Head of government al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmudi
Death penalty retentionist
Population 6.4 million
Life expectancy 73.8 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 20/19 per 1,000
Adult literacy 86.8 per cent
Freedom of expression, association and assembly continued to be severely curtailed and the authorities showed little tolerance of dissent. Critics of the government's human rights record were punished. Former detainees at Guantánamo Bay returned to Libya by US authorities continued to be detained; one died in custody, apparently as a result of suicide. Foreign nationals suspected of being in the country irregularly, including refugees and asylum-seekers, were detained and ill-treated. An official investigation began into the killing of prisoners at Abu Salim Prison in 1996 but no details were disclosed and some of the victims' relatives who had campaigned for the truth were arrested. Hundreds of cases of enforced disappearance and other serious human rights violations committed in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s remained unresolved, and the Internal Security Agency (ISA), implicated in those violations, continued to operate with impunity.
In February, Mu'ammar al-Gaddafi became Chairperson of the African Union and in September addressed the UN General Assembly (of which Libya held the presidency) for the first time. Also in September Libya marked 40 years under Mu'ammar al-Gaddafi's rule. Negotiations between the EU and Libya on a framework agreement continued.
On 20 August, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the Libyan convicted of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland in the UK, was released by the Scottish authorities and returned to Libya after he was confirmed to have terminal cancer.
In October, the authorities agreed to a visit by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, but they neither specified a date nor did they invite the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, despite a pending request.
In November, Switzerland suspended the normalization of relations with Libya, following the Libyan authorities' incommunicado detention of two Swiss businessmen, Rachid Hamdani and Max Goeldi, from 18 September to 9 November. In November, the men were convicted of immigration offences and sentenced to 16-month prison terms and fines of LYD2,000 (approximately 1,000 euros). The men, who remained in the Swiss embassy at the end of the year, also faced commercial and tax charges.
Repression of dissent
The authorities released at least two prisoners of conscience but rearrested one of them and continued to detain others. Activities that amount to the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression and association remained criminalized in the Penal Code and Law 71 of 1972.