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Libya is a mediterranean country on the north coast of Africa, bordering Chad, Sudan, Egypt, Tunisia, Niger and Algeria. Since the overthrow of the long established dictatorship of Colonel Gaddafi in 2011, the country has undergone a period of transition with the first free elections to parliament for 40 years held in 2012 but with significant delays on the drafting of a new constitution. In addition to the need to address the serious human rights violations that took place under Gaddafi, there were also extensive allegations of serious rights violations by all sides during the conflict which eventually saw his overthrow, including rape, torture and murder of civilians.

Libya, located on the south coast of the Mediterranean Sea, is the fourth largest country in Africa. It shares borders with Tunisia, Algeria, Niger, Chad, Sudan and Egypt. The capital city is Tripoli.

Population and language

Libya is home to around 6.5 million people, a figure that has doubled since 1980. Population growth has slowed significantly over the past decade, to an annual rate of around 1 per cent[1]. Libyan's are relatively ethnically homogenous, with around 97 per cent of the population being of Berber or Arab decent.

Arabic is the most common language spoken within Libya, but English and Italian are widely understood in the cities.

History and politics

In February 2011 uprisings began against the regime of Muammar Qaddafi, who had ruled the country since a military coup in 1969. The National Transitional Council soon took lead of the revolutionary movement, which initially operated out of an opposition stronghold in Benghazi. By August, with the aid of a UN mandated NATO coalition, the NTC had successfully ousted Qaddafi from Tripoli, and Council formally declared liberation in October 2011, following the death of Qaddafi three days earlier[2].

Libya is currently undergoing substantial political reforms in the wake of the collapse of the Qaddafi regime. The NTC published a Constitutional Declaration in August 2011, which set out a process for reform. Among the more important aspects of the Declaration include a requirement to establish a General National Council (GNC) by June 2012, and that the GNC should adopt a Constitution in time for legislative elections no later than April 2013[3]. Members of the NTC will not be able to stand as candidates in the inaugural legislative elections.

Political parties were banned between 1972 and the fall of the Qaddafi regime but since then a number of parties have begun to form, including the Democratic Party for Libya, the New Libya Party, the Libyan Socialist Movement and the Libyan Islamic Movement for Change[4]. Mustafa Mohammed Abdul Jalill is the Chairman of the NTC, and so the transitional government.


Libya is a major global oil producer. In 2010, the oil industry accounted 98 per cent of Libya's GDP, and Libya was the fourth largest oil producer in Africa. During the uprisings, it is estimated that oil production fell by 80 per cent, as foreign companies suspended drilling, though Libyan companies continued to operate. Unemployment is estimated to be particularly high, however, with the World Bank citing estimates as high as 30 per cent. Libya also imports the vast majority of its food and medical supplies, both of which have been in short supply during the hostilities[5].

Media and civil society

Prior to the Libyan revolution, the government maintained a tight control on the press, and provisions in the criminal code allowed for prosecution, detention and even execution for “spreading theories … aiming to change the basic principles of the Constitution”[6]. During the uprising, journalists suffered a number of human rights violations, including imprisonment and kidnapping, and at least five journalists were killed during the hostilities[7]. The political regime is currently undergoing dramatic change, hundreds of new publications have registered with the NTC, and numerous radio and satellite TV stations have been set up. In the absence of the new Constitution and reformed media laws, it is difficult to foresee how the media and civil society will operate in post-Qaddafi Libya.

Reporters Without Borders rated Libya 160 out of 178 countries in their 2010 Press Freedom Index, though this was published prior to the revolution.

Human rights and children's rights

Under Muammar Qaddafi's rule, Libya had a horrendous human record, and reports of arbitrary detention, sexual violence, torture and mass graves are still emerging following the collapse of the regime. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued warrants in connection to alleged crimes against humanity committed under the regime, and continues to investigate allegations of war crimes committed during the revolution. In the case of Saif-al Islam Qaddafi, the subject of an ICC warrant, the Libyan government has expressed its intention to try him within Libya[8]. A Commission of Inquiry was formed in March 2011 to investigate the human rights situation in the country and reported in June of the same year[9]. The mandate of the CoI was extended following its initial report, and it will conduct a visit to Libya before the end of 2011 to ascertain up to date human rights information on the country.


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