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Executive Summary

Libya’s interim Government of National Unity was selected by the 75-member UN-facilitated Libyan Political Dialogue Forum in November 2020 and subsequently endorsed by the Libyan House of Representatives. Libya was emerging from a state of civil conflict. The government controlled limited territory. Parallel, unrecognized institutions in the eastern part of the country, especially those aligned with the nonstate actor known as the Libyan National Army, led by General Khalifa Haftar, challenged its authority.

The government had limited control over security forces, which consisted of a mix of semiregular units, tribal armed groups, and civilian volunteers. The national police force under the Ministry of Interior oversaw internal security, supported by the armed forces under the Ministry of Defense. Security-related police work generally fell to informal armed groups, which received government salaries but lacked formal training, supervision, or consistent accountability. There were credible reports that members of security forces committed numerous abuses.

The Government of National Unity and nonstate actors largely upheld the 2020 cease-fire agreement, although both sides continued receiving support from foreign military forces, foreign fighters, and mercenaries. Informal nonstate armed groups filled security vacuums across the country. ISIS-Libya attempted to maintain a limited presence in the southwestern desert. The Libyan Political Dialogue Forum and House of Representatives each convened to establish a framework for national elections as called for by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum roadmap. Elections did not take place as scheduled on December 24.

Significant human rights problems included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings by various armed groups; forced disappearances by various armed groups; torture perpetrated by armed groups on all sides; harsh and life-threatening conditions in prison and detention facilities; arbitrary arrest or detention; political prisoners or detainees; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious abuses in internal conflict, including killing of civilians and the recruitment or use of children in conflict; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence against journalists and the existence of libel and slander laws; substantial interference with freedom of association; refoulement of refugees and asylum seekers; serious government corruption; lack of accountability for gender-based violence; trafficking in persons; threats of violence targeting ethnic minorities and foreigners; existence or use of laws criminalizing same-sex sexual conduct between adults; significant restrictions on workers’ freedom of association, including limits on collective bargaining and the right to strike; and forced labor.

Divisions between western and eastern institutions, a security vacuum in the south, the presence of criminal groups throughout the country, and the government’s weakness severely inhibited investigation and prosecution of abuses. The government took limited steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed human rights abuses and acts of corruption within its area of reach; however, its limited resources, as well as political considerations, reduced its ability and willingness to prosecute and punish perpetrators.

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U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future