Annual Report: Libya 2011

May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Libya 2011

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On 21 January, the privately owned daily newspapers Oea and Cyrene announced that they would only publish online. Oea later reported that the suspension of its print version was a result of "a story which later proved to be true". While Oea's weekly supplement went back to print in July, the Secretary of the General People's Committee (the Prime Minister) ordered its suspension in November following the publication of an opinion piece alleging government incompetence and corruption.

  • On 16 February, four employees of the "Good Evening Benghazi" radio programme were arrested, a day after the show was cancelled. Muftah al-Kibaili, Suleiman al-Kibaili, Khaled Ali and Ahmed Al-Maksabi were released the next day. The programme had a reputation for reporting on "sensitive" political issues.

In September, the authorities announced that associations that were not compliant with Law 19 of 1369 (Islamic calendar year) would be closed. The law gives the authorities extensive power over the establishment, activities and dissolution of any association.

  • On 6 November, 22 journalists of the Libya Press Agency, affiliated with Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, were arrested several days after the authorities suspended Oea's weekly supplement; they were quickly released following the intervention of the Libyan leader.

In December, the Libya Press Agency announced its decision to close its offices in Libya due to "security harassment".

Counter-terror and security

In January, the Secretary of the General People's Committee for Justice told the General People's Congress that over 300 individuals remained imprisoned without any legal basis. In response, Mu'ammar al-Gaddafi described them as "terrorists" and said they should not be released, but two months later over 200 prisoners were freed under a framework of "reconciliation" between the state and those suspected of security-related offences. They were said to have included 80 detainees who had been cleared by the courts or completed their sentences. On 31 August, 37 more prisoners were released, including members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) and Abu Sufian Ibrahim Ahmed Hamuda, a former Guantánamo Bay detainee returned to Libya by the US authorities in 2007. The government said it would compensate financially those who had been detained without any legal basis, but offered no other forms of redress.

  • In August, the authorities released Mahmoud Mohamed Aboushima; he had spent over five years in detention although the High Court cleared him of charges of belonging to the LIFG in July 2007.

More than 200 people continued to be arbitrarily detained, including suspected members of armed Islamist groups and others suspected of committing "offences against the state". Some had been cleared by the courts or had completed their prison sentences; others were serving prison terms imposed after unfair trials.

  • Mahmud Hamed Matar continued to serve a sentence of life imprisonment imposed after an unfair trial. He had been detained for 12 years before being tried and sentenced in February 2002 on security-related charges. Although a civilian, he was tried before a military court.
  • Jalal al-Din 'Uthman Bashir remained in Abu Salim Prison. He was arrested in September 1995 and held incommunicado until 1999, when he was tried before the People's Court, convicted of supporting the LIFG and sentenced to life imprisonment. His case was reviewed in 2006 after the abolition of the notoriously unfair People's Court and his sentence was reduced to 10 years' imprisonment. 2010 was his 15th year in detention.


The government disclosed no information about the official investigation said to have been held into the Abu Salim Prison killings in June 1996, when the security forces allegedly killed up to 1,200 inmates. In Benghazi, victims' families continued to be pressured by the authorities to accept financial compensation and renounce their rights to truth or judicial redress. In October, the Organizing Committee of the Families of Victims of Abu Salim in Benghazi suspended their weekly public protests after security officials undertook to address their health, housing and socio-economic concerns.