State and politics
Since Muammar al-Khadaffi's fall in 2011, no government
has controlled the entire country. Since 2014, there have
been at least two rival governments with separate
parliaments. The country has gradually been divided into
different parts ruled by factions fighting each other.
By 2019, the political process had hardly brought the
country closer to a functioning democracy, but rather led to
increasing disintegration and lawlessness. See ABBREVIATIONFINDER for how LY can stand for Libya.
From March 2, 1977, until the Civil War in 2011, there
was no real constitution in Libya. The country was governed
in accordance with a declaration of "surrender of power to
the people" (jamahiriya), according to the
directives in Muammar al-Khadaffi's "Green Book". According
to it, "direct democracy" prevailed where all representation
by election was prohibited, as was any party formation. In
practice, power was thus concentrated on the leader and his
inner circle, which included family members and security
managers. In practice, Khadaffi served as head of state, but
his formal title was the leader of the Revolution.
People's congresses in districts and professional groups
(at least once a year) appointed delegates to a general
people congress for the entire country. Its secretariat
served as a government, and the secretariat members were the
country's ministers. The revolutionary committees, which
were also established in 1977, were, in principle, intended
to promote direct popular sovereignty, but in practice
functioned almost as a political party. Libya's embassies
abroad were renamed public offices, though with unchanged
Some economic and political liberalization occurred in
1987. Among other things, a number of political prisoners
were released and contacts were made with the opposition. A
short time later, however, the political climate hardened
again. Above all, the Islamist opposition suffered
repression. Alongside the National Congress and
Revolutionary Committees, the army played a crucial role in
politics. However, it never came to be the army made up of
all the people in the weapons that were deployed, but
remained a separate, armed force.
After the civil war and the overthrow of Khadaffi in
2011, a National Transitional Council (NTC) was formed,
which adopted a temporary constitution pending the drafting
and ratification of a new constitution. A Constituent
Assembly was elected in February 2014 and adopted a draft
constitution in July 2017. The draft declares that Libya is
a democracy with Islam as a state religion. According to
this, the judiciary would be independent. Human rights,
including religious freedom and women's rights, would also
be guaranteed, but these guarantees have by no means been
fulfilled in 2019.
Parliament consists of a chamber of 200 directly elected
members; 32 places are reserved for women. In September
2018, Parliament passed a law regulating the referendum
required for the final adoption of the Constitution. The law
was handed over to the national electoral commission
appointed to prepare the referendum.
Due to the turbulence that characterized the country, the
2019 referendum could not have been carried out.
Libya is a distinctive clan community. Loyalty to the
clan or local community has been more important to most
people than the sense of belonging to the colonial nation.
There have also been significant contradictions between the
country's western part, Tripolitania, and the eastern one,
Cyrenaika. The influence of radical Islamists, who reject
democracy, is strong in some areas.
These factors have contributed to Libya's attempts to
build a functioning democracy have encountered great
difficulties. The process began in 2011 when a coalition of
rebel forces took power. Muammar al-Khadaffi had ruled the
country for over four decades. Getting Libya to take the
step from stern dictatorship to a democratic, unified and
modern state proved to be an extremely complicated task.
Even in the fall of 2019, the political process had
hardly brought the country closer to a functioning
democracy, but rather led to increasing disintegration and
After the 2011 revolution, the National Transition
Council (NTC) became the country's governing authority,
internationally recognized as a government. An election to
the Transitional Parliament was held in 2012; 80 of the 200
seats were reserved for affiliated candidates and 120 for
independence. Parliament, called the General National
Council (GNC), was periodically paralyzed by
contradictions between conservative Islamists and more
In January 2014, the government cracked down as the party
representing the Muslim Brotherhood jumped off. In the next
parliamentary elections, participation was low, below 20
percent, and due to unrest and boycotts, only 188 seats
could be added. A coalition of militia groups took up arms
in July 2014, forcing the newly appointed parliament and the
internationally recognized government to flee to Tobruk in
northeastern Libya and re-established parts of GNC as
government, the National Salvation Government, in Tripoli.
In December 2015, close to one year of negotiations were
concluded during the UN mediation with the signing of an
agreement, the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA).
Under the agreement, Libya is governed by a presidential
council, the Presidential Council (PC), headed
by Fayez al-Sarraj (born 1960), and operates through a
single government, the Government of National Accord
The idea was GNA would be backed by the parliament, the
House of Representatives (HoR), which was formed after the
2014 election and represented the hitherto internationally
recognized government, but this has not happened without HoR
remaining in Tobruk. Parallel to these two governments is
the GNC, which goes back to the Transitional Parliament of
2012 and resurrected after the 2014 power struggle, remains
in Tripoli, though with very limited power functions.
Thus, in the fall of 2019, there were three rival centers
of power in Libya: the internationally recognized GNA based
on a naval base in Tripoli, HoR (also called the Council of
Deputies) in Tobruk and GNC or the National Salvation
Government in Tripoli.
The army, under its chief Khalifa Haftar (born 1943),
appointed by the Tobruk government, also has a prominent
role in the Libyan power struggles, more recently as armed
protector of the HoR. Against the army are mainly Islamist
groups, some of them affiliated with the al-Qaeda terrorist
organization , but in addition, a large number of other
militias with varying loyalties operate in the country. The
largest and most important militia groups are found in the
western port city of Misrata.
The army receives support from Egypt, which sees it as
vital to stop Islamist and jihadist movements from expanding
their influence eastward. Since the end of 2014, the Islamic
State terror organization has also exploited the prevailing
chaos to establish presence in various parts of Libya.
See also History.
The legal system is traditionally characterized by
Egyptian and thus also French law. The state court
organization is represented by a supreme court. Islamic law
plays a major role in Libya, where Family law cases are
decided by religious, Islamic courts. The death penalty is
punished for some serious crimes.
The disintegration that has characterized Libya since the
collapse of Muammar al-Khadaffi in 2011 has led to a further
deterioration in the human rights situation, which was
already inferior at the outset. Although laws that protect
human rights are formally in place and most international
conventions have been ratified, its impact is extremely
Both state institutions as well as militia groups and
other parallel powers violate most principles in this area.
Social and economic rights have also been pushed back as the
economy has reversed and the authorities have dropped the
grip on social functions.
Cohesion within clans, with cultural traditions such as
kits, constitutes a stabilizing factor, which, however, does
not reach international standards regarding respect for the
rights of individuals. The civil society brought to life
during the Arab Spring of 2011 has been marginalized.
At the same time, international transparency has been
reduced by UN agencies and other international actors being
forced to reduce their presence due to the uncertain
situation in the country. Local journalists are very
vulnerable. In Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom
Index, Libya received 162 out of 180 countries surveyed in
2019, which is a very substandard rating.
The judicial order is controlled by a number of actors,
both governmental and non-governmental, often linked to
various militia groups, which rarely offer legal processes.
The death penalty is legal but no executions have been
carried out since 2010. Reports on extrajudicial executions,
politically motivated murders and disappearances, on the
other hand, are common and few attempts are made to prevent
these or prosecute the perpetrators. Particularly vulnerable
are human rights activists and employees in the judiciary
such as judges and police.
Broadly speaking, Libya's legal practice is characterized
by corruption and impunity. A ban on torture was introduced
after the revolution in 2011, but is not complied with in
either state or extra-judicial prisons. Rape and other
sexual abuse are common and affect both women and men. The
victim's situation is aggravated by the strong stigma
surrounding the abuse. The stigma helps make rape an
effective and long-term weapon in conflicts between rival
Women have worse opportunities than men to assert
themselves in society, have limited freedom of movement and
are more often subjected to sexual abuse. Rape, by law,
entails many years in prison. However, this can be avoided
by the perpetrator marrying the victim.
Marital rape is not recognized as a crime. Family law
issues are generally handled in accordance with Sharia law,
which severely limits women's rights. Although marriage
formally requires contractors to be at least 18 years of
age, child marriage has become more common in the wake of
conflicts, which usually means that girls are given away in
financially stressed families.
Boys are at risk of being recruited as child soldiers,
both in state-controlled units and by various militia
groups. Some of these are linked to al-Qaeda and also the
Islamic State (IS) terrorist organization, which since 2014
has established itself in several parts of Libya, where by
offering competitive salaries, recruits from poor
neighboring countries are also attracted. From these and
other African countries, migrants also gather in Libya,
where human smugglers can act fairly undisturbed and arrange
transports across the Mediterranean to Europe.
In anticipation of such transport, many migrants are
subjected to severe abuse by various groups that keep them
detained. In addition to the migrants, which in 2019 were
estimated to be between 700,000 and 1 million people, there
were about 350,000 internally displaced persons who sought
protection from the unrest in the country.
With the support of the EU, Italy signed an agreement
with Libyan authorities in 2017, which in exchange for
assistance undertook to stop refugee boats. Since then, the
number of migrants who have arrived in Italy has drastically
decreased, while more people have drowned in the
Mediterranean and the conditions of those who have been
returned have deteriorated further. Many are interned in
camps with very substandard conditions.
About 97 percent of the population are Sunni Muslims.
Sectarian attacks, including from IS-affiliated groups, have
been targeted both at religious minorities such as
Christians and against followers of other directions within
Islam such as Sufis.
Homosexuality is illegal and all sexual acts outside of
marriage are prohibited and subject to harsh punishment. Gay
people are also attacked by various armed groups.
Heads of State
|The leader of the revolution
|President of Parliament
||Nuri Abu Sahmain
||Akila Saleh Issa
|President of the Presidential Council