Salwa Bughaighis

Libyan human rights defender Salwa Bughaighis was assassinated on the 25th of June 2014 by four gunmen who shot at her, her guards and her husband. The 51-year-old lawyer and activist was a key figure in the fight against political oppression and to promote of civil and political rights in Libya.

She leaves her husband, and three children behind.

Prior to the 2011 uprising, Salwa defended many political prisoners against the Gaddafi regime. With the help of some fellow lawyers and activists, she took part in the movement against Muammar Gaddafi from its very beginning in February 2011. She focused on trying to keep some order during the protests.

She played an important role in the transition of the country, working as a counsellor for Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTCL). Through her work at the Transitional Council, she focused on trying to bring order in the aftermath of Qaddafi’s fall. She advocated for more participation by women in politics, and criticised the absence of proper democratic practices in the emerging Libya. Eventually, she left the National Transitional Council of Libya in protest at the new government’s underrepresentation of women.

Receiving death threats, Salwa had to leave the country temporarily, but she came back to vote for the elections in June 2014. She was shot dead on election day. Her death emphasises the instability of politics in Libya since the 2011 revolution, but more importantly her fight was not in vain as the democratic movement has been inspired by her actions and her commitment to the Libyan cause and the fight for human rights and justice.

Despite her deep concern at the activities of extremists, Gaddafi’ supporters and gangs, she expressed her great hope for Libya only a few weeks before she was assassinated. Her optimism for her country combined with her promotion of a peaceful democracy remain the most important parts of her legacy.

Salwa Bughaighis was an extraordinary woman – a confident militant who stood up against the Islamist militias. Salwa has been an inspiration for Libyan women, a defender of women’s rights whose beliefs and actions were reflected in her actions..

An investigation is still awaited.

On the anniversary of her death, remembrance celebrations take place all around the world, to pay their respect to Salwa, especially in Cairo and the Netherlands. Salwa, a charismatic human rights defender and a strong woman is remembered as a symbol of hope for women with convictions fighting for dialogue in a tormented Libya.

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Date of Killing:25/06/2014

Previous Threats:Yes

Gender component to killing:Evidence of gender-based and/or sexual violence

Type of Work:Lawyer

Sector or Type of Rights the HRD Worked On:Civil and Political Rights

Sector Detail:Women's Rights

More information:Front Line Defenders

1This database records an individual's chosen gender identity. If they do not self-identify as male or female they can use the option of recording other/neither or use the term NBGI (non binary gender identity).