Annual Report: Libya 2011

May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Libya 2011

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Head of state: Mu'ammar al-Gaddafi
Head of government: al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi
Death penalty: retentionist
Population: 6.5 million
Life expectancy: 74.5 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 20/19 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 88.4 per cent

The authorities restricted rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly and repressed virtually all dissent. Hundreds of prisoners continued to be arbitrarily detained on security grounds, including some who had been acquitted by courts or had completed prison sentences, although releases were reported. Foreign nationals suspected of entering Libya irregularly were subject to indefinite detention and ill-treatment; they included refugees and asylum-seekers. At least 18 executions were reported. The government failed to disclose the findings of an investigation into an incident at Abu Salim Prison in 1996 when hundreds of inmates were alleged to have been killed by security forces, and took no action to provide justice for victims of gross human rights violations committed in the 1970s-1990s.


In May, Libya was elected to the UN Human Rights Council and in November to the board of a new UN body established to promote the rights of women. Also in November, Libya's human rights record was assessed under the UN Universal Periodic Review; the government rejected recommendations calling for the death penalty not to be applicable to "offences" related to freedom of expression, and to disclose the names of victims killed in Abu Salim Prison in Tripoli. A planned visit to Libya by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention did not take place and the government did not accede to a request to visit by the UN Special Rapporteur on torture.

Negotiations between the EU and Libya on a Framework Agreement continued. Following a visit by EU Commissioners in October, the EU and Libya agreed a joint "co-operation agenda" on controlling migration.

Swiss businessmen Rachid Hamdani and Max Goeldi were released in February and June respectively and permitted to leave Libya. Both had been detained on politically motivated charges and banned from travel following a diplomatic row between Libya and Switzerland over the arrest in Geneva in 2008 of a son of Libyan leader Mu'ammar al-Gaddafi.

In December, the Gaddafi Development Foundation, headed by Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, a son of the Libyan leader, announced that it will no longer address human rights concerns.

Repression of dissent

The government maintained strict curbs on freedom of expression, association and assembly, and government critics faced arrest and risked prosecution under laws criminalizing peaceful dissent, including the Penal Code and Law 71 of 1972. These prescribe severe punishments - including the death penalty - for activities that amount to no more than the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression and association. Some prisoners were released.

  • On 8 March, Abdelnasser al-Rabbasi was released early from a 15-year prison sentence imposed for "undermining the prestige of the Leader of the Revolution" after he sent an email to the Arab Times newspaper held to be critical of the Libyan leader. He had been held since January 2003.
  • On 14 April, Jamal el-Haji was released after the State Security Court acquitted him of insulting the judiciary. He had been arrested in December 2009 after making an official complaint about ill-treatment when he was detained from February 2007 to March 2009.

The media was heavily restricted and largely state-controlled, although privately owned newspapers associated with Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi continued to express some criticism of state corruption and inefficiency.