The government appointed an anti-trafficking focal point but lacked institutional capacity to address human trafficking crimes. Libyan law criminalized some forms of sex trafficking but did not criminalize labor trafficking. Articles 418, 419, and 420 criminalized some forms of sex trafficking involving women and children; however, inconsistent with international law, the definition of trafficking did not include trafficking offenses that were not transnational in nature and, with respect to women, did not criminalize sex trafficking acts that were induced through fraudulent or coercive means. The law did not criminalize sex trafficking involving adult male victims and it did not address labor trafficking. Article 418 prescribed penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment and a fine between 100 and 500 Libyan dinars ($74-$368), which were sufficiently stringent but not commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes such as rape. Articles 425 and 426 criminalized slavery and prescribed penalties of five to 15 years imprisonment. Article 426 criminalized the buying and selling of slaves and prescribed penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes.
As the criminal judicial system was not fully functioning in 2017, the government did not report prosecuting or convicting any trafficking offenders. The Ministry of Interior (MOI), which was nominally responsible for anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, was unable to carry out any anti-trafficking operations during the majority of the reporting period. The MOI’s Department to Combat Irregular Migration (DCIM) did not have full control over its approximately 24-33 detention centers where it detained migrants throughout the reporting period. After an international media outlet publicized a video in November 2017 depicting the sale of African migrants in Libya, the GNA initiated an investigation into allegations of trafficking through the formation of an inter-ministerial investigative committee and publicly committed to holding the perpetrators accountable. Libya’s Office of the Attorney General publicly announced in March 2018 that it issued arrest warrants for 205 people for human trafficking and other crimes related to this case, noting that security forces and other government officials were allegedly complicit in the case; the case was ongoing at the end of the reporting period.
The government did not report additional investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials who were allegedly complicit in trafficking crimes—including Libyan Coast Guard officials, immigration officers, security officials, as well as DCIM prison officials and detention camp guards who allowed private employers to force detained migrants to work on farms and construction sites. According to an international organization, the Special Deterrence Force, an armed group affiliated with the MOI, arrested migrants in Tripoli and detained some of them at DCIM-run facilities or released them to various migrant smuggling rings, some of which may have also subjected the migrants to forced labor or sex trafficking. Additionally, during the reporting period, the defense ministry continued to operate an anti-illegal migration unit with strong affiliation to one of the two armed groups involved in migrant smuggling and human trafficking in northern Libya; this allegiance allowed the armed group to continually shift its activities from committing smuggling and trafficking crimes to policing migrants for the government. The government also did not report any efforts to investigate or punish government-aligned militias or other armed groups that recruited and used child soldiers.
The government did not have any policy structures, institutional capacity, or resources to proactively identify and protect trafficking victims among vulnerable groups, such as foreign migrants, street children, women in prostitution, child victims of sexual abuse, and those recruited and used by armed groups. The government regularly arrested, detained, and otherwise punished victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking, such as immigration and prostitution violations. The government continued to operate rehabilitation centers for women in prostitution and victims of sex trafficking and other forms of sexual abuse, which reportedly operated as de facto prisons. Female victims of crimes, including trafficking, faced ridicule, harassment, and humiliation by predominantly male law enforcement and judicial officials in Libya. The government also continued to arbitrarily detain migrants, potentially including trafficking victims, for indefinite periods of time in DCIM-run detention facilities, which suffered from massive overcrowding and dire sanitation problems; those detained had no access to medical care, legal aid, and other forms of protective services. Detained victims were also reportedly subjected to sexual violence and rape, ill-treatment, and unlawful killings. Moreover, authorities made no effort to protect detained foreign migrants, including those already potentially victimized in trafficking situations, in both official and unofficial detention centers from being sold into forced labor. The government did not have formal procedures to safely and humanely transfer identified trafficking victims, who were detained, arrested, or in custody, to protective care. During the reporting period, the government publicly welcomed international organizations to assist refugees and migrants, a population vulnerable to trafficking. For example, it allowed an organization to access DCIM-run detention facilities to administer basic services to migrants, and in November 2017, it finalized an agreement with an organization to open a migrant transit center in Tripoli, which would serve as a safe place for migrants and trafficking victims to register for repatriation or transit to third countries. Libyan authorities waived exit fees and facilitated exit visas for more than 300 refugees whom an international organization evacuated from the country, while it also allowed an international organization to assist in the voluntary repatriation of more than 19,000 third-country nationals, a group particularly vulnerable to trafficking. The government did not, however, provide foreign trafficking victims with legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they faced hardship or retribution. The government did not encourage victims to participate in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers.
Libya is a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol, but the government lacked the institutional capacity and resources to prevent human trafficking. Alleged government complicity further exacerbated the overall human trafficking problem in the country and the region. The government did not implement measures to prevent government officials or armed groups from forcing detained migrants to work; on the contrary, the government’s system of detaining migrants facilitated trafficking crimes. During the reporting period, the GNA coordinated with the Italian government to reduce the flow of irregular migrants crossing the Mediterranean. However, some European and international NGOs criticized this coordinated effort of turning migrant boats back to Libya and stopping other migrants from attempting the crossing to Italy, citing poor security and human rights conditions and an increased risk of trafficking for migrants forced to remain in Libya. The GNA and Italian government also maintained agreements on judicial cooperation and extraditions. During the reporting period, the GNA made several public statements condemning the exploitation and inhumane treatment of migrants and affirmed its commitment to investigate allegations of trafficking and to hold traffickers criminally accountable. During the reporting period, the government participated in regional meetings, seminars, and workshops related to human trafficking under the framework of the League of Arab Nations and the UN. The GNA foreign ministry co-chaired two migration working groups with an international organization, which aimed to coordinate strategies and policies on migration. The government did not have a national coordinating body responsible for combating human trafficking, but it named a point of contact for trafficking-related inquiries. The government did not conduct any public anti-trafficking awareness campaigns, nor did it take actions to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, child sex tourism, or forced labor. The government took no steps to prevent the recruitment and use of children by militia groups, groups affiliated to or aligned with the government, and other armed groups operating throughout the country. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.