Informe sobre el país: Libya

Ultima revisión: 07 Ago 1998
07 Ago 1998

1 Conscription

conscription exists

The 12 June 1988 Green Charter of Human Rights of the Jamahiriyan Era in art. 25 states that "the defense of the Jamahiriyan society is the responsibility of every citizen, man or woman". [3]

Military service is regulated by the 5 May 1978 Compulsory Military Service Law. [1]

The official Libyan defence doctrine is that of a "people in arms", which means that everybody (women included) must be trained to defend the country. [3]

military service

All men and women aged 18 to 35 are liable for military service. [1] [2] [3] [7]

In an emergency or during mobilisation, men over 35 years old may be called up. [1] [7]

Non-Libyan citizens are also liable for military service, if they have acquired the so called 'Arab nationality'. The Libyan government has especially created this 'Arab nationality' and has issued special Arab passports and identity cards for all workers from neighbouring countries who were considered to be Arabs. In this manner they became liable for Libyan conscription. Most of those who refused to take on 'Arab nationality' have been expelled from Libya in the 1980s. [5]

Military service is believed to last for 3 years in the army and 4 years in the navy and air force. [1] [2] [8]

However, other sources suggest it lasts for up to two years. [3] [4] [7] [9]

According to Amnesty International in 1985, in practice some conscripts may have had to serve for up to 10 years. [1]

During their education all children will receive preliminary military training from the age of 14 onwards. Between 15 and 18, school children (boys and girls) are trained twice a week in the use of hand-weapons. The universities are highly militarised, with a direct correspondence between army ranks and university diplomas. [3] [2]

Compulsory military service exists alongside the military training in the People's Militia, the reserve force. [3]

After performing military service, all men between 18 and 35 are subject to a few weeks of compulsory military training every year. Between the age of 45 to 55 men are supposed to get trained in specific defence tasks. After 55, they become Moudjahidine in the coast guard or in the Jamahiriyan Guard. [3] [2]

Women can take military training in their neighbourhood on a voluntary basis a few times a week. [3] [2]

postponement and exemption

Postponement is possible for students, although this is not always granted. [1]

There are reports of students being press-ganged into the armed forces even though they are supposed to be exempted for the period of their studies. [7]

Exemption is possible for medical reasons, in the case of only sons and in those cases where the family is otherwise unable to make a living. [1]


Not much is known about the actual recruitment into the armed forces. Considering the size of the armed forces and the potential of conscripts, it can be concluded that only a small proportion of conscripts is actually recruited.

According to Amnesty International in 1985, recruitment often takes the form of press-ganging youth into the armed forces. [1]

In 1986 and 1987, there were reports of Libyan militia units recruiting boys aged between 14 and 18, and of a Libyan prisoner of war captured by Chadian troops who was only 11 years old. [6]

2 Conscientious objection

The right to conscientious objection is not legally recognised and there is no provision for a substitute service. [1] [4] [7]

3 Draft evasion and desertion


Refusing to perform military service is punishable by three years' imprisonment and deprivation of civil rights for 10 years. [4]


No information available.

5 History

Since the Qaddafian revolution of free officers, in 1969, various changes have occurred in the structure of the armed forces. Originally a professional army with officers trained in the United Kingdom, it gradually changed to match the official doctrine of "a people in arms" and to meet the defence needs of the country. Before the revolution, the army was a typical example of the British 'indirect rule' principle. In 1967, a law introduced a compulsory military service for all men above 18, but it was not applied. After 1969 it was still not applied, but the law was never officially repealed.

The tension in the region as a result of the Israeli-Egyptian conflict resulted in 1974 in the creation of a six-week compulsory military training. Some students were called up during the summer holidays. In the same period, the functioning of 'direct democracy' as conceived by Qaddafi, was taking shape. At the end of 1974 the Active Peoples' Forces, gathered to vote about the defence policy, strongly advised the execution of the conscription law. In 1975, the six-week military training became really compulsory for all functionaries. In a speech in October 1975, Qaddafi explained that one of the goals of 'direct democracy' is to make the compulsory military training useless, because, as he said, "when the people are free, you don't have to force them to defend themselves." On this occasion, he also points out that the short military training is not the same as the compulsory service of eighteen months or more.

On 1 September 1977, the Jamahiriya, the Libyan Republic, is officially proclaimed: "... bearing a weapon is the right and the duty of every Libyan man and woman ...". Although the ideological goal is that of people voluntarily learning the use of weapons, it proves to be necessary to re-introduce conscription, first in 1977 and again in 1978.

The traditional army is officially abrogated in August 1988, making place for "the people in arms". The traditional army becomes the Jamahiriyan Guard, which takes care of the training and accompanying of the people's army. The "people in arms" are administrated by the Peoples Committees (the backbone of the governmental organisation). Apparently, the militarisation of society is so deeply rooted that further explicit conscription is not necessary. [3]

There is no tradition of conscientious objection within the country, and it is not known if any soldier refused to take part in the internationally condemned war against Chad. [7]

6 Annual statistics

The armed forces comprise 65,000 troops - 1.1 percent of the population. At least 25,000 of them, nearly 40 percent, are conscripts serving in the army. Furthermore there is a 40,000-strong reserve force, the People's Militia. [9]

Every year some 110,000 men and women reach conscription age. [9]


[1] Eide, A., C. Mubanga-Chipoya 1985. Conscientious objection to military service, report prepared in pursuance of resolutions 14 (XXXIV) and 1982/30 of the Sub-Commission of Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. United Nations, New York. [2] Société I3C 1986. Military Powers, the league of Arab states, vol 1. Société I3C, Paris, France. [3] Graeff-Wassink, M. 1990. La femme en armes, Kadhafi féministe? [4] Amnesty International 1991. Conscientious objection to military service. AI, London, UK. [5] IRBDC 1993. Telephone interview with a Professor of the French Research and Study Institute of the Arab and Muslim World (IREMAM), 23 November 1993. [6] Woods, D.E. 1993. Child Soldiers, the recruitment of children into the armed forces and their participation in hostilities. Quaker Peace and Service, London, UK. [7] War Resisters' International 1994. Issues of conscience and military service. WRI, London, UK. [8] UN Commission on Human Rights 1997. The question of conscientious objection to military service, report of the Secretary-General prepared pursuant to Commission resolution 1995/83. United Nations, Geneva. [9] Institute for Strategic Studies 1997. Military Balance 1997/98. ISS, London, UK.