Libya: Human Rights and the Management of Libyan Prisons
Between 2004 and February 2011 ICPS was involved in a partnership with the Ministry of Justice of Libya and the Judicial Police, which was the body responsible for the management of the prisons in Libya which were under the control of the Ministry of Justice. (The Ministry of Public Security controlled two other notorious prisons, Abu Salim and Ain Zara 2. ICPS was not involved in either of these prisons. In 2010 it was announced that the Libyan government intended to transfer these two prisons to the Ministry of Justice. This had not happened by February 2011.) The ICPS work was funded by the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
The overall aim of the project was to improve the standard of human rights observance in Libyan prisons and its objectives were:
- To raise awareness amongst officials and managers of prisons of the need to respect the human rights of prisoners. The key reference text is the Arabic translation of the ICPS handbook A Human Rights Approach to Prison Management.
- To create capacity within the prison system to develop and deliver training workshops on the 'human rights approach to the management of prisons'.
- To train staff to carry out evaluations of the performance of each of their prisons against international human rights standards.
Phase 1: “Raising Awareness” (2004 – 2006)
The principal aim of the first phase of the project was to disseminate knowledge about the internationally agreed standards for managing prisons as widely as possible across the Judicial Police and the Ministry of Justice. The effects of Libyan isolation from the international community during the latter part of the 20th Century were immediately obvious in the way that the country’s prisons were managed. The authorities within the Ministry of Justice had had no exposure to international standards or to principles of good prison management. The project began with a series of workshops to inform key officials about the existence and content of the international standards and how they might be applied in Libya.
Phase 2: “Assessing prisons against international standards” (2006 – 2009)
Once general knowledge about international standards had extended through the higher levels of the Judicial Police, the next phase was to begin the process of change within the prisons. Central teams were established and provided with training which would enable them to deliver training workshop in human rights for staff in every prison in the country; to carry out a programme of detailed assessment of practice against the international standards; and to produce a detailed improvement plan for each prison. All improvement plans were approved by the Head of the Judicial Police so that he had ownership of the changes which were to be implemented.
Phase 3: “Continuous Improvement” (2009 – 2011)
Throughout phases one and two of the project there were positive signs of progress and a renewed optimism within the ranks of the Judicial Police. The organisation itself was given a more professional structure and the Judicial Police ceased to be used as a dumping ground for poor performing officials from other departments. Improvements also began to be seen in individual prisons. The next challenge was to create a process which would make it more likely that the improvements would become embedded in the organisation and be sustained in the long term. This became more likely with the introduction of a new Executive Regulation of Prison Law in 2005.
Phase three of the project contained a number of themes which were to assist the Libyan authorities to maintain the early improvements and to further develop regimes for prisoners according to the requirements of the new Law. They included a continuous development programme; the identification of pilot prisons which could become models of development; restructuring and support for the prison headquarters units to enable them to develop a strategic planning process; a wider staff training programme.
This programme of work came to an end in February 2011.
In January 2012 the new Libyan government asked ICPS to return to the country to assist in the work of reform of the country’s prison system following the change of regime. ICPS staff carried out a scoping visit to the country in February 2012 and are currently in discussions about future activity.