Press release: New report reveals systematic violence against civil society in Libya

March 25, 2024

After decades of oppressive rule under Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s 2011 uprising promised a new era of freedom, justice, and democracy for all citizens, and civic space for Libyan civil society to operate freely and without hindrance. Thirteen years later, the reality for Libyan civil society organisations (CSOs) and human rights defenders (HRDs) paints a starkly different picture - one marred by escalating violence and repression.

In its new report Suppressed and marginalised: Systematic violence against civil society in Libya’, Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL) sheds light on this oppressive environment and documents the experiences of Libyan HRDs, including human rights activists, journalists and lawyers from different regions of the country, through first-hand accounts of human rights abuses taking place.

The research finds that Libyan civil society are increasingly being subjected to harassment, arrests, prolonged arbitrary detention, torture, and enforced disappearances. Defamation and smear campaigns are regularly employed by the Libyan state and the religious authorities  to discredit their work and portray them as enemies of the state, rather than essential contributors to a democratic society. Women engaged in civil society work face additional challenges, including misogynistic attacks and other discriminatory barriers.

“When we heard about the raid on NGOs in the south of Libya, I was in my office and I had less than ten minutes to evacuate the office. I got in my colleague’s car to go home; these minutes were some of the most difficult and scary that I have experienced. We were terrified after we heard about the details of the armed raids on the other NGOs, as if they were criminals…” – a female Libyan activist.

The report also details a contradictory and inconsistent legal framework that facilitates the Libya state’s crackdown on civil society including in the online forms. Government bodies and state institutions have issued multiple decrees and regulations that grossly exceed their lawful authority and mandates to suppress and hinders the work of civil society, in contravention of Libya’s international obligation.

"I was arrested under the so-called ‘cybercrime law’ which was enforced by the officials to protect themselves [from public criticism] and to restrict civil, human rights and journalistic work, and repress voices that shed light on serious violations such as enforced disappearances, which I spoke about on social media and was punished by myself being disappeared.” – a male Libyan activist stated.

 LFJL notes that the international community's silence on the suppression on Libyan civil society and the rampant violations taking place sends a disturbing message that abuses of international law can go unpunished, endangering the work of civil society on a global scale.

“The level of violence and obstruction of HRDs and rights groups in Libya is disgraceful. These groups are being targeted for merely uncovering the heinous crimes committed by the authorities and their militias before local and international forums. Instead of targeting human rights groups, the Libyan State must uphold its international obligations and respect and protect people’s rights to freedom of expression and association.” said Mohamed Elmessiry, Head of Research and Capacity Building at LFJL.

LFJL condemns the escalating attacks on CSOs and HRDs in Libya and calls for urgent action to protect their rights. LFJL also urges the international community to prioritise the situation in Libya and take concrete steps to support civil society and hold perpetrators of human rights abuses accountable.

For media inquiries or further information, please contact:

Alexandra Azua, Communications Manager at LFJL: or Mohamed Elmessiry, Head of Research and Capacity Building at LFJL:

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