After Years of Inaction, Libya Must Investigate the Murder of Activist Salwa Bugaighis

June 25, 2021

Today marks seven years since the murder of Libyan human rights activist and lawyer Salwa Bugaighis on 25 June 2014. The authorities must investigate this crime, hold the perpetrators accountable and end the deep culture of impunity which allows attacks on civil society activists, and women in particular, to continue unchecked.

Five gunmen attacked Mrs Bugaighis after breaking into her Benghazi home on the eve of the national elections for Libya’s House of Representatives. Her husband Essam El Gheriani, who was at home during the attack, has been missing ever since, suggesting that he was forcibly disappeared by her assailants.

To honour Mrs Bugaighis’ memory and celebrate Libya’s civil society movement, LFJL will shortly release a special season  of the Libya Matters podcast.

“To the Libyan human rights community, Salwa remains an inspiration. She embodied the hope and bravery of activists fighting for women’s rights, civic space, elections, accountability and justice,” said Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL) Director Elham Saudi. “As we remember her and reflect on the ten years since the 2011 uprising which gave birth to Libyan civil society, it is a bittersweet moment.”

There has been no meaningful investigation into Mrs Bugaighis’ murder. Salwa’s sister Iman Bugaighis said: “To date, justice has not been served in Salwa’s case or in the cases of countless other Libyans who have met similar fates. There will be no peace in Libya without justice and accountability. Justice for Salwa is justice for all.”

After years of inaction, the Libyan authorities must fulfil her family’s right to truth and send a strong message to the perpetrators that such violence will not go unpunished. “As well as investigating Salwa's murder and Essam’s disappearance, the authorities must pass and enforce a law to tackle violence against women in line with international law and standards. The law should cover online violence, ensure women’s right to integrity and access to effective protection mechanisms, and promote preventive measures to address the pattern of violence against women in Libya today,” added Saudi.

Mrs Bugaighis’ murder marked an increase in such incidents since 2014. Women who have taken to the public space in Libya have been subjected to gender-based violence and threats, enforced disappearances, sexual violence, smear campaigns and attacks for voicing their opinions, both offline and online.

“The failure to investigate these incidents and hold the perpetrators accountable seriously undermines the rule of law in Libya” said Marwa Mohamed, LFJL’s Head of Advocacy and Outreach. “As we approach national elections on 24 December 2021, the Government of National Unity and Presidency Council must ensure that they can be held freely, fairly and safely. To do so, they must tackle seven key human rights priorities in the next seven months as outlined by LFJL, including protecting the rights of freedom of expression, assembly and association.”


Tim Molyneux, Strategic Communications Manager:, +44 (0)7501 395067.

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