The Attorney General held a meeting last Wednesday at his Tripoli headquarters with the Minister of State for Prime Minister and Cabinet Affairs, the head of the Civil Registration Authority civil, the Passports, Nationality and foreigners’ Affairs; the Chairman of the Libyan Holding Company for Communications and Information Technology, in the presence of the Attorney General’s Deputies charged with monitoring procedure.
At the meeting, the Attorney General said the responsibility of representing the social body necessitates verifying the integrity of civil status data and understanding the economic consequences of violating people’s economic, social, and political rights. He warned of the necessity of maintaining an electronic system free of anything that violates the authenticity of the data and establishing controls to determine duties and responsibilities.
The Attorney General also reviewed a plan reviewing data on affiliation to Libyan origin and the availability of conditions for choosing Libyan nationality and the soundness of procedures for foreigners to obtain it. He concluded that it was necessary to link the databases of the departments of Passports, Nationality, and Foreigners Affairs and the Civil Registry Authority with the Public Prosecution Authority’s database so that it is possible to reach the target of data audit at times compatible forensic investigation. He said this will also achieve the purpose of informing society of the truth and strengthening efforts to bring stability and societal peace.
For his part, Attorney General’s Office reported that the Minister of State for the Prime Minister and Cabinet Affairs said the government has received the recommendations of the Public Prosecution Authority regarding supporting the reorganization of the citizenship database and purging it of any data that contradicts the truth. The government has made the issue a top priority.
It must be borne in mind that the Civil Registry Authority’s database is used as the bases for issuing the country’s National ID Number which in turn enables Libyans to obtain a Libyan nationality, passport, ID card, driving licence, bank account, hard currency at the preferential official rate, a state-sector salary, and register to vote for local and national elections.
The soundness of Libya’s civil registry and the right to Libyan nationality is a very contentious subject. Since the February 2011 revolution that ended the 42-year Qaddafi regime, there have been accusations that the civil registry has been corrupted for personal or political gain.
For example, in 2019 the Tripoli CBL Governor had announced that he had halted the payment of the Hard Currency Annual Allowance because of a large number of forgeries in the National ID Number database.
In response, in February 2019, the head of the Civil Registry Authority, Mohamed Bettamer, stressed that the alleged forgeries of National ID Numbers by the CBL Governor are not as wide as has been claimed.
In December 2020 Bettamer, called for Libya’s planned 2021 elections to be held after his authority had ‘‘cleaned’’ its database. He would not offer an estimated figure but said that they are nowhere near the one million fake National ID Numbers alleged.
He doubted if there were even half a million. He said the CRA has conducted annual audits and a million or even half a million fake IDs would be difficult to conceal.
Attempts to politicise CRA database
With the political split of Libya between west and east, claims had started to be made post 2012 that the database was the subject of corruption when the CRA was split and there was an attempt to politicise it.
As a result, the CRA brought in consultants Tatweer, who with the help of PWC, had launched project Intilaqa to ‘‘clean’’ the database, by returning to the paper-based records.
In April 2017, the acting head of the Tripoli Civil Registry Authority (CRA), Khalid Bibas, was seized and held for two days. The CRA had accused a Tripoli militia of kidnapping him. They said it was trying to use him to gain access to the country’s civil registry database.
There have been numerous reported attempts by criminal gangs/militias to access the database, which would allow them to steal national identity numbers and make salary claims for them.
In September 2016, two CRA officials were kidnapped and the following month the acting head of the CRA’s local Tripoli office was wounded by militiamen in an assassination attempt – both cases were seen as linked to moves to obtain database information.
In March 2016, the CRA had revealed that it had been forcibly taken over by ‘‘ideologically extremist groups’’ who had taken control of its database of Libyan citizens which would have ‘‘enabled them to control the affairs of Libyans and the manipulation of their identities for their own interests’’.
The Authority had feared that the ‘‘armed militias with suspicious agendas’’ would ‘‘tamper with the database’’ or commit ‘‘forgery and vandalism’’.
Furthermore, in April 2016, Abdelgader Alsaity, Deputy head of the CRA, had accused ‘‘outlaw militias” in Tripoli of attempting to gain access to and control of Libya’s national civil registry.
Alsaity, based safely in the east of Libya away from militia coercion, had said that on 31st March five CRA employees were kidnapped from their workplace at Libya Telecom and Technology (LTT), Libya’s main state ISP.
He had further revealed that they were kidnapped by militias in control of Libya’s intelligence service representing the internationally unrecognized Tripoli government.
Alsaity had said that the militias had planned to take the technicians to the LTT offices where the CRA server is housed in an attempt to gain access to its contents.