Human rights organisations warn of the deteriorating situation of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in Libya and the worrying shrinking civic space

Human rights organisations warn of the deteriorating situation of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in Libya and the worrying shrinking civic space

We, activists and members of civil society organisations working on ongoing human rights violations against migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in Libya, express our deep concern regarding the general climate of impunity and lack of accountability in the country. This volatile situation is further hampered by the shrinking of civic space, especially in light of through the criminalisation of activists and the crackdown on civil society organisations

Detention centres

In the last 6 years, since the Italy-Libya Memorandum of Understanding was signed, almost 185,000 people have been intercepted at sea by the so-called Libyan Coast Guard and brought back to  detention centres in Libya. In these centres, which are at the hands of violent militias, they are at high risk of being subjected to mistreatments, forced labour, rape, torture and trafficking. A recent research carried out by Tilburg University concluded that at least 200,000 refugees (mostly from Eritrea) have been enslaved and trafficked in Libya between 2017-2021

The OHCHR Report Unsafe and Undignified: The forced expulsion of migrants from Libya, as well as the June 2022 report from the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya, found evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the specific case of migrants’ detention centres

Since 2021, some of the “official” detention facilities are being run by the Stabilisation Support Authority (SSA), which, according to Amnesty International, is a “a state-funded militia that operates with impunity” and who also intercepts migrants at sea

In its latest report dated 30 January 2023, the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Libya said that “arbitrary detention in Libya has become pervasive as a tool of political repression and control”, and that “Libyan authorities must take decisive steps to provide justice and redress to the vast number of victims suffering from long-standing violations of human rights and international humanitarian law”.

Externalisation policies, pullbacks and pushbacks

The EU and its Member States continue to further develop externalisation policies and try to contain migration by all possible means. They do so by equipping and supporting the so-called “Libyan Coast Guard”, who intercepted and returned  24,684 people  to Libya in 2022, and almost 3,046 so far in 2023. Evidence shows how some of these interceptions are facilitated by Frontex through aircrafts and drones


The International Organisation for Migration reports that in the whole year 2022, 525 people died and 848 went missing in the Central Mediterranean route. These numbers are likely to be much higher due to the complete absence of information regarding many shipwrecks taking place along this route. As reported by Alarm Phone, pushbacks by merchant vessels are also common The situation at land borders is also extremely worrying: according to official statistics reported by OHCHR, “in 2019 and 2020, at least 7,500 migrants have been expelled from Libya’s external land borders”, most of them Egyptians, Sudanese and Chadians. More recently, forced returns have increased to Niger, Sudan and Chad. Also, boat departures of Egyptians from the East of Libya are on the rise: in 2022, Egyptians were the second nationality of migrants arriving in Italy (after Tunisians), while in 2021, more than 26,500 Egyptians were stopped at the Libyan border. The situation of asylum seekers and refugees inside Libya who are registered with the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, and are also victims of arbitrary detention and deportation, is very concerning as well, as is the lack of a legislative framework for the protection of migrant workers in the country. Hundreds of migrants are expelled by Libyan forces to get starved or kidnapped by ransom gangs. In January 2023, 600 migrants detained in Al Kufra facility controlled by the Department for Combating Illegal Immigration (DCIM) were expelled by the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF). This number included Sudanese asylum seekers registered at the UNHCR. Many are believed to have died in the desert and most went missing

At the same time, the European Union is committed to further “strengthen capacity of Libya to prevent irregular departures”, as stated in the Action Plan on the Central Mediterranean, and to disburse EUR 45 million to Libya and Tunisia to strengthen border management, including supporting Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres (MRCC) and the “training academy for border guards in Libya”. The EU is also committed to “explore ways to improve process to disembark migrants in Libya”, as stated in the 12-point MOCADEM Action file on Libya

Libya is not a safe place for disembarkation for migrants, and despite the numerous acknowledgements of this fact by UN bodies and the Council of Europe, and the many denunciations of agreements, the EU remains silent. On 6 February 2023, Italy handed over the first of the five announced patrol vessels to the Libyan Coast Guard (under EUTF budget), in the presence of European Neighbourhood and Enlargement Commissioner Várhelyi.

It is clear that the way the EU and some EU Member States collaborate with Libyan authorities in the field of migration is further hindering the stabilisation process in Libya. It also fosters a cycle of violence linked to interception and detention which strengthens local militias and human traffickers who are making money out of the lives of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees

We, the undersigned organisations, ask that

The EU and its Member States:

  • Ensure that any agreements or cooperation between Libya and the EU and its Member States are consistent with international and EU Law.
  • Esure transparency and disclosure of the monitoring and follow-up mechanisms adopted by EU to ensure the safety and security of migrants at sea, at disembarkation points and detention centers.
  • Encourage and pressure Libyan authorities to open serious investigations into human rights violations and to implement the UN Fact Finding Mission’s recommendations
  • Stop providing material and financial support to increase Libya’s capacity to intercept people at sea and/or land borders as it deteriorates the rights of migrants and refugees, increases pushbacks at sea and violence against them.
  • Guarantee the transparency and accountability regarding the use of EU and Member States’ budget for border management projects in Libya.
  • Focus Member States’ and the EU’s foreign policy on supporting the peace and stability process in Libya, and reduce the excessive focus on border management.
  • Stress that Libya cannot be considered a Place of Safety for the disembarkation of migrants rescued at sea and put in place an EU Search and Rescue (SAR) operation in the Central Mediterranean; as well as to respect their duty of Search and Rescue.
  • Reinforce safe and legal pathways for migration to the EU.
  • Press Libyan authorities to fully respect the guarantees of the right to freedom of association, notably to:
  • end the broad and systematic campaign of investigations and arbitrary arrest of bloggers, members of local civil society organizations (CSOs) and Libyan staff of international NGOs;
  • allow Libyan CSOs to interact freely with UN agencies and international NGOs without prior security approval; cease all forms of reprisals against members of Libyan civil society for communicating with the international community about the human rights situation in the country;
  • allow Libyan CSOs to visit detention facilities for migrants without prior approval from security bodies;
  • freeze any decisions to suspend or dissolve Libyan CSOs without a prior judicial ruling; any such rulings must be issued in full respect for fair trial rights.

List of signatories

  1. Adala For All (AFA)
  2. Aman Against Discrimination(AAD)
  3. Belaady Organization for Human Rights
  4. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  5. Defender Center for Human Rights
  6. EuroMed Rights
  7. Independent Organization for Human Rights
  8. Libya Al Mostakbal
  9. Libyan Center for Freedom of Press
  10. Libyan Crimes Watch
  11. Libyan Network for Legal Aid
  12. Refugees in Libya
  13. Un Ponte Per (UPP)
  14. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
  15. Youth Gathering for Tawargha
Launching the process of monitoring political pluralism on Libyan TV

Launching the process of monitoring political pluralism on Libyan TV

Tripoli _ February 15

The LCFP team of monitors completed today, Wednesday, intensive training on media monitoring techniques for political pluralism in the Libyan media. The training lasted 15 days, with the participation of 9 trainees at the Center’s headquarters in Tripoli. The trainer was the expert and researcher in the field of media monitoring, Fatima Al-Lawati. The first outcome of the training will be the issuance of the first research report on political pluralism in Libyan media. It is in the framework of the structural and legal reform program for the press and media sector in Libya

The Chairman and members of the Board of Directors of the Libyan Center for Freedom of Press, and the Dean of the Faculty of Information at the University of Tripoli, Dr. Khaled Ghulam, participated in the distribution of training certificates to the trainees. The trainees will continue their work until the middle of next March, in order to monitor and analyze the content of 9 Libyan “state and private” media outlets. They will monitor 500 TV hours

Prof. Dr. Mohamed Al-Asfar, Chairman of LCFP Board of Directors, said that these trainings are the first step towards more media research on how to analyse the content, assess the appearance of political figures in Libyan media and evaluate the respect of equal opportunities among all Libyan parties. That is the basis for ensuring fair representation for all through media funded by the state or by private entities 

It is noteworthy that media monitoring comes within the project of media coverage of the elections in the context of sensitive situations. The Project is part of the LCFP preparations for the upcoming national elections. The Project’s outcome is the issuance of the first research report on political pluralism in Libyan media

2022, Year of Occupational Pressures and Dangerous Adventures

2022, Year of Occupational Pressures and Dangerous Adventures

Brief Annual Report

Tripoli_ January 5th

2022 has been a quick year. We are on the verge of the new year 2023, and about to celebrate our tenth year at the Libyan Center for Freedom of Press. However, there are still many actions and missions that must be done to move forward along with a team that is betting on success and making impact. We work in an environment characterized by difficult challenges and increasing professional pressures on all of us, especially those working in Libyan civil society in the light of the fragility of the legal system and the increasing security risks and their complexity

Perhaps the most prominent feature of the past year is the significant shrinkage in the space for civil society work due to the arbitrary measures taken by the Commission of Civil Society in the east and west. 2022 has also witnessed our resilience and steadfast rejection of many decisions of the Government of National Unity. The GNU describes those decisions as reformist while we consider them as selective and vindictive

During the year 2022, we focused on the internal development of our institution. We have endeavoured to modernize its policies and administrative and executive structure. We have also focussed on fine-tuning our vision in supporting freedom of expression, conducting real and radical reforms to strengthen the independence of the Libyan press and the media sector. We have been pushing forward to promote the economic and social rights of journalists who continue to face exceptional critical circumstances that impose strict censorship on their work

Our ongoing efforts to combat hate speech and disinformation, which have been launched since 2017, may still find wide national interaction and resonance. These efforts have culminated in a painstaking and more professional work on Falso platform to monitor hate speech and fake news.

2022 was a year filled with discussions, orientation sessions, and round tables of dialogue that targeted several segments of Libyan society, such as academics, human rights defenders, judges, prosecutors, lawyers, leaders of political parties, and candidates for the stalled presidential and parliamentary elections along with journalists and fact-checkers. It all aimed at drawing the features of national vision to serve as the basis of a new national legislation that sets the path for a new era for media related freedoms and creates a break with the vulsive guided media discourse and the state of fragmentation

We believe that open dialogue on a common ground has enabled us to have live and direct discussions with 250 Libyans from several segments of the Libyan society, in 8 major Libyan cities

Many of the GNU decisions are efforts to control and orient the public and private media. Government Decision No. 811 of 2022 to regulate radio and television broadcasting best illustrates this as media lacks the most basic elements of “independence and pluralism”. The decision prompted us to go to the Administrative Department of the Court of Appeal to challenge the decision. Our Appeal is based on the illegality of the government’s decision as it contradicts with Libya’s obligations to international agreements and with the constitutional declaration in the country. Indeed, the government is trying to impose exorbitant fees without any services provided in a vindictive and selective manner of handling licensing and broadcasting

We have widened our training programs. We invested many years of training on physical and digital safety provided to more than 400 Libyan journalists, bloggers and activists. In addition, we have training our beneficiaries on journalism and human rights as we have trained more than 225 Libyan journalists in 5 Libyan cities. Now, we launched training programs on media coverage of the elections in the context of sensitive situations for 45 Libyan journalists so far. On the other hand, our media education and fact-checking programs target university students

Over the past year, our team has produced several visual and audio materials, press releases and statements, within the framework of expanding and involving the broad and general public in our work and programs. This helps us in terms of opening up and building a bridge for communication with the general public

Finally, 2022 remains the year of security risks within the context of fragility of the legal framework of our work and efforts, as well as the continuous professional pressure. Yet, we will inevitably overcome all obstacles

Mohamed Al-Najem

The Chief Executive Officer



In response to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (the ICC or the Court) Karim Khan’s meeting with commander of self-styled armed group the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF) Khalifa Haftar at his office in Benghazi, Libyan civil society demand an apology and accountability for the Prosecutor’s actions

Khalifa Haftar is allegedly responsible for a plethora of serious international crimes and human rights violations. He has been charged with war crimes by a US court, is subject to a criminal investigation in France for allegations of torture, and has previously refused to cooperate with the ICC by failing to handover a wanted suspect. In his briefing to the United Nations Security Council in April 2022, Karim Khan announced that his Office had collected a range of evidence that the LAAF committed serious international crimes, including “indiscriminate airstrikes and shelling of civilian areas; arbitrary abduction; detention and torture of civilians; extrajudicial killings; enforced disappearances; and pillaging of civilian property.” Only last week, Haftar announced another planned military attack on Tripoli

The Prosecutor’s meeting with Haftar is highly offensive not just to the victims of Haftar’s alleged crimes, but to all victims and affected communities of crimes that the Court was established to investigate and prosecute. It is made worse by the fact that this meeting took place shortly after the Prosecutor met with survivor groups and the families of victims in the city of Tarhouna, formerly held by Haftar and the site of multiple mass graves under investigation by the ICC and the UN Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya

The insensitivity of the Prosecutor to the situation on the ground is a shocking insult to human rights defenders and civil society actors who have been working tirelessly, to the detriment of their own safety and security, to support the work of the Court

This meeting has shaken our confidence in the court’s ability to deliver justice and it has confirmed that it is politicised! How can the OTP meet with a torturer in his office? We were expecting arrest warrants for those responsible for war crimes in Libya, not shaking hands and exchanging smiles.” said Ali Alasbali, President of Libyan Crimes Watch and former detainee in Gernada prison under LAAF control

Karim Khan’s willingness to openly meet with the head of an armed group tussling for political and international legitimacy seriously undermines the credibility of the Court, calling into question its impartiality and legitimacy to examine the situation in Libya. As a result, the trust of victims and all Libyans, and their willingness to collaborate with the Court, has been severely damaged. This will ultimately impede the ability of the Court to investigate crimes committed

It is saddening to see the guardians of international justice and those entrusted with it shaking the hands of the most responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity instead of holding them accountable, is a frustrating and disappointing spectacle for victims and human rights defenders,” said another human rights defender who works closely with victims in Tarhouna

The undersigned Libyan organisations demand an apology from the ICC and the Prosecutor to victims and civil society in Libya. We also demand the ICC to investigate the actions of Karim Khan and ensure that he is held accountable through necessary disciplinary action.

:Signed by

Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL)
Libya Crimes Watch
Tamazigh Women’s Movement
(LCFP)Libyan Center for Freedom of Press

Human rights organisations warn of the deteriorating situation of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in Libya and the worrying shrinking civic space

Human rights organizations call on Libyan authorities to rescind the new cybercrime law

The undersigned organizations call upon Libyan authorities to rescind the cybercrime law recently adopted by the Libyan House of Representatives. The law would severely restrict freedom of expression,  curtail press freedom, and legalize mass surveillance of speech online. Additionally, the law allows for warrantless blocking of websites and content

During the plenary session held on October 26, 2021, the Libyan House of Representatives ratified the Anti-Cybercrime Law. The vote comes at a pivotal moment for Libya with the presidential elections scheduled for December 24, 2021. In order to ensure these elections are free, fair, and transparent, it is imperative to guarantee freedom of opinion and expression as well as freedom of press, both offline and online

The draft bill was quickly passed, only one day after it was added to the parliament’s agenda and without public consultation with Libyan civil society, human rights defenders, or experts. This has prompted the undersigned organizations to examine the version available on social media, which was leaked by Members of Parliament and experts in the digital field

Broad terminology that contravenes international human rights standards

The new Anti-Cybercrime Law stipulates a myriad of overbroad and ambiguous terms that would give the Libyan judicial authorities an extensive discretionary power to restrict online freedom of expression. Article 4 stipulates that the use of the internet and new technologies is considered “legal” provided that “public order and morality” are respected. Hence, any use that violates these ambiguous concepts can be deemed illegal. According to Article 37, “whoever spreads a rumor or publishes information or data that threaten security or public safety in Libya or any other country,” shall be imprisoned for a period of up to fifteen years in addition to a heavy fine of no less than ten thousand Libyan Dinars. We warn against the danger of using this article to target and punish journalists, whistleblowers, human rights defenders, and other internet users. This article can also be used to criminalize the publication and sharing of any content that documents human rights violations, opposes public policies in Libya, or any other information of public interest. Notably, the Libyan authorities and militias have used “violation to public order and morality” as a pretext to target, imprison, torture, and kill journalists and human rights defenders

Furthermore, danger of this repressive legislation lies in Article 35, which provides for the imprisonment of “anyone who is aware of the commission or attempted commission of any of the crimes stipulated in this law” even though it includes phrases having a general and broad meaning

Such broad and ambiguously drafted articles are in violation of international human rights standards and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). As stated by the U.N. Human Rights Committee in their General Comment No. 34, “a norm, to be characterized as a ‘law’, must be formulated with sufficient precision to enable an individual to regulate his or her conduct accordingly.” Any restriction of the right to opinion and expression for reasons related to either respect for the rights of others or their reputations, or to protect national security, public order, public health, or morals must be provided by law and subject to rigorous tests to meet the requirements of necessity and proportionality. This is also consistent with Libya’s national laws. Article 14 of the Libyan Constitutional Declaration of 2011 stipulates that the State shall guarantee freedom of opinion and expression as well as the freedom of press and publication

Measures that threaten the freedom of expression, publication, and press

Articles 13 and 47 of this new legislation, related to “interference and interception” and “unlawful wiretapping” respectively, could justify impeaching journalists for accessing information or communicating with whistleblowers in order to share information of public interest. This is inconsistent with paragraph 2 of Article 19 of ICCPR, which states that “[e]veryone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.” It also contravenes paragraph 3 of the General Comment No. 34 stipulating that “freedom of expression is a necessary condition for the realization of the principles of transparency and accountability that are, in turn, essential for the promotion and protection of human rights,” as well as paragraph 30 stipulating that “It is not compatible with paragraph 3, for instance, to invoke such laws to suppress or withhold from the public information of legitimate public interest that does not harm national security or to prosecute journalists, researchers, environmental activists, human rights defenders, or others, for having disseminated such information.”

Article 21 of the Anti-Cybercrime Law also criminalizes and punishes with imprisonment for a period of no less than one year any act of “combining or mixing someone’s picture or voice, without their written or online consent, by using the internet or any other digital means with the intent of harming others.” The article does not carve exceptions with regards to public or political figures, and therefore may inadequately restrict freedom of expression in Libya. In this context, it is noteworthy to point out the Human Rights Committee’s affirmation within the General Comment No. 34 stating that “all public figures, including those exercising the highest political authority such as heads of state and government, are legitimately subject to criticism,” and that “the mere fact that forms of expression are considered to be insulting to a public figure is not sufficient to justify the imposition of penalties.”

Permitting mass surveillance and blocking of websites and content

Article 7 of the Anti-Cybercrime Law permits the Libyan authorities to monitor everything published on social media “and any other technical platform,” and to enable the National Information Security and Safety Authority (NISSA), an administrative and technical governmental authority in Libya, to block websites and content without judicial orders if they provoke “racial or regional slurs and extremist religious or denominational ideologies that undermine the security and stability of the society.” NISSA can also censor and block access to all websites and pages containing materials that are “contrary to public morality” under article 8 of the law

A threat to citizens’ digital safety and security

The Anti-Cybercrime Law criminalizes the use of encryption tools. Article 9 stipulates that “no individual or entity shall produce, possess, provide, market, manufacture, import, or export encryption tools without NISSA’s permission or authorization,” which jeopardizes digital safety and security of Libyan citizens and infringe upon their right to protect their privacy, personal data, and online communication away from authorities’ control

Based on all of the above, the undersigned civil society organizations call on the Libyan authorities to:

  1. Immediately repeal and not apply this law;
  2. Draft a new law in line with international human rights standards and Libya’s international commitments; and
  3. Adopt the principle of dialogue and consultation with Libyan civil society and the relevant international organizations when drafting any bills related to fundamental rights and freedoms in Libya, including the freedom of publication and press

Signatory organizations:

Access Now

Reporters without Borders (RSF)

MENA Rights Group

Hexa Connection

Electronic Frontier Foundation

ELBIRO Media Foundation


BYTE Organization

Annir Platform 

Libya Organization for Culture and Media 

ImpACT International for Human Rights Policies

Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor

Phenomena for Media & Research

Lawyers for Justice in Libya

Youth Gathering For Tawergha Organisation 

Independent Organization for Human Rights

Libyan Center for Freedom Of Press

Libyan Crimes Watch

Moomken Organization For Awareness and Media 

Aswat Media Network

Tanweer Movement

Yes We Can Organization 

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)

Libyan Women’s Platform for Peace

Jurists Without Chains

Al-Aman Organisation Against Racial Discrimination

Libyan Organization for Legal Aid

Belady Foundation for Human Rights

Adala for All

Libyan Voluntary Group for Monitoring Human Rights Violations

Defender Center for Human Rights (DCHR))