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Legal history of Libya

The State of Libya or Libya is a country in the Maghreb region in North Africa. It is the fourth largest country in Africa and tenth-largest in the world with an area of around 7 lacs square miles. The capital city of Tripoli is home to one million people which constitute one-sixth of the total population. The predominant religion if the country is Islam and the official language is Arabic. Libya comprises of three historically important regions, namely Tripolitania in the northwest, Cyrenaica in the east, and Fezzan in the southwest.

History of Libya:

Libya was ruled by the Ottoman Empire till 1911. After World war II, around 1,50,000 Italians settled in Libya making up one-fifth of the total population. The Italians’ idea of “demographic colonization” helped them to gain full control over Libya making it their colony. However, the North African campaigns threw Italian settlers out of Libya but Libya by 1945 was impoverished, underpopulated, and also divided into regions—Tripolitania, Cyrenaica, and Fezzan—of differing political, economic, and religious traditions. In November 1949, the UN General Assembly voted that Libya should become a united and independent kingdom no later than January 1, 1952.

Constitutional History:

In the year 1950, the constituent assembly started drafting the constitution of Libya which was officially accepted in October 1951. On December 24, 1951, the nation the United Kingdom of Libya was officially declared making it the first nation to gain independence under the UN. On September 1, 1969, a military coup overthrew the constitutional monarchy and established a twelve-member Revolutionary Command Council. The 1977 declaration established the “authority of the people” based on these ideas, called the Third Universal Theory. Qadhafi was able to serve as the Secretary-General for the newly created General Secretariat of the General People’s Congress. He resigned in 1979 but he was de facto ruler of the nation even after. The 1979 declaration replaced the 1969 Proclamation’s Revolutionary Command Council with the General Secretariat, the highest executive authority, of the General People’s Congress.

In February 2011, the Libyan Revolution took place after Qadhafi’s death and National Transitional Council drafted an interim constitution for the nation until elections. Under the Interim Charter, the NTC functions as an interim executive with its president having the power to form an interim national government. In 2017 a new draft constitution was proposed by a drafting committee of 60 members draft constitution defines a presidential system of government, with strong powers given to the president.

Legal System in Libya:

The legal system of Libya is based on two constitutional documents: the Constitutional Proclamation of December 1969 and the Declaration of the Establishment of the People’s Authority, enacted in March 1977. The declaration reflects many of Qadhafi’s ideas and is outlined on the paths taken by him. There is no provision for judicial review in Libya’s constitutional arrangement. Libya has not accepted the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.

Under the Ottoman rule, one court system addressed secular matters while another was responsible for deciding disputes involving religious law. The secular courts were organized according to the Napoleonic Code. In 1973, the dual court systems merged into one, with Shari’a law gaining ascendance as the primary legal authority in Libya. In 2004, Colonel Qadhafi allowed Amnesty International to review the judicial system seeking international and economic benefits, and in a gesture of reform, he declared that these practices would be abolished and normal criminal procedures followed on all judicial levels.


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