by the Libyan Coast Guard of thousands of people, forcibly returning them to Libya, and arbitrarily detaining them in inhumane conditions.
The mission also indicated in its report that it had received disturbing information about Bani Walid, which is a center for human trafficking located 130 km southeast of Misrata, regarding migrants being detained, tortured, raped and killed. The report also quoted what migrants say about the existence of mass graves in Bani Walid. The mission also mentioned horrific violations committed against immigrant women in Bani al-Walid “there they set women’s breasts and vaginas on fire.”
According to the information we received from Belady Foundation for Human Rights, some detention centers were closed during 2022, such as Daraj, Bir Al-Ghanam, Al-Mahmia and Sabratha centers. According to the Belady Foundation, the closure of detention centers did not prevent the continuation of the detention and arrest of migrants in other prisons, such as the Jendouba prison of the Ministry of Justice in the city of Gharyan and other prisons in the city of Ghadames. Last March, the head of the national unity government, Abdel Hamid al-Dabaiba, opened a detention center for Arab immigrants.
Belady Foundation for Human Rights has confirmed that some centers have witnessed a decrease in the number of detainees in recent months, such as Ain Zara and Tariq al-Sikka detention centers. Meanwhile, campaigns to raid the homes of immigrants and refugees, arrest them, and transfer them to detention centers continued, such as the campaign carried out by the Passports Investigation Office (Zuwara Branch) last April, during which more than 300 immigrants were arrested and transferred to detention centers in Tripoli.
In their report issued on June 28, the Libyan Network Against Torture and the World Organization Against Torture monitored the continuation of the forced expulsion and mass deportation of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, as the number of those forcibly expelled from January to June 2022 reached about 500 migrants. The report documented what it described as systematic and summary expulsions from the Shahat, Al-Bayda, and Ganfouda detention center in Kufra.
The Belady Foundation for Human Rights and the Independent Organization for Human Rights also documented an increase in the number of Syrians who arrived in Libya since the beginning of May 2022 with the aim of crossing the Mediterranean to Europe. In June 2022, the two organizations documented the return of a boat to the coast of Tobruk with about 300 Syrians on board. In addition, the two organizations monitored places of detention where minors are held with adults, including detention centers: Bab al-Zaytoun, Ganfouda Benghazi, Ain Zara in the capital, Tripoli, al-Maya and Wershfana, the Center for Vulnerable Groups (Minor) Al-Zawiya Street, and the Abu Salim detention center for women only. Criminal Investigation – Sebha, and the immigration detention center, Airport Road, Sebha.
There is no political will to solve the refugee crisis
Tens of thousands of displaced people in Libya are still chasing hope for an end to their ordeal, as a result of the continuation of systematic policies and practices that exacerbate the suffering of the displaced, due to the absence of the political will of all successive governments since the revolution to stop the waves of displacement and the dislodgment of citizens throughout the country, and to hold accountable the perpetrators of grave violations against the displaced.
In mid-June 2022, the United Nations recorded the return of 10,000 displaced persons to their original homes during the year, while the total number of internally displaced persons until then is about 159,000. Among those displaced are about 40,000 people from Tawergha whose tragedy began in 2011. Last May, the Stability Support Service carried out a forced eviction of the displaced from Tawergha residing in Al-Falah Camp 1 and Al-Falah Camp 2 in the center of the capital, Tripoli. This resulted in the displacement of about 530 families, as the first camp was inhabited by about 360 families and the second by about 170 families.
It is worth noting that despite the signing of an agreement for return and compensation in March 2017, and the Presidential Council in December of the same year issued a decision to initiate the return of the displaced Tawergha people to their city at the beginning of February 2018. However, the people who tried to return to their homes at the time were prevented from doing so. After more than 5 years have passed since the return and compensation agreement, and 4 years after the decision to open the city for return, the people have not received compensation, and the city still lacks the basic services that must be available for the residents to be able to live in. This makes returning to Tawergha a bitter option for the people who want to return home but are unable to do so due to the authorities’ reluctance to provide basic services in the city.
According to the International Organization for Migration, the number of displaced people in Libya reached about 168,000 at the end of January 2022. The displaced are concentrated in eastern Libya in the regions of Benghazi, Ajdabiya and Derna, while the displaced are concentrated in the west of the country in the regions of Misurata and Sirte, and the displaced are concentrated in southern Libya in the regions of Murzuq, Ubari and Al Jafra. The International Organization for Migration has indicated that the humanitarian needs of the displaced in those areas range from providing housing, food, and health services.
Freedom of expression and the press are at risk
Journalists in Libya are still threatened with enforced disappearance and assault. For example, Mabrouka Al-Mismari, the correspondent of Channel 218 in Benghazi, was beaten by a group of eight people on February 12, 2022. The correspondent of Channel 218 Ali Al-Rifawi was kidnapped in Sirte on March 26, 2022, before he was released on July 5, 2022. It is worth mentioning here that, about a week after Al-Rifawi was kidnapped, the journalist, human rights activist, and head of the Red Crescent Society in Ajdabiya, Mansour Ati, was released 10 months after his kidnapping. In its annual report, issued in May 2022, the Libyan Organization for Independent Media monitored fourteen violations of press freedom in five Libyan cities (Sirte, Tripoli, Benghazi, Sorman, and Ajdabiya), including enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, and physical assault. According to the organization’s report, abused women journalists accounted for 10% of the total violations against journalists.
In August 2022, journalist Mohamed Masoud, correspondent for Al-Arabiya and Al-Hadath channels, was physically assaulted and attempted kidnapping by an armed group, while he was covering a session of the House of Representatives in the city of Tobruk, eastern Libya.
Journalists in Libya live in a relatively dangerous environment because of death threats, torture, enforced disappearances and arrests. This leads to the imposition of self-censorship for fear of retaliation. This atmosphere has also resulted in waves of many Libyan journalists fleeing the country, seeking safety, and hoping to pursue their work without fear of being killed or subjected to various assaults. Recently, reports indicated that more than 80 journalists have fled Libya since 2014, and some neighboring countries have turned into voluntary exiles for some fleeing journalists.
Moreover, in light of the radical Salafist tide that the country is witnessing, freedom of expression and belief faces an imminent threat in Libya, as the First Criminal Chamber of the Misrata Appeal Court issued on September 4, 2022 a death sentence for the Libyan citizen Diaa al-Din Ahmed Muftah Balao “for his insistence on apostasy from the religion of Islam.” His refusal to “repent” and “give up his thoughts.” According to press reports, Balao’s trial began in 2019.
On September 27, 2022, the House of Representatives issued Law No. 5 of 2022 regarding combating cybercrime. This law represents a serious threat to freedom of expression and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in addition to the right to privacy and protection of personal data. This law also codifies the comprehensive control of the executive authority over the digital space without judicial permission, with the possibility of blocking websites and content. The Libyan parliament ignored the demands of civil society organizations and four UN special rapporteurs to withdraw the law and not implement it. This is due to its contradiction with the basic principles of human rights and Libya’s international obligations, in addition to the absence of the principle of dialogue and partnership with the various actors and stakeholders when it was formulated.
Increased violence against women
Libyan women still face abuse from a society saturated with a culture that violates women’s right to equality and degrades them because of inherited social and religious traditions. While the Libyan woman sought, during her participation in the revolution, to extract their right to equality and political participation, they are still trapped in the struggle to obtain the right to move, travel, work, and so on, in a societal context dominated by strict religious fatwas whose authors take a hostile position on equality between women and men.
The country is also witnessing an increase in violence against women. In recent years, Libyan human rights organizations have monitored the violent attacks on some prominent female activists who have taken critical positions against the authorities and their affiliated armed groups. In the past we witnessed in the assassination of lawyer and human rights activist Salwa Bugaighis, in addition to the enforced disappearance of Siham Sergewa, a human rights activist and member of Parliament, and the assassination of lawyer and political activist Hanan Al-Barasi. While all incidents of violence and political assassination of Libyan women activists remained unaccounted for considering the worsening phenomenon of impunity, the past year witnessed an alarming rise in incidents of violence against women in Libya. A statement issued by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Reem Al-Salem, following her visit to Libya in December 2022, confirmed the increase in “widespread, systematic and dangerous levels of violence faced by women and girls in Libya.” Al-Salem indicated that her visit faced obstacles including delaying her entry into Libya and not allowing her to visit prisons and detention centers where women and girls are held, and she was also prevented from leaving Benghazi airport to carry out her planned activities in eastern Libya.
In this context, the Libyan Parliament failed to issue a law to combat violence against women, which was prepared by a group of experts, including a number of Libyan activists, human rights defenders, and researchers.
Efforts to support equality and promote women’s rights in Libya face multiple challenges, including religious authorities and some women who hold positions in state institutions. For example, in October 2021, the Council for Sharia Research and Studies at the Libyan Dar Al Iftaa issued a statement calling on the Libyan government to withdraw from the Memorandum of Understanding related to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The Minister of State for Women’s Affairs, Houria Tarmal, was widely criticized for signing the agreement. At that time, Tarmal was forced to justify the signing and assure the public opinion that “the signing took place on the condition that Libyan national laws and Libya’s previous reservations regarding CEDAW not be prejudiced.” Two committees were formed to investigate Tarmal, one headed by the Minister of Justice and the other composed of female members of Parliament. In October 2022, the Tripoli Court of Appeal issued its ruling to cancel the signature on the memorandum. It is worth mentioning in this context that the head of the Civil Society Commission, Intisar Al-Kulaib, participated in the incitement against Tarmal, in addition to the incitement against a number of Libyan feminists whom she accuses of atheism. Al-Kulaib is considered one of the fiercest opponents of the agreement, in addition to her bad record in dealing with human rights organizations in Libya.
The nationality crisis of children of Libyan women married to non-Libyans
One of the most prominent controversial human rights issues in Libya is the issue of the rights of children of Libyan women married to non-Libyans. The Libyan legislative environment resists promoting equality between women and men about the right to transmit nationality to children, among other rights. Although Article 6 of the Constitutional Declaration guarantees equality between the sexes before the law, and Article 11 of Law No. 24 of 2010 regarding nationality permits the granting of Libyan nationality to the children of Libyan women married to foreigners, it left the determination of the necessary measures to implement this to the executive regulations, which did not issue so far. Although one of the draft constitutions, issued in April 2016, recognized the right of women to grant Libyan nationality to their children, the pressures eventually led to the constituent body deleting that reference in the final draft of the constitution issued in 2017.
It is worth noting that the document “Basic Principles for a Roadmap Based on Respect for Human Rights” issued on November 7, 2020 stipulates that Libyan women “must have the right to grant Libyan nationality to their children if their husband is not Libyan, in line with the principle of equality between men and women.” and in accordance with relevant international treaties.
In October 2022, the Government of National Unity issued Resolution No. 209 of 2022, which stipulates in Article 1 that children of Libyan women married to foreigners enjoy all the rights enjoyed by Libyan citizens. However, the decision is not considered a solution to the crisis and does not give Libyan women the right to grant citizenship to their sons and daughters. The matter requires amending the executive regulations of the Nationality Law in a way that leads to the recognition of the equal right in the law between male and female citizens in granting nationality to their children. And that this amendment be a step towards amending the nationality law by the legislative authority in accordance with the constitutional declaration that stipulates the right to equality in the law without discrimination and in implementation of the obligations of the Libyan state.
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