Corporal Punishment Of Children: Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa Index - Libya

Libyan authorities should enforce the penal code’s prohibition of assault in cases of violent punishment of children, and work to collect and publish information about the prevalence of the abuse.

The penal code prohibits assault in all cases, including attacks that do not cause physical injury, and specifies penalties for anyone who "maltreats" a family member or child or who "unlawfully uses means of correction or education" including if this does not cause a physical injury. [1] However, the authorities have not enforced the prohibition in all cases of corporal punishment of children.[2]

Despite a legal prohibition for teaching staff to use corporal punishment of children at school since the era of Muammar Gaddafi that ended in 2011,[3] corporal punishment in schools remains common according to some media reports.[4] The previous Government of National Accord (GNA), based in Tripoli, paid teachers’ salaries at public schools across the country, including in the areas areas not under their control.[5] The newly formed Tripoli-based and internationally-recognized Government of National Unity will continue to pay all salaries. The regulation and management of the educational system is based on a 2017 - GNA Presidential Council decree that prohibits violent discipline.[6] The Education Ministry in Tripoli has accordingly issued a decision prohibiting corporal punishment at schools.[7]

We are not aware of information about the prevalence of violent discipline of children or about measures by authorities to enforce the prohibition. During the 2019-2020 school year, schools in areas of armed conflict in Tripoli and surroundings were closed, scores of schools were attacked or used by armed groups, and 5 million school books and exam papers were destroyed in an attack on a warehouse.[8] The Education Ministry and UNICEF estimated in November 2019 that there were about 800,000 schoolchildren in Libya.[9]

[1] Libya Penal Code, 1953 (as amended), articles 378, 397, and 398, available at

[2] Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, "Country Report for Libya," updated August 2017,

[3] The practice was banned by the "School Discipline Ordinance for Schools, Regulations concerning Primary and Preparatory (Basic) Education," the "Regulations concerning Secondary (Intermediate) Education (1979)," and the "Regulation concerning Student Discipline (1983)." Global Initiative to Ban All Corporal Punishment of Children, Prohibiting corporal punishment in schools: Global report 2011, p. 8, See also UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations: Libya, 2002, para. 33.

[4] "Libya: A Teacher Severely Beats Her Student's Face," Al Arabiya, February 9, 2020,

[5] Nawas al-Darraji, "Libya: Schools close, education minister pressured to resign," AFP, 14 November 2019,; Human Rights Watch, "Libya: Events of 2019,"

[6] Decision No. (933) of the Presidential Council of the Government of National Accord regarding the regulation and management of educational institutions, October 2017,

[7] Education Ministry, Decision 1736/2017,

[6] UNICEF, Our Education, our future: November 6, 2019,

[7] UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, "Compilation of Information on Libya," UPR 3rd Cycle, 12 March 2020, A/HRC/WG.6/36/LBY/2, para. 37-8, ;