The International Human Rights Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Libya is a State Party to the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 21 governs the right of peaceful assembly, providing that:
The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
Libya is also a State Party to the First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, which allows individuals to petition the Human Rights Committee if they believe the State has violated their human rights as protected under the Covenant.
At regional level, Libya is a State Party to the 1981 African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. Article 11 provides as follows:
Every individual shall have the right to assemble freely with others. The exercise of this right shall be subject only to necessary restrictions provided for by law in particular those enacted in the interest of national security, the safety, health, ethics and rights and freedoms of others.
Libya is also a State Party to the 1998 Protocol on the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights, but has not allowed the right of petition to the Court by individuals and non-governmental organisations.
The Domestic Legal Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Article 14 of the 2011 Constitution of Libya (as amended in 2012) guarantees the freedom of assembly, demonstration, and peaceful sit-ins "in accordance with the law".
Law No. 65 (2012) regulating the right to peaceful protest allows assemblies to be prohibited based on national security grounds.
The Legal Framework on Use of Force During Assemblies
The Use of Force
International Legal Rules
Under international law, the duty on the State and its law enforcement agencies is to facilitate the enjoyment of the right of peaceful assembly. According to the 1990 United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials:
In the dispersal of assemblies that are unlawful but non-violent, law enforcement officials shall avoid the use of force or, where that is not practicable, shall restrict such force to the minimum extent necessary.
All force used by police and other law enforcement agencies must be necessary for a legitimate law enforcement purpose and proportionate to that purpose.
Law No. 65 (2012) allows a protest that has begun to be dispersed by the authorities merely for failure to comply with minor conditions of the assembly.
The Use of Firearms
International Legal Rules
According to the 1990 United Nations Basic Principles, in the dispersal of violent assemblies, a law enforcement official may only use a firearm against a specific individual where this is necessary to confront an imminent threat of death or serious injury or a grave and proximate threat to life.
NGOs have called upon the Libyan authorities to adopt clear guidelines to govern the use of firearms by law enforcement officials during assemblies so as to bring their training and conduct into line with international standards.
State Compliance with its Legal Obligations
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
Libya has not come before the Human Rights Committee in recent years.
In 2011, UN Security Council Resolution 1970 underlined "the need to respect the freedoms of peaceful assembly and of expression, including freedom of the media".
Views of Civil Society
According to Freedom House's 2019 report on Libya:
A 2012 law on freedom of assembly is generally compatible with international human rights principles, but in practice the armed conflict and related disorder seriously deter peaceful assemblies in many areas.
However, demonstrations do take place. In August, a group of detained migrants forced their way out of the detention center where they were being held and marched toward the capital, demanding assistance from the United Nations and human rights organizations. In December, dozens of members of the ethnic Tuareg tribe protested against a US airstrike in southwestern Libya that reportedly targeted members of IS, but which protesters said had killed civilians.