For Libya’s sake!

Friday 07/08/2015
Stalled reconciliation. Former intelligence chief of Qaddafi’s regime Abdullah Senussisi (C) and other Qaddafi regime officials sit behind bars during a verdict hearing at a courtroom in Tripoli, on July 28, 2015.

Regardless of the political conse­quences of the February 17th revolution and the ideological battles between those who supported or opposed it, the sentences handed down to members of the former Qaddafi regime on July 28th must be seen as a product of a “failed revolution”.

Talk of revolutionary trials has nothing to do with what is best for Libya, which has become a battleground for internal conflicts and an arena for regional and international interventions that have ultimately led to the loss of the revolution’s identity.

Using the principles of sovereignty and the right to run Libya’s domestic affairs as an excuse was nothing more than a smokescreen. The harsh sentences against Qaddafi’s men can only be judged from political and historical angles as to whether they can help in the pursuit of national reconciliation. The death sentences issued against Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, Baghdadi al- Mahmoudi and Abdullah Senussi are an obstacle in the way of genuine Libyan reconciliation.

These sentences cannot be part of the accountability process as the court that sentenced them did not possess the legal or administrative authority to do so. These sentences will also cause deeper divisions in Libya, not reconciliation, at a time when some observers were suggesting that Libyans were moving towards greater unity against the threat of the Islamic State (ISIS) and the never-ending cycle of revenge.

These are all signs that indicate that the judiciary in Libya is not independent from political influence, including from those who favour political exclusion and reject the idea of joint political rule.

Nobody envisages the return of Qaddafi’s men to power in Libya, not because they do not want this or they are not looking for a new political role in this era of militia rule, but because they wasted a historic opportunity in 2011 and lost a chance to escape from the curse of the past. Ultimately, this is something that prevents their political rehabilitation in the eyes of the Libyan people and the international community.

However, the problem is that those in charge in Libya, and particularly the Islamist-ruled capital Tripoli, seem hell-bent on presenting unethical examples of governance, politics, justice and diplomatic relations. This gives the rulers of yesteryear the opportunity to claim that despite their myriad faults, they were not as bad as those in charge today.

The death sentences handed down to the pillars of the old regime have not conferred legitimacy on the pillars of the new regime, such as it is. This has not even prevented the torrent of support and longing for the past due to the general sense of disappointment with the mentality of violence and destruction that seems entrenched in the mindset of whoever rules Libya today.

The execution of Saddam Hussein ushered in a social and political revolt against sectarianism and Iranian intervention in Iraq. It brought in a new era of unprecedented Arab support for Iraq that even eclipsed Arab support for Iraq’s Ba’ath Party during the period from 1991 through 2003 when Iraq was facing unjust international sanctions.

However, the killing of Muammar Qaddafi, and particularly the gruesome manner of his death, marked a symbolic end of the Libyan revolution and heralded the start of the era of armed militias.

The wise people of Libya must stop the execution of Qaddafi’s men – for the sake of Libya and not that of the condemned. This would also prevent negative reactions that could lead to a terrible cycle of revenge killings and could help the stalled reconciliation process. Finally, this would help cement a broad alliance against terrorism and turn a symbolic page on Libya’s blood-soaked history.