Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
LIBYA*The Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya is a dictatorship that has been ruled by Colonel Mu'ammar Al-Qadhafi (the Brother Leader and Guide of the Revolution) since 1969, when he led a military coup to overthrow King Idris I. Borrowing from Islamic and pan-Arab ideas, Qadhafi created a political system that rejects democracy and political parties and purports to establish a third way superior to capitalism and Communism. Libya's governing principles are predominantly derived from Qadhafi's Green Book. In theory Libya is ruled by the citizenry through a series of popular congresses, as laid out in the Constitutional Proclamation of 1969 and the Declaration on the Establishment of the Authority of the People of 1977, but in practice Qadhafi and his inner circle control political power. Qadhafi is aided by extragovernmental organizations--Revolutionary Committees and a Comrades Organization--that exercise control over most aspects of citizens' lives. He uses extrajudicial killing and intimidation to control the opposition abroad and summary judicial proceedings to suppress it at home. The Government continues to repress banned Islamic groups and exercises tight control over ethnic and tribal minorities, such as Berbers and the Warfalla tribe. The judiciary is not independent of the Government. Colonel Qadhafi publicly called for violence against opponents of his regime after violent clashes between Islamic activists and security forces in Benghazi in September 1995. Outbreaks of violence between government forces and Muslim militants have continued to plague eastern Libya since that time. Libya maintains an extensive security apparatus, consisting of several elite military units, including Qadhafi's personal bodyguards, local Revolutionary Committees, and People's Committees, as well as the Purification Committees, which were formed in 1996. The result is a multilayered, pervasive surveillance system that monitors and controls the activities of individuals. The various security forces continued to commit numerous serious human rights abuses.
____________________ * The United States has no official presence in Libya. Information on the human rights situation is therefore limited.
The Government dominates the economy through complete control of the country's oil resources, which account for almost all export earnings and approximately 30 percent of Libya's gross domestic product. Oil revenues constitute the principal source of foreign exchange. In March Qadhafi announced that 75% of the 1997/98 fiscal year budget will be spent on investment and development, but much of the country's income has been lost to waste, corruption, attempts to develop weapons of mass destruction, and to acquire conventional weapons. Despite efforts to diversify the economy and encourage private sector participation, the economy continues to be constrained by a system of extensive controls and regulations covering prices, credit, trade, and foreign exchange. The Government's mismanagement of the economy has caused high levels of inflation, increased import prices, and hampered economic expansion, which has resulted in a decline in the standards of living for the majority of citizens in recent years. Unemployment is estimated to be 30% and is expected to increase. The Government's human rights record remains poor. Citizens do not have the right to change their government. Security forces arbitrarily arrest, detain, and torture prisoners during interrogations or for punishment. Prison conditions are poor, and many political detainees are held for years without charge. The Government restricts the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, and religion. Citizens do not have the right to a fair public trial, to be represented by legal counsel, to be secure in their homes or persons, or to own private property. There were reports of mass expulsions of foreign workers and residents to neighboring countries in 1997, and the regime again contemplated the return of the approximately 30,000 Palestinians currently residing in Libya. Traditional attitudes and practices continue to discriminate against women, and female genital mutilation (FGM) is still practiced in remote areas of the country. The Government discriminates against and represses certain minorities and tribal groups. The Government restricts basic worker rights. Libya continues to be subject to economic and diplomatic sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council in connection with the bombings of Pan Am flight 103 over Scotland in 1988 and the bombing of UTA flight 772 over Chad in 1989. Libya made no progress in complying with the U.N. resolutions regarding the bombing of Pan Am 103. Libya mounted an aggressive international diplomatic campaign to have the U.N. sanctions lifted and violated U.N. sanctions prohibiting flights into or out of Libya four times during the year.