Libya is a parliamentary democracy with a temporary Constitutional Declaration allowing for the exercise of a full range of political, civil, and judicial rights. The outbreak of major political violence in July led to the loss of central government control over much of the country’s territory and the emergence of rival administrations based in Tripoli and the eastern city of Tobruk. The internationally recognized government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni did not maintain effective control of government forces or allied militias. Military forces and militias affiliated with both the recognized government and its opponents committed numerous, serious human rights abuses, including the targeting of civilians.
On February 20, voters elected a Constitutional Drafting Assembly in soundly administered elections, although only 32 percent of eligible voters participated, and the two Amazigh seats remained vacant due to a boycott of the elections. On June 25, voters chose a new interim parliament in similarly administered elections, characterized by an estimated 42 percent turnout of registered voters. The new national legislature, the House of Representatives (HoR), replaced the previous interim legislative body, the General National Congress (GNC), which had unilaterally extended its mandate in December 2013 for one year. On September 22, the HoR approved a new government, led by Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni, which the international community recognized as the legitimate government. In a controversial November 6 ruling, the Supreme Court appeared to invalidate the HoR by overturning a provision of the Constitutional Declaration relating to the HoR’s election. According to the HoR, the Supreme Court made its ruling under duress and did not invalidate the primary electoral law leading to its creation.
Previous militia harassment of state institutions, the July outbreak of fighting in Tripoli, and the takeover of the capital by the anti-HoR “Operation Dawn” coalition prompted the parliament and al-Thinni government to relocate in August to the eastern cities of Tobruk and Beyda, respectively. On August 25, a subset of members of the defunct GNC reconvened in Tripoli and announced the formation of a “National Salvation Government” led by Omar al-Hassi. At year’s end no country had recognized the al-Hassi administration. The extent of the GNC or al-Hassi administration’s control over allied militias was unclear.
During the year security deteriorated significantly, with full-scale conflict erupting in Benghazi in May and Tripoli in July. Militias and government-aligned forces used indiscriminate shelling and airstrikes to attack rival forces and violent extremist groups in civilian areas. Estimated total deaths during the year, relying on media reports, exceeded 2,800. Militias affiliated with both sides in the conflict operated without restraint or accountability and regularly killed civilians, as well as threatened, kidnapped, or killed political figures, journalists, and civil society activists and their families. Militias also damaged national infrastructure and diplomatic facilities.
The most serious human rights problems during the year resulted from the absence of effective governance, justice, and security institutions, and abuses and violations committed by armed groups affiliated with the government, its opponents, and terrorist and criminal groups. Consequences of the failure of the rule of law included arbitrary and unlawful killings, including politically motivated killings by groups outside or only nominally under government control; torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; and harsh and life-threatening conditions in detention and prison facilities.
Other human rights abuses included arbitrary arrest and detention; lengthy pretrial detention; denial of a fair public trial; an ineffective judicial system staffed by judicial authorities who were subject to intimidation; arbitrary interference with privacy and home; use of excessive force and other abuses in internal conflicts; localized restrictions on humanitarian aid to civilians; limits on the freedoms of speech and press, including violence against, and harassment of, journalists; restrictions on freedom of religion; abuses of internally displaced persons, refugees, and migrants; corruption and lack of transparency in government; social discrimination against, and societal abuse of, women and ethnic and racial minorities, including foreign workers; trafficking in persons; legal and social discrimination based on sexual orientation; killings related to societal violence; and violations of labor rights, including forced labor.
Impunity was a severe and pervasive problem. The government did not take steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed abuses and violations, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government. Militias and other armed groups influenced the scarcely functioning court proceedings. Intimidation resulted in the paralysis of the judicial system, impeding the investigation and prosecution of those believed to have committed human rights abuses. When authorities attempted to conduct trials, threats and acts of violence often influenced and curtailed judicial proceedings. Despite well-publicized abuses such as killings and some successful prosecutions abroad for business corruption, there were no reports of investigations leading to indictment and prosecutions in the country.
Government officials regularly justified the activities of extralegal armed groups as necessary to “combat terrorism.” Extralegal armed groups continued to fill a security vacuum across the country. They varied widely in their makeup and responsiveness to the state, violated human rights and humanitarian norms, and committed unlawful killings and other abuses. The internationally recognized government failed to control such groups, even those that were nominally under state control, or to prosecute human rights abuses committed by militias. After the outbreak of major conflict in July, the government continued to pay the salaries of militias affiliated with both sides. Additionally, terrorist groups such as the Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi and in Derna conducted targeted killings, kidnappings, and suicide bombings that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians and officials, primarily in the eastern part of the country. A Derna-based group calling itself the Islamic Youth Shura Council pledged loyalty to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. Derna remained under the control of Ansar al-Sharia and other Islamist militants, who were responsible for extrajudicial killings and other serious violations.