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Research project

The Role of Law in Libya’s National Reconciliation

The Role of Law in Libya’s National Reconciliation (RoLLNaR) was a research project that ran from 2017 to 2020. It identified and assessed the role of law – both actual and potential, enabling and constraining – with regard to major challenges of reconciliation in Libya. The project was led by Dr. Suliman Ibrahim, and was divided into 7 major phases: an inception phase, five thematic research phases on respectively national identity, national governance, decentralization, security forces, and transitional justice, and a finalization phase. The project was funded by the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Tripoli and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Hague.

2017 - 2020
Suliman Ibrahim
Royal Netherlands Embassy in Tripoli and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Hague

The Centre for Law and Society Studies, University of Benghazi (CLSS)

The Libyan Conflict and the RoLLNaR Project

In February 2011, a Revolution started in Libya that would lead to the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, who had been in power for 42 years. Although hopes were initially high, Libya’s situation escalated into turmoil and conflict. 

In this climate, there is a true need for viable solutions for Libya’s future. The RoLLNaR project aimed to assist reconciliation, and tried to contribute to finding solutions to the current conflict, as well as providing strategies for building a safe, democratic, and broadly supported state after the current conflict. The first year of the project was funded by the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Tripoli, the second and third year of the project were funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Hague.

The RoLLNaR Project

To assist in reconciliation, this project identified and assessed the role of law – both actual and potential, enabling and constraining - with regard to major challenges hampering reconciliation in Libya. These challenges were researched and addressed in five thematic phases, each focusing on one key challenge to reconciliation, being: national identity, national governance, decentralization, transitional justice and security forces.

The research team researched these topics by employing a socio-legal approach, in which legal analysis was combined with consultations with stakeholders and interviews. The strength of the project lied in the truly Libyan ownership of the project. The research team consisted mostly of Libyan experts and researchers from various disciplines and areas in Libya.

Thematic Phase 1 | National Identity

The first thematic research phase ran from 16 April 2018 to 15 October 2018 and focused on the topic of national identity. Major disagreements regarding politics, religion and ethnicity arose that hamper national reconciliation in Libya. With regards to politics, disagreements arose over the role of (former) Gaddafi loyalists in the political process, as well as over the choice of state symbols, such as the flag and anthem. Within the domain of religion, debates focus on the position of Sharia in legislation, as well as on the role and position of Libya's traditional madhabs, the Maliki and Ibadi madhabs vis-à-vis the emerging Salafism in the country. Disagreements also arose over issues related to ethnicity. Here, disagreement focused on the status of the languages of minorities (most notably the Amazigh minority). Should they be, like Arabic, an official language, or should they be recognized as national languages? If these languages would be considered national languages, they could still be used and taught in the areas where these minorities live, but their status would be more limited. Next to that, debate focused on the use of an Arab affiliation in the name of state institution, and whether this Arab affiliation should be ommitted. Libya’s authorities after 2011 have tried to solve disagreements, as manifested in legislation and constitutional drafts. 

Final Report on National Identity (in Arabic)

Thematic Phase 2 | National Governance

The second thematic research phase ran from 16 October 2018 to 15 April 2019 and focused on the topic of national governance. It dealt with six controversial issues regarding national governance, being: the system of government, the relationship between the executive and the legislative powers, the independence of the judiciary, the suitability of democracy in present-day Libya, the role of political parties, and the participation of Islamists in the political process. These controversial issues were reviewed by looking at the positions taken on these issues, and by reviewing the legislative responses. From there an assessment of the responses was made based on their suitability for national reconciliation.

Thematic Phase 3 | Decentralization

This research phase ran from 16 April 2019 to 15 October 2019 and it dealt with major issues surrounding decentralization in Libya, such as the administrative levels of decentralization, the distribution of powers and resources and the manner in which local administrations should be chosen (election or appointment). Next to that, it examined the decentralization of key services, such as education and security.

Thematic Phase 4 | Transitional Justice

The thematic research phase on transitional justice ran between 16 October 2019 and 15 April 2020 and covered topics such as truth and fact finding, institutional reform, criminal accountability and reparation. A special focus within this research phase was directed to issues related to women, such as rape and sexual assault.

Thematic Phase 5 | Security Forces

The research phase on security forces ran between 16 April 2020 and 16 October 2020 and dealt with topics such as the command and civilian oversight of a unified army and the formation of police control, and the disarmament of armed groups.

Research Institutes

The research project is a joint effort of the Van Vollenhoven Institute (VVI) of Leiden University and the Centre for Law and Society Studies (CLSS) of the University of Benghazi.

The VVI Institute seeks to develop and disseminate socio-legal knowledge and theory regarding the interaction between law, governance and society. More specifically, the VVI studies the emergence, functioning, and evaluation of legal institutions. The institute has particular expertise in Europe, Africa and Indonesia and it combines legal and sociological/anthropological tools of inquiry.

The CLSS specializes in conducting legal studies based on multidisciplinary approaches. As such, it does not only examine the laws and institutions as such, but also examines their impact on society, and to what extent they succeed in achieving the objectives underlying their development.

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