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Crime

Bouzaid Dorba, former head of Muammar Gaddafi's external security organization on trial, June 2012
Bouzaid Dorba, former head of Muammar Gaddafi’s external security organization on trial, June 2012

During the Gaddafi period, crime was suppressed by the security apparatus. In 2008 the homicide rate was 2.9 per 100,000 people, which is not particularly low (compared with Egypt 1.0, Morocco 1.4, and Tunisia 1.1), though it was much lower than Lebanon (6.1). There were nine judicial executions in Libya in 2007 (compared with 42 in the US, 48 in Egypt, and none in Morocco or Tunisia). In 2013 Libya was ranked 47th (out of 173 countries) in the number of prisoners per 100,000 people.

Crime in Tripoli increased significantly after the 2011 revolt. There have been increased reports of armed robbery, kidnapping to settle scores, carjacking, burglary, and crimes involving weapons. Theft of guest workers’ wages and mobile phones is also reported. Just before Tripoli fell to the NTC forces, the Gaddafi regime released between 15,000 and 16,000 criminals, most of whom remained free in 2013. It is unclear to what extent these criminals really have been involved in crimes, as the accused did not receive fair trials and Libya lacked a reliable, unbiased judicial apparatus. Hundreds of thousands of small arms looted from government facilities are now in the hands of the local population, which has contributed to the rise in violent crime. The government has initiated campaigns to hand in weapons, but the results are not yet convincing. Prisoners who were convicted did not always stay in jail. In July 2013 around 1,200 prisoners staged a mass jailbreak from Kuwafiya prison in Benghazi, and only a few were recaptured.

Crime statistics are unreliable, but in January 2013, the Ministry of the Interior announced that over the period 2010 to 2102 murders increased from 87 to 525 (up 503 percent), thefts from shops and offices from 143 to 783 (up 448 percent), and thefts from private homes from 1,842 to 2,387 (up 30 percent) (Libya Herald, 9 January 2013).

After the 2011 revolt, various militias supplanted the police in maintaining internal security. Militia members operate checkpoints within and between major cities. Libyan militia members are poorly trained and often are affiliated only loosely with the government. Clashes between rival militias and revenge killings do occur. Traffic accidents are the most common safety threat for visitors, and reports of armed highway robberies in both urban and rural areas have increased.

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