The interim constitution states that Islam is the state religion and sharia is the principal source of legislation. It accords non-Muslims the freedom to practice their religion and bans discrimination based on religion. The internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) arrived and took office in Tripoli in March. Other competing self-proclaimed governing authorities and militias continued to operate and control territory throughout the country. The GNA did not control large areas of the country, including the cities of Benghazi, Derna, and, for most of the year, Sirte, where there were numerous reports of violent groups restricting religious practices, enforcing compliance with sharia according to their interpretation, and targeting those viewed as violating their standards. Parallel institutions also continued to report to the elected House of Representatives (HoR) based in Tobruk, which had not endorsed the GNA’s cabinet as of year’s end. The government and its aligned forces carried out an anti-ISIS campaign from May to December that liberated the city of Sirte, previously ISIS’ principal stronghold outside Iraq and Syria. The government reportedly did not investigate crimes against religious minorities or religious sites. During the year, the “Libyan National Army” (LNA), an armed group operating in the east with political support from the HoR but outside the purview of the GNA, intensified its military campaign against violent extremist organizations and its commander publicly declared his intention to rid the country of all “Islamists,” making no distinction between groups that espoused violence as a tactic and those that did not.
ISIS and other terrorist and violent extremist groups engaged in killing, forced conversions, and a slave trade of Christian migrants from neighboring countries. Additionally, ISIS carried out targeted kidnappings and suicide bombings that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of individuals. There were reports ISIS publicly executed individuals after accusing them of affiliating with Salafist groups. ISIS effectively controlled Sirte until December when GNA military operations pushed ISIS out of the city and the GNA announced the city’s liberation. Sirte was the site of ISIS abuses of religious minorities, including forced conversions, killings, and the operation of a slave trade of Christian migrants from neighboring countries. In Tripoli, some militias reportedly imposed restrictions on women’s dress and movement, and punished men for behavior they deemed to be “un-Islamic.”
Multiple sources continued to report a restrictive social environment, particularly in the capital, including efforts to prevent women from traveling alone outside the country. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) attributed this to conservative interpretations of sharia and reported women often had male relatives accompany them to the airport and carried written permission from them to enable them to leave the country.
The U.S. government did not maintain a permanent diplomatic presence in the country; the U.S. ambassador to Libya was based in Tunis. The U.S. government continued to raise issues of religious freedom in conversations with the GNA and other Libyan interlocutors and in international forums.