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Salwa Bugaighis: Human rights activist who became an international face of Libya’s efforts to work towards democracy


Salwa Bugaighis was a prominent Libyan activist who became an international face of her country’s efforts to build democracy. She was assassinated by gunmen who stormed her home in Benghazi shortly after she had cast her vote in the country’s parliamentary elections.

A lawyer, Bugaighis was at the forefront of the 2011 uprising, becoming one of the most outspoken voices against the militiamen and Islamic extremists who have run rampant in the country. Her husband, a member of the Benghazi municipal council who was at home when she was kllled, has disappeared since the attack and is believed to have been abducted.

Bugaighis was a well-known figure in Benghazi, where her family is among the oldest and most prominent in the city. Since the civil war she had represented Libya at international conferences. During Colonel Gaddafi’s rule she represented families of prisoners in Tripoli’s notorious Abu Selim prison, pressing the government for the truth of what happened to 1,200 prisoners who disappeared.

She was a member of the National Transitional Council, the rebels’ political leadership body during the civil war. Since then she had been deputy head of the National Dialogue Preparatory Commission, which is attempting reconciliation among the country’s rival factions, tribes and communities.

In Washington, the US National Security Adviser Susan E Rice described the killing as “brutal and senseless.” She said she met Bugaighis in 2011, soon after Gadhafi’s fall. “I was deeply impressed by her courage, leadership and dedication to building a peaceful, democratic Libya,” she said.  

Salwa Bugaighis, lawyer and human rights activist: born 1967 or 1968; married (two children); died Benghazi, Libya 26 June 2014.