Libya: Attacks against freedom of expression and belief escalate under the continuation of impunity and systematic repression 

On 3 November 2022, organizations, activists, and members of Libyan civil society from all regions of the country came together to assess the status of freedoms in Libya, including developments in regard to freedom of opinion and expression, the right to peaceful assembly and protest, and the right to form associations in Libya.

During the panel discussion, coinciding with the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on 2 November, the speakers emphasized the recurring risks and systematic repressive practices that dominate the human rights landscape, with journalists, bloggers, lawyers, and activists subject to increasing restrictions and escalating dangers including kidnapping and enforced disappearance, and arbitrary arrest.  Numerous cases require urgent attention as the lives of many Libyans are in imminent danger, including the Tanweer and Tanarout cases, and the attacks against women, especially journalists and activists who have been subjected to slander and smear campaigns. Journalists are attacked and subject to arbitrary arrest and detention because of their work or opinions on specific issues, such as elections and corruption, and freedom of expression. 

Attendees spoke about the security campaigns in the western region by the Internal Security Forces of the deterrence forces and the General Intelligence Service, and in the east of the country by the Internal Security Agency and the military battalions of the General Command of the Armed Forces, most notably the Tariq bin Ziyad Brigade. These attacks were launched with the support of the General Authority for Endowments and Islamic Affairs, which conducted smear and intimidation campaigns against activists that amounted to blasphemy through platforms controlled by the Madkhali Salafist Group.


Attendees pointed out that there is a typical set of charges typically deployed against activists, including “treason, advocating atheism and spreading homosexuality”. Activists are then prosecuted under these charges, without any guarantee of their right to free belief or expression, or their right to a fair trial.  This has prompted many of them to stop their activities or leave the country.   The work of activists and advocates is further limited by restrictions on travel, as security clearance is required at the airport before traveling abroad. 


Moreover, laws have been enacted to restrict freedoms and civil society activists, including the Anti-Cybercrime Law, ratified on 26 October 26 2021; the Peaceful Demonstration Law, and the restrictions imposed by the civil society commissions in the East and West, especially against those who work on sensitive files, including human rights issues. Those restrictions criminalize working with or dealing with international organizations and require, by obligation, approval from Internal Security and Intelligence before seminars and workshops can be held. 



In order to promote the rights to freedom of expression and association and to protect human rights defenders, the undersigned associations call for:

Suspend Law No. 20 of 2016 amending Article 291 of the Penal Code 

Repeal Article 178 of the Libyan Penal Code, which provides life sentences for activists in the Libyan diaspora who criticize public authorities.

Amend Article 177 of the Libyan Code of Criminal Procedure, which provides for the possibility of extending pre-trial detention for an unlimited period. The amendment must limit the period of pre-trial detention to a specific period. 

Repeal Press Law No. 76 of 1972.

Repeal articles 178, 205, 208, 245, 438, 439 of the Penal Code.

Annul Law No. 19 regulating civil society organizations, issued in 2001, and all its executive decisions.

Repeal the Anti-Terrorism Law No. 3 of 2014.

Repeal Law No. 65 regulating the right to peaceful assembly, issued in 2012.

Repeal Law No. 4 on Military Measures, issued in 2017.

Repeal Resolution 555, issued in 2018, by the Presidential Council, which gives armed groups the authority to combat terrorism and monitor.

End the policy of arbitrary or secret detention.


The associations also call for:

Conduct an accurate survey and classification of all detention centers, and determine the authority to supervise them (the Ministry of Interior / the army / outside the control and supervision of the judiciary).

Design a clear road map that includes a classification for all detainees (women / men – civilians – military – adults / minors – pretrial detention – execution of a judicial sentence – detention without legal basis).

Establish a mechanism to monitor conditions of detention, ensure communication with detainees, rehabilitate them, monitor conditions of detention, and train staff.

Enable civil society organizations to visit detention centers periodically and without restrictions.

We call all Libyan authorities to ensure the inclusion of basic human rights in its draft constitution and other national legislation, including freedom of opinion, expression, association and peaceful assembly in accordance with international human rights law.

Immediately stop attacking human rights defenders, take immediate action to end repressive practices against them,  and take urgent measures to protect them.

Release all detainees held for peaceful expression of opinion, their origins, political affiliations, or human rights activism. Pending their release, they should be guaranteed protection from torture or other ill-treatment, and their families should be immediately informed of their whereabouts.

We call on the international community to ensure the protection of Libyan human rights defenders residing in Libya and abroad, and to give urgent practical assistance to them by providing effective measures such as strengthening the self-protection capabilities of defenders, facilitating the issuance of emergency visas, and supporting temporary relocation to a safe place.


Signing organizations:


  1. Adala For All Association
  2. Libya crime watch
  3. Libyan Center for Press Freedom
  4. Al-Aman Organization Against Racial Discrimination