Amnesty accuses ISA of abuses and crackdown on personal freedoms

Feb 14, 2024 | International actors

On 14 February, Amnesty International issued a statement accusing the Tripoli-based Internal Security Agency (ISA) of ‘an intensified crackdown on freedom of thought, expression and belief’ with dozens of men, women and children subjected to a range of abuses, including enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention and torture, with some facing the death penalty. This comes against the backdrop of a May 2023 decree issued by an official religious body, the General Authority for Endowments and Islamic Affairs (known as Awqaf), to combat what it called ‘religious, intellectual and moral deviations.’

Amnesty said that the ISA’s intensified crackdown has targeted individuals perceived as rejecting the dominant Madkhali-Salafist ideology in Awqaf, which significantly restricts the rights of women and girls, religious minorities and LGBTI people. This has resulted in the ISA targeting mainly Libyan youths, especially from the Amazigh community, as well as foreign nationals under the pretext of ‘safeguarding virtue and purifying society.’ Charges include ‘illicit sexual intercourse’, ‘promoting views or principles that aim to overthrow the political, social, or economic order of the state’, ‘blasphemy’ and ‘apostasy’. Amnesty claimed that the government’s inaction towards the ISA’s ‘well documented crimes’ had emboldened the group, calling for the immediate release of all those detained solely for exercising their human rights and expressing their beliefs, and calling on the Government of National Unity (GNU) to remove the ISA from positions of power pending criminal investigations.

In response, on 16 February the ISA accused Amnesty of seeking to ‘attack and fragment the social fabric of the cohesive Libyan society’ by singling out the threat to the Amazigh community and warned that the organisation’s attempt to impose human rights standards in their global sense on Libyan society conflicts with the national religious, social, constitutional and legal values of Libya and its people. It accused Amnesty of issuing false reports and stressed its work is consistent with procedural and legal legitimacy and ‘the national conception’ of guarantees of human rights protection. The ISA reiterated it will continue to fight ‘all the destructive phenomena’ affecting Libyan society such as ‘atheism, homosexuality and other intrusive ideas.’