There were reports of arrests and imprisonment on the basis of religious belief and government inaction in response to attacks on religious sites.
In February officials reportedly detained four Christians and jailed them for two months on suspicion of proselytizing in Benghazi. In September a militia affiliated with the Ministry of Interior detained a U.S. citizen working as a teacher at an international school in Tripoli on suspicion of proselytizing in the classroom. The quasi-governmental Second Special Security Brigade detained the individual for more than six weeks without charge before releasing him on condition he depart the country.
The government lacked the capacity to maintain law and order through its own formal justice and security structures; it relied on a variety of groups – revolutionary brigades, tribal militias, local strongmen – outside of the armed forces and police to support local security. The government exerted varying degrees of control over these armed groups and its response to instances of violence against Coptic Christians and attacks on Sufi sites across the country was limited to condemnations of the violence. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation issued a statement following the arson attack on a Coptic church in Benghazi in March saying such violence was “contrary to the teachings of our Islamic faith and customs as well as international covenants on human rights and fundamental freedoms and respect for the monotheistic religions” and called on “all Libyan citizens to respect those from friendly and sisterly countries living in Libya and to respect their beliefs.” There were no known arrests or prosecutions in connection with attacks on Sufi sites.
With reference to his fatwa condemning the desecration of graves and holy sites in 2011, Grand Mufti Sheikh Sadeq Al-Ghariani and the Dar al Ifta continued to condemn the desecration of graves and Sufi holy sites by Salafist groups, describing their actions as “not religiously permissible” and “a violation of the sanctity of the dead.”
The government charged two Libyan National Party members with insulting Islam and “instigating division” over election posters from 2012 that included a character the prosecution claimed resembled controversial French cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. First heard and then adjourned in June, the case was scheduled to resume October 13, but the court again postponed the hearings, this time indefinitely.
The government did not explicitly repeal specific Qadhafi-era laws and regulations that limit religious freedom, but at the same time it did not regularly enforce them. In the aftermath of the 2011 revolution, the judiciary was not fully functioning and citizens had little recourse if they believed their right to religious freedom was violated. Citizens did not have access to courts to seek remedy for religious freedom violations.
The Ministry for Endowments and Islamic Affairs provided imams with texts for Friday sermons, which often contained political and social messages. The government permitted religious scholars to form independent organizations that issue fatwas (religious rulings) and provide advice to followers.
Members of minority religious groups, primarily Christians, worshiped with minimal restrictions. The government routinely granted visas and residence papers to religious staff from other countries. As with other classes of resident migrants, clergy generally were offered one-year residency permits.
The grand mufti publicly raised concerns about the expansion of Shia and Ahmadiyya Islam and Christianity in the country, for example in March when he tied his call to prevent Libyan women from marrying foreigners to concerns about Shia men entering Libya. He also advocated the government embrace “moderate” Islam to counter the rise of the violent extremism.