Libya | Freedom House

Freedom in the World

Freedom in the World 2017



Freedom Status: 
Not Free

Freedom in the World Scores

(1=Most Free, 7=Least Free)

Quick Facts

Press Freedom Status: 
Not Free
Net Freedom Status: 
Partly Free

Ratings Change:

Libya’s political rights rating declined from 6 to 7 due to wide-ranging problems associated with the ongoing political and security crisis, including overdue elections and the lack of a fully functional government with nationwide recognition and authority.


While a popular armed uprising in 2011 deposed longtime dictator Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi, Libya is now wracked by political, security, and economic crises, and a UN-brokered deal designed to bring rival administrations together in a unity government has failed to come to fruition. Awash in weapons and hundreds of armed groups, criminal networks have flourished, and a faction of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group has emerged. Fighting has displaced hundreds of thousands of people and disrupted basic services. Human rights conditions have deteriorated, and impunity reigns. 

Key Developments: 
  • The UN-backed Libyan Political Agreement (LPA), signed in December 2015, failed to unify the country’s rival political and military authorities under a single administration. The country had three competing governments at year’s end. In October, there was a failed coup attempt by one administration against UN-backed authorities in Tripoli.
  • General Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army in the east of the country, refused to endorse the UN-backed deal, and strengthened his foothold in eastern Libya. A number of elected civilian mayors in areas under his control were replaced by military governors, including in Benghazi, where new authorities implemented a measure requiring military approval for demonstrations.
  • Local armed forces, primarily from the city of Misrata and nominally affiliated with the UN-backed government, fought the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in the coastal city of Sirte. Beginning in August, U.S. airstrikes supported the operations and by year’s end most IS fighters had been pushed out of the city. However, IS maintained a presence elsewhere in Libya.
  • The human rights situation continued to deteriorate amid ongoing armed conflicts between the hundreds of militant groups operating in Libya, and an economic crisis that left many without basic services. The UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs estimated that 1.3 million people in Libya will require humanitarian assistance in 2017. 
Executive Summary: 

Five years after the downfall of longtime dictator Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi, Libya remains deeply divided between political and military actors, and internationally backed efforts to reach political consensus and establish a single government with authority over the whole country have failed. The human rights situation continues to deteriorate amid ongoing armed conflicts between the hundreds of militant groups and an economic crisis that has left many without basic services, including electricity. 

In late 2015, following 18 months of UN-led negotiations, representatives from two competing governments—the Tubruk-based House of Representatives (HoR), which enjoyed widespread international recognition, and the Tripoli-based General National Congress (GNC)—signed the LPA. The agreement was intended to end the political gridlock and armed fighting that started in 2014 between the rival HoR and GNC, each of which had its own allied military coalitions, and reconcile them within a single administration. The appointment of a nine-member Presidency Council (PC) under the leadership of Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj followed. The PC assumed office in Tripoli in March 2016; it was tasked with forming a unity government, the Government of National Accord (GNA), to serve as an executive branch. Under the LPA, the HoR would act as a primary legislature, while GNC members would form the State Council, a secondary consultative body. The agreement was designed to be in effect until the adoption of a new constitution and the subsequent holding of parliamentary elections. 

However, at the end of 2016, the HoR had yet to pass a measure approving the LPA’s provisions—including one formally establishing the HoR as the country’s legislature. In August, the HoR voted overwhelmingly to reject a GNA cabinet proposed by the PC. 

At year’s end Libya thus had three competing governments: the United Nations–backed PC, in Tripoli, which the international community continued to back; the National Salvation Government (NSG), the successor to the GNC, also based in Tripoli; and the interim government associated with the HoR in eastern Al-Bayda and Tubruk, respectively. The LPA’s primary effect was to reconfigure much of the internal strife in Libya as between supporters and opponents of the PC and the internationally-backed agreement itself.

Meanwhile, Libya’s Constitutional Drafting Assembly (CDA), a body that was previously neutral and uncontested, in 2016 became mired in political infighting. 

Amid the security vacuum and a breakdown in law and order, IS established a presence in the coastal city of Sirte, though local armed groups, assisted by U.S. airstrikes, mostly dislodged IS fighters from the city by year’s end. However, the group maintained a presence in other parts of Libya, including around Benghazi and Derna.

Oil production, the main source of revenue in Libya, has declined massively in recent years and the financial situation continues to deteriorate. The human rights situation has also worsened, as armed groups on all sides commit human rights violations. 

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Freedom Rating: 
Political Rights: 
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