The Great Debate UK
from The Great Debate:
By Stefan Wolff
The views expressed are his own.
The fall of Sirte and the death of Colonel Gaddafi today most likely represents the finishing blow for the remnants of the old regime in Libya. They are a highly valuable prize that the National Transitional Council (NTC) fought hard to obtain and that should trigger the formal transition period that Libya’s now widely recognized government has envisaged to lead to democratic elections and a new constitution. Comparable only to the fall of Tripoli in late August, today marks a momentous achievement for a popular movement that twelve months ago was hardly conceivable, let alone in existence. For all intents and purposes, Libya’s is the only successful uprising of the Arab Spring to date.
Though Libyans and their allies across the world are right to celebrate, we must not ignore the challenges ahead. Building a new and legitimate state in Libya remains a difficult task. Gaddafi’s death may well take the sting out of any loyalist resistance for now. The question of what the NTC will do with Gaddafi – try him in Libya or extradite him to the International Criminal Court – no longer exists, but there are others from his inner circle that will have to be dealt with in the future. Both trials at home, like Saddam Hussein’s, and trials abroad, like those handled by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, have their different problems and neither option is likely to avoid a sense of victors’ (in-) justice among Gaddafi loyalists.
There might now be fewer Gaddafi supporters, but those that remain will be no less determined and might find a new leader in any of Gaddafi’s inner circle that is still at large, initially most likely in his son Saif al-Islam. In other words, the security threat is likely to diminish, but will almost certainly not evaporate completely or quickly. At the same time, NTC forces must resist the temptation of vengeful retribution. The fierce fighting in Sirte in particular was highly costly, but as much as the NTC benefitted from a UN Security Council Resolution that mandated a military operation to protect civilians, as much does it now have a responsibility to make sure that crimes are prosecuted through the courts, not by lynch mobs.
As the government no longer has to focus on its military operations, much of its capacity can now be directed at dealing with the political challenges that it faces. The loose coalition of anti-Gaddafi forces needs to remain focused on building a state that serves its citizens and that deserves their respect and loyalty. This will require a concerted effort at unity among the different factions of the NTC, agreement on the broad parameters of how they will work together during the transition period, their gradual transformation into political parties capable not only of contesting future elections but also of participating in a political process that will see some of them in government and others in opposition.
An Islamic revival is taking hold in rebel-held eastern Libya after decades of tough curbs on worship by Muammar Gaddafi, but clerics say this will not be a new source of religious extremism as the West may fear. Restrictions on Islamic piety have become history in the east of the Arab North African state since its takeover by anti-Gaddafi insurgents, and clerics see a much bigger role for Islam in the country if Gaddafi is ultimately driven from power.
By Laurence Copeland
There are times when even a cynic like me has to feel some sympathy for politicians. Take the case of Libya, for example. Over the forty years of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, relations between Britain (and our Western allies) and Libya have varied from lukewarm to cold and back to lukewarm again.
Now that this particular dictator appears to have reached the end of the road, some people are asking why the previous Government ever allowed our relations to rise above freezing point, which sounds rather as though they are trying to resurrect our long-dead (and possibly mythical) Ethical Foreign Policy. Is that feasible?
- Bill Frelick is Human Rights Watch‘s refugee policy director and the author of “Pushed Back, Pushed Around: Italy’s Forced Return of Boat Migrants and Asylum Seekers, Libya’s Mistreatment of MIgrants and Asylum Seekers“. The opinions expressed are his own. -
On May 6, for the first time since World War II, a European state ordered its coast guard and naval vessels to intercept and forcibly return boat migrants on the high seas without screening to determine whether any passengers needed protection or were particularly vulnerable. That state was Italy; the receiving state was Libya. The Italians left the exhausted passengers on a dock in Tripoli, where the Libyan authorities immediately detained them.