Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Access to Justice in Libya (A2JiL)

This 48-month project is to contribute to a solid, accessible, domestically owned knowledge base for people-centred interventions aimed at strengthening access to justice in Libya (A2JiL), and to disseminate such knowledge among stakeholders, enhancing awareness and the capabilities required to provide A2JiL.

2021 - 2024
Suliman Ibrahim
Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Netherlands

Center for Law and Society Studies (Benghazi University) (CLSS)

The project focuses on five areas: justice-seekers, justice providers (state and non-state), outcomes, contexts, and barriers. Access to justice in this project includes major elements of transitional justice as well as justice reform. The project will not only target the general population but also pay special attention to vulnerable groups such as women, ethnic minorities, migrants and IDPs. The project uses a conflict-sensitive approach and builds on previous research, notably concerning the role of law in national reconciliation and peacebuilding. The project ascertains whether, to which extent, and how, in a country plagued by political and institutional divide, armed conflict and lack of security, people have access to justice, and how to improve such access by identifying and reducing barriers.

The main five research questions are:

  1. To what extent and how do people in Libya in general, and members of disadvantaged groups such as women, ethnic minorities, migrants and IDPs, when facing ‘ordinary’ or ‘transitional’ justice concerns, engage with the available state and non-state justice providers in order to obtain a remedy, and why so?
  2. To what extent and how do justice providers in Libya, both state and non-state, respond to the approaches and requests of the abovementioned justice seekers, and why so?
  3. To what extent are justice providers’ remedies adequate, both from the perspective of justice seekers and from the perspective of Libya’s legal framework, and why so?
  4. How is A2J in Libya impacted upon by contextual actors and factors, notably in its legal, political, cultural, economic, social, and historical contexts?
  5. What are the main A2J barriers, what the main A2J elements that work, and why so; and by which justice interventions in Libya could such barriers be effectively reduced, could the elements that work be built upon and improved, the linkages and complementarity between them strengthened, and the overall A2JiL thus enhanced?

Research phases

In the first phase, which ran from 1 September 2021 to 31 October 2022, researchers carried out qualitative research in different parts of Libya. They have written 12 case studies on a variety of justice concerns, from the perspective of 'justice seekers'. These included:

  • The relatives of victims of the Abu Salim-massacre in Tripoli.
  • People who suffered damages during the 2014 conflict in Ubari between Tebu and Tuareg.
  • The relatives of murder victims in Bani Walid.
  • The wives of men who have gone missing in Bani Walid.
  • The relatives of abducted children in Sabha.
  •  Displaced Tawerghans now residing in Tripoli.
  •  Irregular female migrant women in Benghazi.
  • Women who were disinherited by their male relatives in Benghazi.
  •  Women who were victim of domestic violence in Benghazi.
  • People in the Green Mountains who try to reclaim land which was redistributed after Law 123 (1970) of the Gaddafi-regime.
  • Oasis inhabitants who suffered from polluting oil companies in Jalu.
  • People who try to reclaim land which was appropriated by the Gaddafi-regime state through Law 4 in Tobruk.

In this first phase, we were especially interested in people's 'justice journeys': the process they went through to find a resolution to their justice concern. We drew inspiration from Felstiner, Abel, and Sarat's 'The Emergence and Transformation of Disputes: Naming, Blaming, and Claiming' and Bedner and Vel's 'An analytical framework for empirical research on Access to Justice', and designed our own ideal-typical 'pathway to justice' which we used to analyse the steps people went through and the obstacles they met along the way (see below). We conceived of ‘justice seeking’ and people's ‘justice journey’ in broad terms: people may or may not approach lawyers and the state judiciary, and may well turn to non-state or even clandestine actors or processes to find a resolution.

In the second research phase from 1 November 2022, our focus is on the perspective of justice providers, both public institutions (e.g., police, judges, lawyers) and relevant non-state actors (e.g., tribal leaders, religious authorities). In this phase we are interested in how these various actors deal with justice seekers, and what their remedies consist of. Whereas the first phase mostly focused on the particular stories of individual people, this second phase will pay more attention to institutions.

The third phase, from 1 November 2023, will involve a quantitative, nationwide survey on A2J in Libya since 2011. Specifically, the survey will ask: What potentially legal problems have respondents experienced over the past ten years, and what percentage of the population has experienced them? How and where did people try to resolve these problems, and what then happened? What were the barriers? How were respondents treated? What were the outcomes? The survey will also ask about people’s perceptions of the legal system. The set-up of the national survey will be informed by the project’s qualitative case studies, with Genn’s famous ‘Paths to Justice’ study serving as a comparative reference.


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