International Criminology World

World : Africa : Libya

For most of their history, the peoples of Libya have been subjected to varying degrees of foreign control. The Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Vandals, and Byzantines ruled all or parts of Libya. Although the Greeks and Romans left impressive ruins at Cyrene, Leptis Magna, and Sabratha, little else remains today to testify to the presence of these ancient cultures.

The Arabs conquered Libya in the seventh century A.D. In the following centuries, most of the indigenous peoples adopted Islam and the Arabic language and culture. The Ottoman Turks conquered the country in the mid-16th century. Libya remained part of their empire--although at times virtually autonomous--until Italy invaded in 1911 and, in the face of years of resistance, made Libya a colony.

In 1934, Italy adopted the name "Libya" (used by the Greeks for all of North Africa, except Egypt) as the official name of the colony, which consisted of the Provinces of Cyrenaica, Tripolitania, and Fezzan. King Idris I, Emir of Cyrenaica, led Libyan resistance to Italian occupation between the two World Wars. From 1943 to 1951, Tripolitania and Cyrenaica were under British administration, while the French controlled Fezzan. In 1944, Idris returned from exile in Cairo but declined to resume permanent residence in Cyrenaica until the removal in 1947 of some aspects of foreign control. Under the terms of the 1947 peace treaty with the Allies, Italy relinquished all claims to Libya.

On November 21, 1949, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution stating that Libya should become independent before January 1, 1952. King Idris I represented Libya in the subsequent UN negotiations. When Libya declared its independence on December 24, 1951, it was the first country to achieve independence through the United Nations and one of the first former European possessions in Africa to gain independence. Libya was proclaimed a constitutional and a hereditary monarchy under King Idris.

The discovery of significant oil reserves in 1959 and the subsequent income from petroleum sales enabled what had been one of the world's poorest countries to become extremely wealthy, as measured by per capita GDP. Although oil drastically improved Libya's finances, popular resentment grew as wealth was increasingly concentrated in the hands of the elite. This discontent continued to mount with the rise throughout the Arab world of Nasserism and the idea of Arab unity.

On September 1, 1969, a small group of military officers led by then 28-year-old army officer Mu'ammar Abu Minyar al-Qadhafi staged a coup d'etat against King Idris, who was exiled to Egypt. The new regime, headed by the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), abolished the monarchy and proclaimed the new Libyan Arab Republic. Qadhafi emerged as leader of the RCC and eventually as de facto chief of state, a political role he still plays. The Libyan Government asserts that Qadhafi currently holds no official position, although he is referred to in government statements and the official press as the "Brother Leader and Guide of the Revolution."

The new RCC's motto became "freedom, socialism, and unity." It pledged itself to remedy "backwardness", take an active role in the Palestinian Arab cause, promote Arab unity, and encourage domestic policies based on social justice, nonexploitation, and an equitable distribution of wealth.

An early objective of the new government was withdrawal of all foreign military installations from Libya. Following negotiations, British military installations at Tobruk and nearby El Adem were closed in March 1970, and U.S. facilities at Wheelus Air Force Base near Tripoli were closed in June 1970. That July, the Libyan Government ordered the expulsion of several thousand Italian residents. By 1971, libraries and cultural centers operated by foreign governments were ordered closed.

In the 1970s, Libya claimed leadership of Arab and African revolutionary forces and sought active roles in international organizations. Late in the 1970s, Libyan embassies were redesignated as "people's bureaus," as Qadhafi sought to portray Libyan foreign policy as an expression of the popular will. The people's bureaus, aided by Libyan religious, political, educational, and business institutions overseas, exported Qadhafi's revolutionary philosophy abroad.

Qadhafi's confrontational foreign policies and use of terrorism, as well as Libya's growing friendship with the U.S.S.R., led to increased tensions with the West in the 1980s. Following a terrorist bombing at a discotheque in West Berlin frequented by American military personnel, in 1986 the U.S. retaliated militarily against targets in Libya, and imposed broad unilateral economic sanctions.

After Libya was implicated in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, UN sanctions were imposed in 1992. UN Security Council resolutions (UNSCRs) passed in 1992 and 1993 obliged Libya to fulfill requirements related to the Pan Am 103 bombing before sanctions could be lifted. Qadhafi initially refused to comply with these requirements, leading to Libya's political and economic isolation for most of the 1990s.

In 1999, Libya fulfilled one of the UNSCR requirements by surrendering two Libyans suspected in connection with the bombing for trial before a Scottish court in the Netherlands. One of these suspects, Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, was found guilty; the other was acquitted. UN sanctions against Libya were subsequently suspended; full sanctions lift is contingent on Libya's compliance with the remaining UNSCRs, including acceptance of responsibility for the actions of its officials and payment of appropriate compensation.



It was not surprising that opposition arose to the rapid radical changes ushered in by the Qadhafi regime. The wealthy, the privileged, and the traditional tribal and religious elites resented their postrevolutionary loss of power. The ranks of the opposition also grew to include sections of the armed forces, university students, intellectuals and technocrats, and even some of the new political and tribal leaders who clashed with the core elite for one reason or another.

For its part, the revolutionary regime made it clear from the outset that it would brook no opposition. Opposition from political parties or other interest groups was viewed as harmful to national unity. Speaking in October 1969, Qadhafi stated that Libya needed "national unity free of party activities and division" and that "he who engages in party activities commits treason." The December 1969 Decision on the Protection of the Revolution, the Penal Code, and Law No. 71 of 1972 rendered political party activities a crime and formed a strict legal injunction against unauthorized political activity, particularly if such activity should physically threaten the state. Insulting the Constitution or popular authorities and joining a nonpolitical international society without permission were both punishable by imprisonment. Attempting to change the government or the Constitution through force, propagandizing theories or principles aimed at such action, and forming an illegal group were crimes punishable by death. One of the basic points of the cultural revolution, declared in April 1973, called for the repression of communism and conservatism. Also to be repressed were capitalism, atheism, and the secretive Muslim Brotherhood.

Despite legal strictures and physical attempts to nullify opposition, there has been resistance to the revolutionary regime. The discovery of a plot involving two cabinet ministers (lieutenant colonels who were not RCC members) was announced in December 1969. A second plot, allegedly based in Fezzan and involving a distant cousin of former King Idris, was discovered in July 1970. Participation of foreign mercenaries was alleged in both cases. Other resistance has been encountered from traditional tribal leaders who have not welcomed their own displacement by modernizing technocrats, government administrators, people's committees, and popular congresses. Numerous technocrats and other elements of the urban population opposed Qadhafi's emphasis on religion. Traditional Islamic religious leaders also opposed Qadhafi's approach to Islam because its uniquely personal and fundamentalist nature superseded their intermediary position and interpretive function. As in many other developing countries, aspects of the modernization process--such as education and mass communications-- also result in impatience and dissatisfaction with the ruling regime. Increased education and exposure to the mass media were intended to inculcate Libyan citizens with patriotism and loyalty to the regime; however, through education and the media, Libyans also were informed of standards of living and political freedoms enjoyed elsewhere in the world. Exposure to the media created rising expectations that probably increased demands on the government rather than increasing support for it through propaganda.



The government dominates Libya's socialist-oriented economy through complete control of the country's oil resources, which account for approximately 95% of export earnings, 75% of government receipts, and 30% of the gross domestic product. Oil revenues constitute the principal source of foreign exchange. Much of the country's income has been lost to waste, corruption, conventional armaments purchases, and attempts to develop weapons of mass destruction, as well as to large donations made to developing countries in attempts to increase Qadhafi's influence in Africa and elsewhere. Although oil revenues and a small population give Libya one of the highest per capita GDPs in Africa, the government's mismanagement of the economy has led to high inflation and increased import prices, resulting in a decline in the standard of living.

Libya's gross domestic product grew in 2001 due to high oil prices, the end of a long cyclical drought, and increased foreign investment following the suspension of UN sanctions in 1999. Despite efforts to diversify the economy and encourage private sector participation, extensive controls of prices, credit, trade, and foreign exchange constrain growth. Import restrictions and inefficient resource allocations have caused periodic shortages of basic goods and foodstuffs.

Although agriculture is the second-largest sector in the economy, Libya depends on imports in most foods. Climatic conditions and poor soils severely limit output, while higher incomes and a growing population have caused food consumption to rise. Domestic food production meets about 25% of demand. The U.S. Government has prohibited the importation of Libyan crude oil into the United States since March 1982, as well as strict controls on U.S.-origin goods intended for export to Libya. On January 7, 1986, the U.S. imposed economic sanctions against Libya which broadly prohibit U.S. persons from engaging in unauthorized financial transactions involving Libya, including, in part, the following: the export to Libya of all goods, services, or technology; the import of goods or services of Libyan origin; engaging in the performance of a contract in support of an industrial, commercial, or government project in Libya; or dealing in any property in which the Government of Libya has any interest. The economic sanctions also prohibit U.S. persons from working in Libya.

Although UN sanctions were suspended in 1999, foreign investment in the Libyan gas and oil sectors has been severely curtailed due to the United States' Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA), which caps the amount any foreign company can invest in Libya yearly at $20 million (lowered from $40 million in 2001).



Nearly all Libyans adhere to the Sunni branch of Islam, which provides both a spiritual guide for individuals and a keystone for government policy. Its tenets stress a unity of religion and state rather than a separation or distinction between the two, and even those Muslims who have ceased to believe fully in Islam retain Islamic habits and attitudes. Since the 1969 coup, the Qadhafi regime has explicitly endeavored to reaffirm Islamic values, enhance appreciation of Islamic culture, elevate the status of Quranic law and, to a considerable degree, emphasize Quranic practice in everyday Libyan life.

In A.D. 610, Muhammad (the Prophet), a prosperous merchant of the town of Mecca, began to preach the first of a series of revelations said to have been granted him by God (Allah) through the agency of the archangel Gabriel. The divine messages, received during solitary visits into the desert, continued during the remainder of his life.

Muhammad denounced the polytheistic paganism of his fellow Meccans, his vigorous and continuing censure ultimately earning him their bitter enmity. In 622 he and a group of his followers were forced to flee to Yathrib, which became known as Medina (the city) through its association with him. The hijra (flight: known in the West as the hegira) marked the beginning of the Islamic era and of Islam as a powerful historical force; the Muslim calendar begins with the year 622. In Medina Muhammad continued his preaching, ultimately defeated his detractors in battle, and had consolidated the temporal as well as spiritual leadership of most Arabs in his person before his death in 632.

After Muhammad's death, his followers compiled his words that were regarded as coming directly from God in a document known as the Quran, the holy scripture of Islam. Other sayings and teachings of the Prophet, as well as the precedents of his personal behavior as recalled by those who had known him, became the hadith ("sayings"). From these sources, the faithful have constructed the Prophet's customary practice, or sunna, which they endeavor to emulate. Together, these documents form a comprehensive guide to the spiritual, ethical, and social life of the faithful in most Muslim countries.

In a short time, Islam was transformed from a small religious community into a dynamic political and military authority. During the seventh century, Muslim conquerors reached Libya, and by the eighth century most of the resistance mounted by the indigenous Berbers had ended. The urban centers soon became substantially Islamic, but widespread conversion of the nomads of the desert did not come until after large-scale invasions in the eleventh century by beduin tribes from Arabia and Egypt.

A residue of pre-Islamic beliefs blended with the pure Islam of the Arabs. Hence, popular Islam became an overlay of Quranic ritual and principles upon the vestiges of earlier beliefs--prevalent throughout North Africa--in jinns (spirits), the evil eye, rites to ensure good fortune, and cult veneration of local saints. The educated of the cities and towns served as the primary bearers and guardians of the more austere brand of orthodox Islam.



The crime rate in Libya is low compared to industrialized countries. An analysis was done using INTERPOL data for Libya. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The combined total of these offenses constitutes the Index used for trend calculation purposes. Libya will be compared with Japan (country with a low crime rate) and USA (country with a high crime rate). According to the INTERPOL data, for murder, the rate in 1999 was 2.08 per 100,000 population for Libya, 1.00 for Japan, and 4.55 for USA. For aggravated assault, the rate in 1999 was 5.44 for Libya, 15.97 for Japan, and 329.63 for USA. The rate of larceny for 1999 was 335.84 for Libya, 1267.95 for Japan, and 2502.66 for USA. The rate for the above index offenses combined was 343.36 for Libya, compared with 1284.92 for Japan and 2836.84 for USA. (Note: data were not reported to INTERPOL by the USA for 1999, but were derived from data reported to the United Nations for 1999. Also, Libya did not report data for rape, robbery, burglary, or motor vehicle theft, so the index reported above for Libya, Japan, and USA includes only murder, aggravated assault, and larceny).



Between 1996 and 1999, according to INTERPOL data, the rate of murder increased from 1.91 to 2.08 per 100,000 population, an increase of 8.9%. The rate for aggravated assault decreased from 5.51 to 5.44, a decrease of 1.3%. The rate of larceny decreased from 337.87 to 335.84, a decrease of 0.6%. The rate of the combined index offenses above decreased from 345.29 to 343.36, a decrease of 0.6%.



The Libyan system of criminal justice has been heavily influenced by Islamic law, particularly since Qadhafi's proclamation of the Popular Revolution on April 15, 1973. On that date, the Libyan leader announced that all existing laws formulated by the monarchy were to be replaced by the sharia, the sacred law of Islam. Some amendments to bring the criminal code into conformity with Islam had been made before this proclamation. In October 1972, the government enacted a law providing for the amputation of the right hands of convicted thieves. (As a modern note to this traditional Islamic punishment, the government gave assurances that amputation would be performed at a hospital under sanitary conditions with an anesthetic.) In practice, this penalty has not been commonly imposed.

Qadhafi's proclamation involved a reorientation of Libya's entire criminal code, because, according to the 1954 code, no act was a crime unless defined as such by law. Yet the code also specified that nothing in the criminal code affected the individual rights provided for in Islamic sharia. The two provisions were basically incompatible because the 1954 code identified crimes in decreasing order of seriousness as felonies, misdemeanors, and contraventions, assigning maximum sentences to each, whereas under the sharia an act could be--depending upon the circumstances-- mandatory, commendable, permissible, reprehensible, or forbidden.

Efforts to align the criminal code's three categories of offense with the five classifications embodied in the sharia involved Libyan legal and religious scholars in an extensive and slow-moving process to minimize the obvious contradictions in the two systems. Changes in the code's provisions were announced from time to time, but the basic philosophical issues had not been completely resolved by 1973.

Amendments to the criminal code after 1973 addressed both moral issues related to Islamic beliefs and purely secular matters, notably those concerning state security. In official legal announcements in 1973 and 1974, lashings and imprisonment of adulterers, imprisonment of homosexuals for up to five years, and floggings for those transgressing the fast of Ramadan were issued as laws "in line with positive Islamic legislation." Another law provided forty lashes for any Muslim who drank or served alcoholic beverages. For alcoholic-related offenses, non-Muslims could receive fines or imprisonment, and fines and jail terms were set for possession of or trafficking in liquor.

In August 1975, following a major coup attempt, the criminal code was further revised to strengthen state security. Such actions as "scheming" with foreigners to harm Libya's military or political position, facilitating war against the state, revealing state or defense secrets, infiltration into military reservations, and possession of means of espionage were made subject to harsh penalties, including life imprisonment and hanging. Punishments for public servants were stiffer than for ordinary citizens.

An increasing number of acts have brought the threat of execution. A 1975 law provided that membership in a political party opposing the principles of the 1969 Revolution could result in death. In 1977 economic crimes, such as damaging oil installations or stock piles of basic commodities, were added. Qadhafi's repeated calls for abolition of the death sentence have not been translated into legislative action.

The Libyan criminal justice system under the Qadhafi-led government has been characterized by many repressive features. Victims reported torture and beatings during interrogation as a matter of practice, and long jail sentences for political nonconformity. Other irregularities included bypassing the regular court system by special tribunals and holding show trials. The international human rights organization, Amnesty International, has repeatedly reported evidence of grave violations of civil rights and of Libyan law. Most of Amnesty International's inquiries and appeals to Libya to free political prisoners, to abandon torture to extract confessions, and to commute death penalties have gone unanswered.

An account by Amnesty International in 1977 cited twenty-six executions (the first death penalties that had been carried out in twenty-three years), large numbers of Libyans who had been held in detention for up to four years without court action, trials that were "anything but fair and impartial," and defendants who were deprived of their basic legal rights under Libyan law. When it was pointed out to Libyan authorities that they were failing to conform to UN agreements Libya had ratified--the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights--the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs replied that there were currently no political prisoners in Libyan prisons and that all means of defense and safeguards of justice were provided for accused persons. In 1978 Amnesty International asserted that the people's court system violated the UN agreements because the courts were composed largely of government representatives rather than members of an impartial judiciary. Moreover, all trials in people's courts were held in secret and no appeals were permitted.

A further report by Amnesty International described a new series of breaches of judicial norms between 1982 and 1984. It cited the trial in 1982 of twenty-five individuals on charges of membership in an illegal organization (the Baath--Arab Socialist Resurrection--Party). The accused were acquitted because their confessions were obtained through torture. In violation of Libyan law, they were retried in 1983 before a revolutionary court headed by a captain in the special security branch and received severe sentences, including death penalties in three cases. In 1984, eight people were hanged publicly following decisions of Basic People's Congresses in their localities that they were members of the Muslim Brotherhood, an international Islamic movement banned by Qadhafi as an illegal political party. In the same year, two students were hanged before thousands of their fellow students at Al Fatah University in Tripoli. No explanation was given of the charges or of the judicial proceedings, although the students were possibly tried before the student revolutionary committee. Amnesty International has been unsuccessful in gaining its representatives admission to trials and has not received replies to most of its inquiries and appeals.

The penal system was a responsibility of the Secretariat of Interior and was administered by a department of the police administration. Three institutions--the Central Prison at Tripoli, Kuwayfiyah Prison at Benghazi, and Jdeida Prison outside Tripoli-- were known to exist, and smaller facilities in less populated centers were assumed to be part of the system. Qadhafi granted permission for visits by Amnesty International to several prisons in the late 1970s, but the necessary arrangements were never made by Libyan authorities. Subsequent efforts to inspect living conditions of political prisoners have been unsuccessful.

According to a report submitted by Libya to the UN, the prison system was reorganized under Law No. 47 in 1975. According to the report, the thrust of this law was to change the prisons from institutions of "punishment and terror" to ones where inmates were afforded education and training as part of a program to rehabilitate offenders. According to the report, the law envisaged a series of increasingly less restrictive penal facilities in which inmates could earn moves upward through a hierarchy of prisons by good behavior and an appropriate attitude. As of 1987 the extent to which these objectives had been realized had not been made public.



Throughout its prerevolutionary history, the mission and operating concepts underlying the Libyan police system were the same as those in many other Muslim societies. The traditional concept of police or shurtah was a broad one. Because the shurtah were used from time to time by the government in power to undertake new conquests, security force commanders often had full-sized armies at their disposal. Domestically, however, the shurtah were primarily responsible for suppressing dissidence and insurrections as well as performing other internal security duties. The latter duties typically embraced the kinds of administrative and judicial functions often required of urban and rural police, such as the prevention of crime, investigation and arrest of criminals, and maintenance of public order. Some of these concepts have survived in present-day Libya; others have been altered in response to the changing needs of the society.

Shortly after the 1969 coup, military officers were temporarily integrated into key police positions to guard against a countercoup. A complete reorganization of the police followed over the next three years. An early step in the process of stripping the police of paramilitary status was the consolidation of the regional police forces into a unified organization under the Ministry of Interior. In 1971 new separate agencies to handle civil defense and fire protection were provided for by law. Ministerial decrees established other units, such as the Central Traffic Department, the Central Department for Criminal Investigation, the Arab International Criminal Police Bureau, the Ports Security Department, the Identity Investigation, and the Police Training Department. A special police law promulgated by the RCC in January 1972 spelled out the new functions of the police force, which was formally redesignated the Police at the Service of the People and the Revolution. The police were specifically charged with responsibility for "the administration of prisons, civil defense activities, passport and nationality affairs, identity card affairs, and other functions set forth by laws and bills."

Individual police units were under the jurisdiction of regional security directorates throughout the country, with primary responsibility for enforcing the laws and administering the police falling under the minister of interior and his deputy. A special police affairs council--composed of the deputy minister as chairman, the directors of the central police department, the regional chiefs, and a legal adviser--was empowered to coordinate activities of various police branches and to issue decrees on police matters.

Police ranks followed closely those of the armed forces. An officer candidate had to be a Libyan citizen at least twenty years of age, of good conduct and behavior, in good physical condition, and not married to a foreigner. He also had to be a graduate of the police academy. Police work was considered a prestigious occupation, and its attractive working conditions and benefits reportedly produced well-qualified applicants who underwent stiff competition for vacancies. However, standards may have deteriorated as more lucrative opportunities in the oil industry and in government became available for those with sufficient education.

In a counterpart to the media attacks on the professional military in 1983, the official Libyan press targeted the police as lacking revolutionary zeal. The press demanded greater direct responsibility for the masses in protecting the people's security. Articles was recalled that the police were descended from the mobile forces of the Idris regime, headed by "fascist, bourgeois officers" who had suppressed all manifestations of discontent with the royalist system. Police officials were accused of engaging in licentious behavior, of drinking liquor, and of carrying on illegal businesses. They were charged with being "feudalistic" in their behavior, of being ill-educated because many lacked a high- school diploma, and often unfit for duty because of advancing age.

Declaring that "security is the responsibility of the people as a whole in the same way as the defense of the homeland is," Qadhafi announced in 1985 that the police would henceforward be known as the People's Security Force. Whether this name change accomplished much seemed doubtful; the official press complained that all that had happened was that signs over the police stations now read "People's Security Station."

As of year 2002, the country maintained an extensive security apparatus, consisting of several elite military units, including Qadhafi's personal bodyguards, local Revolutionary Committees, People's Committees, and "Purification" Committees. The result was a multilayered, pervasive surveillance system that monitored and controlled the activities of individuals. The various security forces committed numerous serious human rights abuses.

In Libya, the law provides for fines against any official using excessive force; nonetheless, there were no known cases of prosecution for torture or abuse. Security personnel routinely torture prisoners during interrogations or for punishment. Government agents reportedly detained and tortured foreign workers, particularly those from sub-Saharan Africa. Reports of torture were difficult to corroborate because many prisoners were held incommunicado. In July Qadhafi's son, Saif al-Islam, announced that the Government would make public the names of any government personnel involved in torture, even if they were senior officials, and would bring them trial. The Government had not made public any names by year's end. Methods of torture reportedly included: chaining to a wall for hours; clubbing; applying electric shock; applying corkscrews to the back; pouring lemon juice in open wounds; breaking fingers and allowing the joints to heal without medical care; suffocating with plastic bags; depriving of food and water; hanging by the wrists; suspending from a pole inserted between the knees and elbows; burning with cigarettes; attacking with dogs; and beating on the soles of the feet.

The Government does not respect the right to privacy. Security agencies often disregarded the legal requirement to obtain warrants before entering a private home. They also routinely monitored telephone calls.

The security agencies and the Revolutionary Committees oversaw an extensive network of informants; one credible foreign observer estimated that 10 to 20 percent of the population was engaged in surveillance for the Government. Exiles reported that family ties to suspected government opponents may result in harassment and detention. The Government may seize and destroy property belonging to "enemies of the people" or those who "cooperate" with foreign powers. In the past, citizens reported that the Government warned members of the extended family of government opponents that they too risked the death penalty.

The law provides for the punishment of families or communities that aid, abet, or do not inform the Government of criminals and oppositionists in their midst. The crimes include "obstructing the people's power, instigating and practicing tribal fanaticism, possessing, trading in or smuggling unlicensed weapons, and damaging public and private institutions and property." The law also provides that "any group, whether large or small," including towns, villages, local assemblies, tribes, or families, be punished in their entirety if they are accused by the General People's Congress of sympathizing, financing, aiding in any way, harboring, protecting, or refraining from identifying perpetrators of such crimes. Punishment under the Collective Punishment Law ranges from the denial of access to utilities (water, electricity, telephone), fuels, food supplies, official documents, and participation in local assemblies, to the termination of new economic projects and state subsidies. The "Code of Honor", passed by the People's General Congress in 1997, provides for collective punishment to be inflicted on the relatives of persons having committed certain crimes, normally opponents of the regime.

The 1994 Purge Law provides for the confiscation of private assets above a nominal amount, describing wealth in excess of such undetermined amounts as "the fruits of exploitation or corruption." In 1996 the Government ordered the formation of hundreds of "Purge" or Purification Committees composed of young military officers and students. The Purification Committees reportedly seized some "excessive" amounts of private wealth from members of the middle and affluent classes; the confiscated property was taken from the rich to be given to the poor in an effort to appease the populace and to strengthen the Government's power and control over the country. The activities of the Purification Committees continued during the year.



By law the Government may hold detainees incommunicado for unlimited periods. Security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained citizens. The Government held many political detainees incommunicado in unofficial detention centers controlled by members of the Revolutionary Committees.

Scores of businessmen, traders, and shop owners have been arrested arbitrarily on charges of corruption, dealing in foreign goods, and funding Islamic fundamentalist groups in violation of the 1994 Purge Law. The Purge Law was established to fight financial corruption, black marketeering, drug trafficking, and atheism. "Purification committees enforced the law.

Hundreds of political detainees, many associated with banned Islamic groups, reportedly were held in prisons throughout the country (but mainly in the Abu Salim prison in Tripoli); many have been held for years without charge. Some human rights organizations estimated this number to be as high as 2,000. Hundreds of other detainees may have been held for periods too brief (3 to 4 months) to permit confirmation by outside observers.

On February 16 2002, a People's Court in Tripoli sentenced to death Salem Abu Hanak and Abdullah Ahmed Izzedin, 2 out of at least 152 professionals who were arbitrarily arrested in 1998 in Benghazi for involvement with Islamic organizations. Eighty-six of the 152 men were sentenced while 66 were acquitted. Those who were convicted received sentences ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment. The appeal trial opened on December 14. AI reported that lawyers for the accused were neither allowed to study their case files nor to meet with their clients. The lawyers were denied access to the court, and the judge appointed government clerks to replace them. Family members were allowed to meet the accused briefly for the first time since their arrest in April 2001, but then not again until at least December 2001.

In May 1999, the 16 defendants of the case involving the HIV infection of nearly 400 children were kept in incommunicado detention for approximately 10 months, without access to their families or legal representation. In September 1, the Government freed 62 political prisoners, including Muhammad Ali al-Akrami, al-Ajili Muhammad Abd al-Raham al-Azhari, Muhammad Ali al-Qajiji, Salih Omar al-Qasbi, and Muhammad al-Sadiq al-Tarhuni, who had been imprisoned since 1973 for their peaceful involvement with the prohibited Islamic Liberation Party.

On September 1, the Government pardoned 50 Egyptian prisoners and deported them to Egypt. In October the Government returned 238 Nigerian prisoners arrested in anti-African riots in July 2001 to Nigeria to serve out jail terms imposed by courts, following an appeal by the Nigerian government.

There was no information available on Abdullah Ali al-Sanussi al-Darrat, who was detained without charge and has not had a trial since 1973.

The Government did not impose forced exile as a form of punishment, and it continued to encourage citizen dissidents abroad to return, promising to ensure their safety. It is unclear whether such promises were honored. The Government repatriated dozens of family members of suspected citizen al-Qa'ida members from Afghanistan and Pakistan in waves throughout the year. Although the Government publicly guaranteed their safety, the likelihood of such safety remained unclear. Students studying abroad have been interrogated upon their return.

In connection with the September 2000 mob violence against sub-Saharan workers, many sub-Saharan Africans, including Chadians, Ghanaians, and Nigerians were repatriated after seeking assistance from their embassies.



With the acceptance of the primacy of Islamic law, the dual religious-secular court structure was no longer necessary. In November 1973, the religious judicial system of qadi courts was abolished. The secular court system was retained to administer justice, but its jurisdiction now included religious matters. Secular jurisprudence had to conform to sharia, which remained the basis for religious jurisprudence. In 1987 the court system had four levels: summary courts (sometimes referred to as partial courts), courts of first instance, appeals courts, and the Supreme Court.

Summary courts were located in most small towns. Each consisted of a single judge who heard cases involving misdemeanors. Misdemeanors were disputes involving amounts up to Libyan dinar (LD) 100. Most decisions were final, but in cases where the dispute involved more than LD20 the decision could be appealed.

The primary court was the court of first instance. One court of first instance was located in each area that formerly had constituted a governorate before the governorates as such were abolished in 1975. Courts of first instance heard appeals from summary courts and had original jurisdiction over all matters in which amounts of more than LD100 were involved. A panel of three judges, ruling by majority decision, heard civil, criminal, and commercial cases and applied sharia to personal or religious matters that were formerly handled by the qadi courts.

The three courts of appeals sat at Tripoli, Benghazi, and Sabha. A three-judge panel, again ruling by majority decision, served in each court and heard appeals from the courts of first instance. Original jurisdiction applied to cases involving felonies and high crimes. Sharia judges who formerly sat in the Sharia Court of Appeals were assigned to the regular courts of appeals and continue to specialize in sharia appellate cases.

The Supreme Court was located in Tripoli and comprised five chambers: civil and commercial, criminal, administrative, constitutional, and sharia. A five-judge panel sat in each chamber, the majority establishing the decision. The court was the final appellate body for cases emanating from lower courts. It could also interpret constitutional matters. However, it no longer had cassation or annulment power over the decisions of the lower courts, as it did before the 1969 revolution. Because there was a large pool of Supreme Court justices from which the panel was drawn at a given time, the total number of justices was unfixed. All justices and the president (also seen as chairman) of the court were appointed by the GPC; most likely the General Secretariat made the actual selections. Before its abolition, the RCC made Supreme Court appointments.

As of year 2002, the judiciary was not independent of the Government, and security forces had the power to pass sentences without trial. The Government used summary judicial proceedings to suppress domestic dissent.

There were four levels of courts: summary courts, which tried petty offenses; the courts of first instance, which tried more serious crimes; the courts of appeal; and the Supreme Court, which was the final appellate level.

Special revolutionary courts tried political offenses. Such trials often were held in secret or even in the absence of the accused. In other cases, the security forces had the power to pass sentences without trial, especially in cases involving political opposition. In the past, Qadhafi has incited local cadres to take extrajudicial action against suspected opponents.

The private practice of law is illegal; all lawyers must be members of the Secretariat of Justice.

On February 16, in the trial of the 152 professionals and students who were arrested in Benghazi for alleged involvement with an Islamic organization, an international human rights organization noted that the trial was held in secret and that the judges hearing the case were not legally qualified. At the time of their arrest, the defendants were not informed of the charges against them nor were they allowed to meet their lawyers for consultation.

On February 17, the special People's Court, charged with trying 16 health professionals (9 Libyans, 1 Palestinian, and 6 Bulgarians) in 1999 for allegedly infecting 400 children with HIV, dropped the conspiracy charge and transferred the proceedings to the criminal court. The attorney defending the persons claimed he was allowed to meet with his clients twice in the 3 years since their jailing. The case was still pending at year's end.

The Government held a large number of political prisoners. AI estimated that there were hundreds of persons imprisoned for political reasons; other groups put that number as high as 2,000. According to AI, in September 62 prisoners were released on the 33rd anniversary of Qadhafi coming to power.

The Government did not permit access to political prisoners by international human rights monitors.



The law provides for fines against any official using excessive force; nonetheless, there were no known cases of prosecution for torture or abuse. Security personnel routinely torture prisoners during interrogations or for punishment. Government agents reportedly detained and tortured foreign workers, particularly those from sub-Saharan Africa. Reports of torture were difficult to corroborate because many prisoners were held incommunicado. In July Qadhafi's son, Saif al-Islam, announced that the Government would make public the names of any government personnel involved in torture, even if they were senior officials, and would bring them trial. The Government had not made public any names by year's end. Methods of torture reportedly included: chaining to a wall for hours; clubbing; applying electric shock; applying corkscrews to the back; pouring lemon juice in open wounds; breaking fingers and allowing the joints to heal without medical care; suffocating with plastic bags; depriving of food and water; hanging by the wrists; suspending from a pole inserted between the knees and elbows; burning with cigarettes; attacking with dogs; and beating on the soles of the feet.

In May a court sentenced Ahmad Muhammad Ahmad al-Sharif, Sayyid Muhammad Ahmad, Dahmu Muhammad Abu Bakr al-Sharif, and Barkah Sidi Jira Barkah to have their right hands and left legs amputated in punishment for theft. The sentences were carried out in July and were the first in the country since Qadhafi came to power 1969.

On September 6, the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) reported that Mohammad Massaud Izbeda inquired at the Revolutionary Committee Headquarters as to why his son, Abdallah Mohammad Massaud Izbeda, had not been among the 62 prisoners released by the Government on September 1. Authorities at the headquarters detained and tortured Mr. Izbeda. According to reports, he was released later that day and died the same night. Security forces reportedly attempted to remove Izbeda's body from its gravesite on September 13 when a group of young persons intervened. Authorities arrested several, subjecting at least one, Seif Salem Aljadik, to torture, and reportedly killing others. Authorities also demolished both Mr. Izbeda and Mr. Aljadik's homes.

In May 1999, in a much publicized case involving the HIV infection of nearly 400 children, 16 defendants, including 6 Bulgarians and 1 Palestinian, all health professionals, claimed that their confessions had been obtained under duress. In February a court in Benghazi conducted an official inquiry into the defendants' claims of torture. Defense lawyers for the professionals told the press that the inquiry was completed but the results were not communicated to the defense. In November the seven suspects told the Sunday Times that they had signed confessions after months of torture. The torture methods they described included electric shocks, beatings, sleep deprivation, intimidation by police dogs, and forcing one female suspect to undress and threatening to insert a lighted lamp into her vagina. These signed confessions are now the prosecution's best evidence against the suspects. The case remained pending at year's end. According to Amnesty International (AI), although the verdict was supposed to be announced in September 2001, no such action has occurred.

In 1998 152 professionals and students were arrested in Benghazi for alleged involvement with an Islamic organizations not known to have used or advocated violence. An international human rights organization noted that the defendants were subjected to arbitrary arrest, torture, and ill-treatment while being held in incommunicado detention.

As of year 2002, prison conditions reportedly were poor. According to AI, political detainees reportedly were held in cruel, inhuman, or degrading conditions, and denied adequate medical care, which led to several deaths in custody. The Government did not permit prison visits by human rights monitors, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).



Although there was little detailed information regarding the extent of violence against women, it remained a problem. In general, the intervention of neighbors and extended family members tended to limit the reporting of domestic violence. Abuse within the family rarely was discussed publicly, due to the value attached to privacy in society.

Some nomadic tribes located in remote areas still practiced FGM on young girls.

Citizens have been implicated in the purchase of Sudanese slaves, mainly southern Sudanese women and children.

The 1969 Constitutional Proclamation granted women total equality. Despite this legal provision, traditional attitudes and practices prevailed, and discrimination against women persisted, keeping them from attaining the family or civil rights formally provided them. Women were reportedly prevented in practice from owning property. A woman must have the permission of her husband or another close male relative to travel abroad.

Although their status is still not equal to that of men, the opportunity for women to make notable social progress increased in recent years. Oil wealth, urbanization, development plans, education programs, and even the impetus behind Qadhafi's revolutionary government have contributed to the creation of new employment opportunities for women. In recent years, foreign diplomats have noted a growing sense of individualism in some segments of society, especially among educated youth. For example, many educated young couples preferred to set up their own households, rather than move in with their parents, and viewed polygyny with scorn. Educational differences between men and women have narrowed.

In general, the emancipation of women is a generational phenomenon: urban women under the age of 35 tended to have more "modern" attitudes toward life; however, older urban women tended to have more traditional attitudes toward family and employment. Moreover, a significant proportion of rural women did not attend school and were inclined to instill in their children such traditional beliefs as women's subservient role in society.

Female participation in the workforce, particularly in services, has increased in the last decade. However, employment gains by women were often inhibited by lingering traditional restrictions that discourage women from playing an active role in the workplace and by the resurgence of Islamic fundamentalist values. Some observers have noted that even educated women often lacked self-confidence and social awareness and sought only a limited degree of occupational and social equality with men.



The Government subsidized education (which is compulsory until age 15) and medical care, and it has improved the welfare of children; however, declining revenues and general economic mismanagement have led to cutbacks, particularly in medical services.

Sudanese girls reportedly have been trafficked and sold as slaves in the country.

FGM was practiced on young girls.



There was no information available regarding whether the law specifically prohibits trafficking in persons. However, the offenses of prostitution and related offenses, including sexual trafficking are illegal in the Penal Code.

There have been reports of trafficking in persons. The country was a place of transit for women trafficked from Africa to central Europe, and there were reports that Sri Lankan women were transported through the country as well. In August 2001, Senegalese authorities detained 100 young Senegalese women from boarding a charter flight to the country. According to a media report, in September 2001 two French nationals of Senegalese origin were arrested and charged with organizing international prostitution. There were reports that these women were being sent to the country to work as prostitutes.

Citizens have been implicated in the purchase of Sudanese slaves, mainly southern Sudanese women and children, who were captured by Sudanese Government troops in the ongoing civil war in Sudan



Libya's political situation, however, has not affected the country's position on illicit drugs. The Government has remained strongly committed to the fight against drugs, and it has been attending CND meetings and responding to INCBs requests for reporting.

Since 1994 Libya has not provided voluntary contributions to UNDCP. This is expected to be addressed by the Cairo Regional Office in its future dealing with Libya and other countries of the region.

No significant illicit drug production has been reported in Libya. However, due to its geographical location, Libya has potential for transit trafficking, particularly for drugs destined for Egypt. There is little information on the drug abuse situation in Libya. Information provided by the Government at the 1996 Demand Reduction Forum on North Africa, held in Tunisia, reports moderate abuse of hashish, heroin, and diverted prescription drugs.  According to this source, abuse is most prevalent in urban areas. Treatment facilities are limited and seriously under funded.

The General Administration for Drug Control (GADC) in the Ministry of Interior is responsible for combating illicit drugs in the country. GADC has been a regular participant in the annual meetings of the Arab Office for Narcotic Affairs, which is part of the Arab Interior Ministers Council.

Libya has an inter ministerial committee to oversee drug control matters in the country. The committee, however, lacks the ability to ensure an effective implementation of its decisions, and to provide effective co-ordination among the various government agencies involved in drug control matters.

UNDCP has recently been contacted by the Libyan NGO World Permanent Organization for the Jamahiriya Youth which requested advice on setting up a program against drug abuse in North Africa.



Since Qadhafi's rise to power, Libya has chronically employed terrorism and revolutionary groups as primary instruments for fulfilling its international ambitions. The main targets of terrorist activity have been Libyan dissidents living abroad and prominent political figures of moderate Arab and African countries. Qadhafi has openly declared that "the revolution has destroyed those who oppose it inside the country and now it must pursue the rest abroad." A concerted drive to assassinate anti-Qadhafi exiles resulted in the murder of eleven Libyan dissidents in 1980 and 1981. A further five attacks were sponsored by Libya in 1985. Plots were allegedly uncovered against President Habre of Chad in 1984 and President Mobutu Sese Seko of Zare in 1985. Earlier, there was evidence that Libyan agents had targeted Arab moderates, including Presidents Anwar Sadat and Husni Mubarak of Egypt, Jaafar al Numayri of Sudan, Habib Bourguiba of Tunisia, King Hussein of Jordan, and King Hassan II of Morocco.

Qadhafi has endeavored to undermine moderate Arab governments judged not to be militant enough in their attitude toward Israel or to be too closely tied to the West. Sudan under Numayei was a priority target because it cooperated with the West and with Egypt. Arms and funds were funneled to Sudanese rebels based in Ethiopia in their guerrilla warfare against the central government. In early 1983, Libya was accused of having masterminded a coup attempt that miscarried badly. The coup plan called for Libyan planes to bomb public buildings in the capital of Khartoum while dissidents took over the center of the city. When the plan became known and Egyptian and United States aircraft were deployed at Numayri's request, Qadhafi called a halt to the operation. However, in 1984, a plane believed to be Libyan attempted to destroy a radio station at Umm Durman, Sudan, that was broadcasting condemnations of Qadhafi's policies.

Since late 1980, Qadhafi has aided the Somali National Salvation Front, an insurgent group operating out of Ethiopia. He has kindled unrest in North Africa in the case of Algeria by providing money and a base to dissidents, such as former president Ahmed Ben Bella, and in Tunisia by recruiting dissidents from the large numbers of Tunisian workers in Libya to conduct raids and sabotage.

In addition to repeated interventions in Chad in his efforts to impose a leadership that would be amenable to Libyan influence, Qadhafi has been accused of providing arms and training to Tuareg tribesmen at a camp at Sabha. His goal has been to stir up the Tuareg into demanding a union carved out of existing Sahelian states, a union that would be under Libyan influence.

Libya has contributed to Niger's fears by its annexation of a strip of territory on Niger's northern border and its backing of a coup attempt against the president of Niger in 1976. Relations with other African countries--including Senegal, Gambia, Togo, Burkina Faso, and Zaire--have been embittered by Qadhafi's plotting and support for radical dissidents.

Beginning in the 1980s, Qadhafi extended his activities into Latin America and Asia. Arms and money allegedly have been made available to insurgents in Guatemala and El Salvador, as well as to the M-19 terrorist group in Colombia. In South Asia, Libya has been involved with opponents of the Pakistani and Bangladeshi governments and in Southeast Asia has provided help to Muslim minorities, notably the Moro separatists on Mindanao in the Philippines.

In the Middle East, Qadhafi has been motivated by the aim of destroying Israel and of punishing those Arab elements willing to compromise in the interest of regional peace. The smaller, more radical factions of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) have received training and arms from Libya as well as financing for their activities. According to the State Department, Libya's contribution in 1981 alone amounted to nearly US$100 million. In 1985 attention was focused on Qadhafi's links with the Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal Organization, more formally known as the Fatah Revolutionary Council, and with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. The Abu Nidal Organization was believed responsible for the shooting of the Israeli ambassador in London, the hijacking of an Egyptian airliner, and attacks on the El Al and Trans World Airlines ticket counters at the Rome and Vienna airports. The State Department charged that millions of dollars in Libyan funds had gone to the Abu Nidal Organization, that its top figures were resident in Libya, and that Libya had provided training and travel documents to its teams mounting terrorist attacks. Although other Middle Eastern states such as Syria and Iran remained involved in terrorism, the State Department maintained that Libya had become the most active, especially against American and European travelers.

The affinity of Qadhafi for the Abu Nidal Organization and other radical Palestinian factions is explained by the bitter enmity they share for the main Arafat wing of the PLO, and for their rejection of any form of negotiations with Israel. Terrorist attacks of the kind they have successfully launched serve Qadhafi's purpose by further elevating tensions in the Middle East and blighting the prospects of peace initiatives.

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Dr. Robert Winslow
San Diego State University