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The Worst of the Worst 2011 - Libya

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 1 June 2011
Cite as Freedom House, The Worst of the Worst 2011 - Libya, 1 June 2011, available at: [accessed 26 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 6,600,000
Capital: Tripoli

Political Rights: 7
Civil Liberties: 7
Status: Not Free

Ten-Year Ratings Timeline for Year under Review
(Political Rights, Civil Liberties, Status)
Year Under Review2001200220032004200520062007200820092010

2010 Key Developments: A law granting Libyan women the ability to pass their citizenship to their children was approved in January 2010, though the measure's pervasive ambiguity and lack of enforcement mechanisms left its practical effects in doubt. Government crackdowns on the country's only quasi- independent media group continued in 2010, including a six-month shutdown of two of the group's newspapers and the arrest of 20 journalists in November. The Libyan authorities faced ongoing criticism for their abuse of migrant workers, and in June, the UN refugee agency was expelled from the country without explanation.

Political Rights: Libya is not an electoral democracy. Power theoretically lies with a system of people's committees and the indirectly elected General People's Congress, but in practice those structures are manipulated to ensure the continued dominance of Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi, who holds no official title. It is illegal for any political group to oppose the principles of the 1969 revolution, which are laid out in al- Qadhafi's Green Book, although market-based economic changes in recent years have diverged from the regime's socialist ideals. Political parties have been illegal for over 35 years, and the government strictly monitors political activity. Organizing or joining anything akin to a political party is punishable by long prison terms and even the death penalty. Many Libyan opposition movements and figures operate outside the country. Corruption is pervasive in both the private sector and the government in Libya.

Civil Liberties: There is no independent press. In 2010, the government established the new position of press deputy, tasked with monitoring journalists who report on corruption. Four investigative journalists were arrested in January after uncovering graft in Benghazi. Quryna and Oea, two newspapers in the Al-Ghad media group, which was nationalized in 2009, said that they were forced to suspend publication from January to July 2010 after publishing articles that were critical of the government. State-owned media largely operate as mouthpieces for the authorities, and journalists work in a climate of fear and self-censorship. Those who displease the regime face harassment or imprisonment on trumped-up charges. The government controls the country's only internet service provider. During 2010, independent news websites were sporadically blocked, as was the video-sharing site YouTube, after users posted what they claimed to be clips of demonstrations in Libya. The government closely monitors mosques for Islamist activity. The few non-Muslims in Libya are permitted to practice their faiths with relative freedom. Academic freedom is tightly restricted. The government also restricts freedom of assembly. Those demonstrations that are allowed to take place are typically meant to support the aims of the regime. The law allows for the establishment of nongovernmental organizations, but those that have been granted authorization to operate are directly or indirectly linked to the government. There are no independent labor unions. The People's Court, infamous for punishing political dissidents, was abolished in 2005, but the judicial authority has since created the State Security Court, which carries out a similar function. The judiciary as a whole remains subservient to the political leadership. Incommunicado detention and disappearances of political dissidents are common in Libya, and the fate of thousands of prisoners taken into custody over the last 30 years remains unknown. These include up to 1,200 prisoners who were massacred at Abu Salim prison in 1996, when guards violently crushed an inmate revolt. Women enjoy many of the same legal protections as men, but certain laws and social norms perpetuate discrimination, particularly in areas such as marriage, divorce, and inheritance.

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