In February 2011, Libyans in several cities took to the streets to protest Muammar al-Qadhafi’s 42-year rule. They were influenced by the uprisings in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt, but the proximate cause was the arrest of a human rights activist in Benghazi. Security forces violently attacked the protesters, setting off clashes between Qadhafi loyalists and a combination of civilians and defectors from the police and military. The rebels in some areas—particularly in eastern Libya—were able to clear loyalist forces from their territory, leading to a months-long civil war with multiple, shifting battlefronts.
In March 2011, NATO launched an air campaign—led primarily by the United States, Britain, and France—to enforce a no-fly zone over the country, protect civilian protesters, and aid rebel militias in their battles against al-Qadhafi’s military. As the fighting continued through the summer, the rebels made slow progress toward Tripoli from both the east and the west.
The rebel militias finally captured Tripoli in August, and al-Qadhafi, his family, and senior members of his regime were forced to flee the city. Efforts to capture the remaining loyalist strongholds and leaders continued into the fall. Al-Qadhafi himself was seized and killed by militia members near his hometown of Sirte on October 20, 2011. Saif al-Islam al-Qadhafi, the ousted leader’s son and onetime heir apparent, was detained in the southern desert in November 2011, and remained in the custody of a regional militia at year’s end.
A National Transitional Council (NTC) that had formed in Benghazi in February 2011 to represent the rebel movement eventually relocated to Tripoli, and by year’s end it was operating as a de facto national government, though its control over territory and armed groups in the country remains tenuous. After weeks of mounting pressure, the executive board of the NTC resigned on November 22 2011, as per the interim constitution, and al-Keeb named an interim cabinet that aimed to incorporate members of competing regional and tribal militias, as well as members of the business community.
Current Status of Civil Rights and Political Liberties:
Severe repression under Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi has given way to an absence of formal governance institutions and frequent skirmishes among autonomous militias. The NTC, an unelected body of about 50 members, nominally controls all aspects of the national government.
The 2011 uprising created somewhat more space for free political association and participation in Libya. Under the Qadhafi regime, political parties were illegal, and all political activity was strictly monitored. The NTC has made an effort to include representatives from across the country and from different backgrounds. However, only a handful of political parties have organized, including the Democratic Party of Libya and the New Libya Party.
• “Freedom in the World 2012 – Libya” by Freedom House. A report on civil rights and political liberties.
• “Countries at the Crossroads 2011 – Libya” by Luis Martinez for Freedom House. A comprehensive document detailing civil and political rights in Libya, past and present.
Throughout the conflict, NTC forces and other anti-Gaddafi militias were accused of targeting Sub-Saharan Africans due to perceived loyalty to Gaddafi. Though the NTC repeated its intentions to investigate human rights violations, secure arms depots, prevent revenge killings and stop ill-treatment of Sub-Saharan Africans, reports alleged that anti-Gaddafi forces repeatedly violated international and humanitarian law during the war. Nonetheless, foreign migrants were subject to arbitrary arrest and in some cases torture and execution. The International Organization for Migration reported that as of 3 November, 2011, 768,372 foreign migrants had left Libya.
• “Libyan Rebels Must Stop Reprisal Attacks” by Amnesty International, 13 September 2011
• “Detention Abuses Staining the New Libya” by Amnesty International, 13 October 2011
• Reports on migration out of Libya during the crisis available on the International Organization for Migration website “Migration Crisis from Libya – IOM Middle East North Africa Operations”
“Lawless Land – Libya” by Journeyman Pictures April 23, 2012
Libya’s power vacuum has been filled by heavily armed rebels who still control much of the war-torn nation. Images of the sprawling refugee camps reveal the extent of the country’s destroyed infrastructure. Mohammed Swehli, a commander of one of the major Misratan Rebel Brigades, denies the widespread allegations of torture and abuse. “They’re not bandits, they’re not militia groups”, he says of the rebels. But video after video has emerged of the torture of perceived Gaddafi loyalists, most of them far too gruesome to broadcast. In some cases the brutal treatment appears to be based solely on the color of the victim’s skin. This report gained rare access to the prisons where thousands are being held indefinitely without charge.
“Libya on the Line” by Aljazeera, May 18, 2012, Part 1 and Part 2
“Libyan militias are spiralling out of control” by Amnesty International, July 4th, 2012 and accompanying report: “Libya: Rule of law or rule of militias?” by Amnesty International
Additional Information available here:
“The Crisis in Libya” by the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect
“Libya: Revolution and Aftermath” by The New York Times
“Women in the Arab Spring: Libya” by FIDH
the caravan of radio and gender
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