Accused of Spreading Atheism & "Contempt for Islam," Libya Abuses Activists

Amnesty International published a report on March 23, 2022, shedding light on Libya’s dreadful persecution of young Libyans upholding their right to freedom of expression. The report also criticized the Libyan government for the alleged forced-confession videos.

The Internal Security Agency (ISA), a state-affiliated armed group, has arrested at least seven individuals between 19 and 29 years old and detained them without due process. They were initially held in the ISA’s headquarters in Tripoli before being transferred to Al-Jadida prison or the Mitiga prison.

The arrested individuals were accused of “spreading contempt for Islam and communicating with foreign organizations.”

Liz Throssell, the spokesperson for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, explained that the actions were justified by the ISA in a statement accusing those arrested for opposing Libyan and Islamic values. 

The ISA also circulated videos of the arrested individuals’ alleged self-confession. In a Facebook post, ISA claimed that they successfully fought “immoral behaviors.” According to the UN, the detainees' confessions implicate others who have been forced to go into hiding after receiving death threats.

The ISA also claimed that these individuals have been “conspiring to spread atheism, incite youth to travel outside Libya and promote “unorthodox” sexual practices.” The video shows the arrested individuals allegedly confessing being “atheist, areligious, secular and feminist.”

According to Throssell, these arbitrary arrests and the defamation on social media “are having a seriously chilling effect on human rights defenders, humanitarian workers, and other civil society actors.

Hussein Baoumi, the Libya researcher for Amnesty International, said the ISA’s published videos are “a flagrant violation of fair trial rights including the right not to self-incriminate.” “This unlawful and reckless move has incited hatred against a group of Libyans daring to peacefully express their views,” Baoumi added.

Libya’s conservative Islamic values and its turbulent political situation take their toll on the young Libyans. Last year, the current interim government was installed amidst the pandemic through a U.N.-backed Libyan Political Dialogue Forum.

Despite a new government, violations of human rights and extreme curtailment of freedom of expression are still very rampant.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) called Libya’s justice system “dysfunctional in some areas.” There are also severe violations against the freedom of association, freedom of speech and expression, and women’s rights, according to the HRW.

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