End Illegal Detention in Libya

Target: Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan

Goal: Assess multiple cases of illegal detention so as to enforce the rule of law and bring justice

As Libya’s new government leaders begin their administration, a top priority should be assessing the thousands of cases of illegal detention, both by government and non-government agents alike. Over 8,000 people are being held—the vast majority with no formal charges levied against them. Since the 2011 fall of Muammar Gaddafi, various transitional governments have failed to enforce the rule of law and bring these detainees before a judge. Encourage the new Libyan government to make ending illegal detention a priority.

While the exact number of detainees remains unknown, estimates paint a useful picture. About 3,000 are being held by the Justice Ministry, while another 2,000 are held by either the Defense Ministry or the Supreme Security Committee, quasi-official groups made up of anti-Gaddafi fighters that are currently working with the Interior Ministry. The final 3,000 are being detained by various armed groups who have no legal authority with which to hold their captives. The overwhelming majority of the detainees are male, many of whom have been held for over a year. Most are suspected to have been in some way tied to the fallen Gaddafi regime, though some are foreign fighters or migrants from sub-Saharan Africa.

Cases of disappearances and deaths have been reported within holding facilities. Under international law, arbitrary detention is strictly prohibited and any extra-governmental force has no authority to hold detainees. And despite a law passed in May 2012 mandating that the Interior and Defense Ministries transfer detainees held without sufficient incriminating evidence by armed groups to authentic judicial authorities, there was minimal compliance. As a result, the new Libyan administration must prioritize not only the proper judicial proceedings for those held in detention, but must also exert proper authority over these militia groups acting beyond government influence.

Call upon Prime Minister Ali Zeidan to act swiftly on this matter as he begins his new position.


Dear Prime Minister Ali Zeidan,

In the wake of Muammar Gaddafi’s overthrow, numerous transitional governments have been unable to bring justice to over 8,000 illegally detained individuals. With 3,000 of those detainees under militia control, the situation in Libya demands immediate attention.

These detainees must be given a fair trial and presented with the charges levied against them. Many of these individuals are held simply because they were in some way associated with the Gaddafi regime. Arbitrary detention is prohibited by international law, and so I ask that you take steps to align your nation with international standards.

Furthermore, the existence of militias with the power to hold detainees outside of government control is a threat to a peaceful and lasting transition to democracy. Not only must the detainees be given justice, but these armed groups must be held accountable.

Thank you for your attention to this important issue.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: khalid Albaih via Flickr

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One Comment

  1. This unfair imprisonment without justice must end for good globally.

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