At year’s end, a 38-day-old interim government began to exercise authority in Libya, formerly the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. After eight months of civil war, ending with the ouster of the Qadhafi regime, construction of a republican form of government began. The opposition leadership in the Transitional National Council (TNC), which was formed on February 27, exercised executive authority prior to naming an interim government on November 23 and thereafter acted in a de facto legislative capacity as an arm of the government engaged in transition planning. Adopted by the TNC on August 3, Libya’s Constitutional Declaration provides the basis of governance and allows for the exercise of a full range of political, civil, and judicial rights, including Article 3, which safeguards freedom of expression and assembly, and Article 8, the right to due process--rights that the Libyan people were systematically deprived of during Qadhafi’s 42-year rule. While Qadhafi-era laws that did not contravene the declaration remained in force, the applicability of former laws remained unclear at year’s end, due in large part to the absence of functioning courts. Although an indirect electoral system existed on paper under Qadhafi, in practice his inner circle monopolized all positions of power and security forces reported to them. During the conflict and in the brief period that followed until the end of the year, the TNC and later the interim government had yet to establish full political or military control over the country. In the 10-week period after the TNC declared the country’s “liberation” on October 23, few security forces reported to the interim authorities, while militias acted sometimes in concert with government directives but did so more often autonomously.
Qadhafi’s fall ended an era of systematic, state-sanctioned human rights violations. Although human rights abuses did continue to occur, most frequently in areas where the TNC had yet to exert influence over militias, the scope and extent of abuse in the country measurably diminished following the end of the Qadhafi regime in October. The Qadhafi government’s immediate response to protests begun on February 15 was to crack down on dissent, using excessive and violent force against civilians. Protests rapidly evolved into armed clashes, escalating into a nationwide armed conflict. Qadhafi’s death on October 20 and the takeover of his last stronghold of Sirte ended the conflict. While the transition led to a relatively free political environment--apart from hostility to real and perceived Qadhafi loyalists--the new authorities lacked the capability to fully protect civil and judicial rights in practice.
During the year the most significant human rights problems stemmed from the Qadhafi regime’s denial of its citizens’ right to peacefully change the government. While human rights violations were reportedly committed by both sides, Qadhafi’s government was responsible for the bulk of abuses committed during the armed conflict. A legacy of decades of sustained oppression, corruption, and organizational dysfunction challenged efforts by both the interim government and the TNC to enforce the rule of law. Continuing violence, organizational dysfunction, and widespread corruption further degraded the human rights environment. Militias were largely responsible for continued human rights abuses following the end of the war.
The Qadhafi regime carried out a deliberate policy of human rights abuse. The following other important governmental human rights abuses and societal problems were reported: extrajudicial killings; excessive and indiscriminate use of force against antigovernment protesters, civilians, and civilian facilities; disappearances; torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, including rape; poor conditions in frequently illegal detention and prison facilities; arbitrary arrest and detention; impunity; denial of fair public trial; political prisoners and detainees; feeble judicial authority; arbitrary interference with privacy and home; use of excessive force and other abuses in internal conflicts; restriction on humanitarian aid to civilians; limits on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association; restrictions on freedom of movement; internally displaced persons (IDPs); lack of transparency and significant, widespread corruption at all levels of government; constraints on international and nongovernmental organizations’ (NGOs) investigations of alleged violations of human rights; discrimination against and societal abuses of women and ethnic and racial minorities, including foreign workers; trafficking in persons; and limitations on labor rights in practice, including forced labor.
Impunity for abuses was a serious problem. Although revolutionary militias detained abusive Qadhafi-era officials, there was no functioning judicial system to try them. Similarly, with the judiciary still not functioning, the interim government had not taken steps by year’s end to prosecute opposition militia members and fighters who committed abuses during and after the conflict.
During the year opposition forces reportedly violated human rights and humanitarian norms. Militias and their supporters--which were not fully under the control of the TNC or transitional government authority--committed unlawful killings, other physical violence, and other abuses. Principal targets were actual or suspected detained Qadhafi soldiers or supporters, possible sub-Saharan African mercenaries or dark-skinned Libyans, and former members of the security forces. Disappearances, illegal detentions, and imprisonment of persons on political grounds occurred, as did looting and further violence. Vulnerable civilian populations, including ethnic minorities and migrants, faced discrimination and violence during and after the conflict.
The lack of independent observers and communications disruptions, particularly in Western Libya, resulted in a heavy reliance on secondary sources in the preparation of this report.