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The Libyan Civil War & Human Rights Violations

By Qasim Swati (United Kingdom)

Beginning in a response to a low standard of living and oppressive regimes, originated from protests in Tunisia, the Arab Spring was a chain/series of uprisings, armed rebellions, and protests against the government, that spread across the Middle East in late 2010 and brought several regime changes in the region. Possessing power in a 1969 coup, Muammar Mohammed Abu Minyar Gaddafi (commonly known as Colonel Gaddafi) remained the leader of the revolution until his overthrow in 2011 that led to continuous unrest, destabilisation, and turmoil in the whole of Libya.

Declared its independence as the United Kingdom of Libya on 24 December,1951, the country became a hereditary and constitutional monarchy by King Idris I. Despite being the fourth-largest country in Africa and the 16th-largest country in the globe, with the 10th-largest proven oil reserves of any country in the world, Libya has been experiencing and undergoing multiple, miscellaneous and complicated problems due to its Civil War since 2011.

The First Libyan Civil War (also known as the Libyan Revolution, or the 17 February Revolution) started on 15 February, 2011 and lasted until 23 October, 2011, for a period of around 8 months, 1 week and 1 day. This Civil War resulted in huge casualties and losses, in which, approximately, 9,400 – 20,000 people lost their lives. Some 50,000 persons got wounded, while about 4,000 individuals went missing. However, the exact number of deaths during the First Libyan Civil War is not known, but the estimates of deaths range between 2,500 and 25,000.

Various human rights violations have taken place in the First Libyan Civil War, carried out both by the security forces, the rebels, and foreign mercenaries. Such occurrences, claims, and allegations of human rights abuses include the use of employed snipers, warplanes, helicopter gunships, artillery, warships and anti-aircraft weaponry against demonstrators and funeral processions by the Libyan government. The Libyan government is also accused of stopping the injured demonstrators and rebels from getting medical/surgical treatment at hospitals and other such facilities. The government soldiers are also blamed for committing sexual assaults and abuses in various parts of the country. There are also allegations against the Libyan government for torturing members of the anti-government forces in prisons and such other atrocities by its soldiers.

Similarly, the rebel forces, fighters, and foreign mercenaries also conducted many human rights violations for benefiting from the war in the country.

The Second Libyan Civil War, beginning on May 16, 2014, is an ongoing conflict, fought by the rival forces, groups and factions, who want to have control of the Libyan territory and oil of the country. The Civil War is still going on which has divided the country among various warring forces, like the General National Congress (GNC) Government/the National Salvation Government, the local forces, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the Government of National Accord, based in Tripoli, and allies and the Tobruk-led Government and Libyan National Army (LNA), supported by General Khalifa Haftar.

So far the Second Libyan Civil War has resulted in around 7,695 deaths and injured about 20,000 people, as of May 2015. Besides killing and wounding thousands of people, the Second Civil War in Libya has brought an immense misery to the country, by having little business activities, a loss in revenues from oil by 90%, frequent electric outages, and a refugee crisis for Libyan people, as it is claimed that almost 33% of the Libyan population has sought refuge or have become refugees in Tunisia, as of February 2015.

Another string of human rights violations during the Libyan conflict, with an estimated 510 killings, 2,467 wounded people, 75,000 displaced persons and massive material losses and damages to the resources and infrastructure of the country, is an ongoing and current military campaign, launched by the Libyan National Army, and led by Field Marshal Khalifa Belqasim Haftar (a Libyan-American military officer), started on 4 April, 2019. This is an offensive against the Government of National Accord (GNA) of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, referred to as 2019 Western Libya Offensive or code-named “Operation Flood of Dignity”, where Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar intends to occupy the western Libyan region, and, then, capture the Capital Tripoli by toppling the Government of National Accord, recognised as legitimate by the UN Security Council.

This offensive has taken the lives of, at least, 29 civilians, injured 97 innocent people and displaced thousands of others.

The end of Colonel Gaddafi’s 42-year rule has led to the start of a power struggle among various forces, groups and factions of Libya, where the innocent civilians have been caught up in a situation, full of human rights abuses and violations. Despite the peace efforts and negotiations by the United Nations, the situation in Libya is still uncertain, dangerous and unsatisfactory, as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, Ghassan Salame, while briefing the Security Council on the situation in Libya on 21 May, 2019, warned, as: “The damage done to Libya will already take ‘years to mend’, but unless fighting around the capital Tripoli stops, the country risks ‘descending into a civil war which could lead to the permanent division of the country.”


Qasim Swati is a freelance journalist, writer, and human rights activist, based in the UK, and can be reached at or


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