2009 Advancing Freedom and Democracy Report
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Advancing Freedom and Democracy Reports, May 2009
Part 1: Political and Human Rights Conditions
The Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya is an authoritarian regime led since 1969 by Colonel Muammar al-Qadhafi. In theory citizens rule the country through a pyramid of congresses, communes, and committees. In practice, however, political elites associated with al-Qadhafi monopolize political power. The government's human rights record remains poor. Citizens do not have the right to change their government. An extensive security services network, lack of an independent judiciary, rigid government control of the media, prohibitions on the establishment of independent NGOs, and a continued ban on political parties stifle political reform and deny citizens some basic civil liberties. Security forces operate without judicial restraint; they have tortured and detained individuals without formal charges, some in incommunicado detention, and there have been reports of disappearances. Corruption and impunity are widespread.
Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
To promote democratic principles and human rights, the United States focuses on fostering a multifaceted relationship with the government. The U.S. Government aims to empower citizens to play a more active role in governance and to secure basic civil liberties for all citizens, consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Top U.S. priorities include developing an action-oriented, high-level human rights dialogue; strengthening working relationships with key government officials to address human rights and democracy concerns; and promoting greater public participation in political life through cultural and educational exchanges that provide exposure to alternative political models, ideas, and principles. While restrictive laws and an absence of independent NGOs impede the embassy's efforts to coordinate its democracy promotion strategy with independent organizations, the U.S. Government is working to identify, build, and support nascent civil society organizations and individuals and to facilitate interactions between local groups and international NGOs.
Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance
The U.S. Government engages in regular diplomatic outreach with the local government aimed at promoting greater understanding of political processes, judicial independence, rule of law, and independent media. The Secretary of State visited Tripoli in September 2008, the first such visit since 1953, and urged greater transparency and direct engagement on human rights. Consistent U.S. outreach to the government and to semiofficial civil society groups slowly has expanded the bilateral relationship to include a political component. U.S. officials, including the chief of mission, meet regularly with representatives of local semiofficial organizations to discuss political processes and press freedom. In addition, the chief of mission and other U.S. officials regularly raise human rights concerns privately with officials as well as in public and press statements.
In addition, the U.S. Government sponsors participants to travel to the United States as part of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) to explore issues such as student leadership and civic responsibility, judicial independence and reform, and investigative journalism. In 2008 the embassy facilitated 12 IVLP participants, as well as eight Fulbright students and more than two dozen participants in other U.S.-sponsored exchange programs.
Embassy officials meet regularly with representatives of minority religions, including the Anglican, Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Protestant communities operating in the country, to monitor the country's adherence to the principle of religious freedom.
The United States also works with the government to develop protocols for the humane treatment of and the provision of services for an estimated 1.5 to 2 million migrants, many of whom are in the country without legal status. U.S.-sponsored programs provide training to law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges charged with managing the country's response to trafficking. The training is designed to educate front-line officers on how to identify and assist victims of trafficking and to develop the skills and legal knowledge to combat trafficking through judicial means. Embassy officers participate in migration policy workshops with officials and international organizations and advise their counterparts on the United States' best practices of managing migration and identifying victims of trafficking and refugees. U.S. officials urge the government to accede to the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees.