Many of the provisions of the interim Constitutional Proclamation of 1969 remain intact and complement the Declaration on the Establishment of the Authority of the People in 1977, the stipulations of which outline the general constitutional framework in Libya. The 1977 Declaration has changed the official name of the country from the Libyan Arab Republic to the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, which is based on a form of Islamic socialism. The Declaration also states that the Koran is the constitution of the Jamahiriya, though in practice it is not generally invoked as such.
The 1951 constitution, in effect before the 1969 revolution, had established a hereditary monarchy with a bicameral parliament sharing legislative functions with the king. It also guaranteed private property and basic civil rights and freedoms within the limits of the law.
Separation of Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Powers
The GPC elects the head of state and the General People's Committee, consisting of a Secretary General and a number of secretaries; each of which is to supervise one of the sectors of activities in the State. The General People’s Committee supersedes the executive power in Libya that used to be exercised by the Council of Ministers defined by the Constitution of 1969. The current Secretary General of the General People's Committee (prime minister) is Shukri Muhammad Ghanim. Technically the current head of state, also Secretary of the General People's Congress, is Muhammad al-Zinati, while the Leader of the Revolution is Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi.
The 1969 constitution vests sovereignty in the people. The aim of the state is to realize socialism and to liberate the national economy from foreign dependency. Self-sufficiency in production, equity in distribution, work as right and honor are among the socialist principles specifically spelled out in the constitution. According to the 1977 Declaration, only the people control leadership, authority, wealth, and arms so as to realize the “society of freedom.”
Direct democracy is the basis of the political system in Libya. The people exercise their authority through the People's Congresses, People's Committees, Trade Unions, Vocational Syndicates, and the General People's Congress (GPC), which is the parliament. The GPC has a General Secretariat that executes the policy defined by the People's Congresses, prepares the sessions of the General People's Congress, draws up an agenda of the General People's Congress, and implements the resolutions and recommendations of the GPC.
The constitution guarantees freedom of opinion “within the limits of public interest and the principles of the revolution.” It precludes discrimination based on race, sex, religion, disability, language, or social status. It also grants equal rights to women. Constitutionally, public ownership is seen as the basis of development, but private ownership is protected as well if it is “non-exploitative.” Education and health are rights guaranteed by the state.
Constitutional Amendments and Procedures
The Constitutional Proclamation and the Declaration on the Establishment of the Authority of the People do not form a constitution in the modern sense, and can be superceded by laws issued by the General People’s Congress. For this reason, the organizational structure of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya is a pastiche of often contradictory laws, with the most recent law taking precedence in cases of conflict. The general principle of organization, the primacy of the General People’s Congress (GPC), has remained unaltered since the Declaration, but the internal structure of the GPC has been altered numerous times since its founding. In 2000, the membership of the General People’s Committee, the effective government of the country, was reduced with many of its functions devolving to local People’s Congresses. Another law, Act 1 of 2001, reorganized the structure of the People’s Congresses, who in turn choose the members of the GPC.
Libya is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).