Post-Gaddafi Libya must respect human rights
25 August 2011
Allan Hogarth, UK senior advocacy officer at Amnesty International, says the international community must remain vigilant to ensure Libya does not simply replace old repression with new
The likely fall of Colonel Gaddafi's regime in Libya is sure to be another key symbolic moment in this year of momentous events in the Middle East and North Africa. With Muammar's Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli already overrun by rebel forces, the final fall from power of the Arab world's longest-serving leader now seems just a matter of time. What might happen next and what are the implications for the region and for European policy-makers?
Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the chairman of the rebel grouping the National Transitional Council, has vowed that Gaddafi and other senior figures will stand trial. He has also said that the NTC would merely act as an interim administration and that there would be "free, legislative parliamentary and presidential elections", if and when Gaddafi was deposed. Coupled with Jalil's reputation as a reformer who respects human rights, this is encouraging. But, as ever, actions will speak louder than words. I think diplomats and policy-makers should be judging the performance of post-Gaddafi Libya by four criteria.
Firstly, how well is the country dealing with the need to bring to justice those who have committed serious human rights crimes in the fallout from the "February 17" revolution, as well as in the long years of near-totalitarian rule before this? Second, will Gaddafi "loyalists" be safeguarded from reprisal attacks and will the extreme tactics of Iraq's "de-Baathification" be avoided? Third, will there also be an investigation into whether the rebels themselves have committed human rights offences? And, finally, will the new authorities in Libya seek to put in place reliable human rights safeguards - ensuring freedom of speech and assembly, that torture is stamped out, prisoners of conscience released, the death penalty abolished, and women's rights properly protected?
Drastically reforming and mending Libya is a huge and vital task that will benefit its long-suffering population. It should also benefit European countries and other regional neighbours. According to the United Nations refugee agency, some 27,000 desperate migrants from Libya have arrived in Italy in the last six months alone. Additionally, untold hundreds have drowned in the Mediterranean while attempting the journey. Even before this year's turmoil, Libya was negotiating controversial deals with its biggest trading partner – Italy - to intercept migrants at sea. Additionally, Gaddafi last year sought a payment from the European Union of €5bn a year to "combat" immigration in the Mediterranean.
The stance of European countries in the coming months will be important. Our own Foreign Secretary William Hague has this week been speaking very helpfully of the United Kingdom's willingness to assist with practical reconstruction efforts in Libya, including with such things as landmine clearance. Yet on justice issues his pronouncements have been equivocal. Asked about whether he wishes to see Gaddafi face justice in the International Criminal Court, he says that "in an ideal world" the British government would "like to see" this. But he also repeats a current Foreign Office mantra about this being a "Libyan issue" for Libyans. This is regrettable. The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam and the military intelligence chief Abdullah Senussi in connection with alleged crimes against humanity. Hague should be firmly advocating a handover of these wanted men to an international court that can dispense justice on behalf of thousands of Libyans who have suffered - not least, during the terrible crimes committed during the siege of Misratah.
Elsewhere the Foreign Secretary has spoken impressively about how events in the Middle East and North Africa this year are set to eclipse both the financial crash of 2008, and the horrors of 9/11, as the most important of the century so far. But it is absolutely crucial to follow through on fundamental human rights issues even as the euphoria of seismic change hangs in the air.
In Egypt, for example, the caretaker authorities - the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces - reverted to Mubarak-like repression within weeks of the removal of the ageing leader. Banning strikes, detaining and torturing Tahrir Square protestors and putting thousands on trial before military courts are hardly the hallmarks of a new Egypt. Little has been said about this in European capitals. If the same tendency is detectable in a post-Gaddafi Libya, will foreign leaders similarly remain quiet?
Armchair generals never tire of saying that the big lesson of the military intervention in Iraq is that too little thought was given to post-conflict planning and reconstruction. The same warning should apply to the need to restructure countries like Libya with human rights in mind. It is no good supporting those fighting for greater freedom and human rights after decades of authoritarianism, if you avert your eyes when the revolution ushers in new repression.This article first appeared on sister site PublicServiceEurope.com
HAVE YOUR SAY
25 August 2011
WHO or what will overcome the authoritarianism of fundamental islam??
Norman - UK
29 August 2011
ONCE LIBYA IS STABLE: ROLE FOR BRITISH COMMONWEALTH??
If ever there was an international mission & CONSTRUCTIVE, NEEDED PURPOSE for the British Commonwealth, surely assisting Libya's brave leaders with the establishment of:
1) a Charter of Rights & Freedoms for Libya; &
2) human-rights based, democratic, universal-suffrage governance structures; &
3) a merit-based civil service; &
4) a court system based on 'principles of fundamental justice'...
... is one!!
Leaving Libya a better place for ALL of its peoples- than before the west's/NATO's intervention supporting Libya's laudable freedom fighters- ought to be assertively strived for by organizations such as the British Commonwealth, NGO's, NATO, western nations & even by UN Security Council permanent members Russia & China... now that there has been a defacto 'change of regime' in Libya...
International organizations such as the British Commonwealth 'setting a constructive, positive example' by loudly publicly endorsing and substantially assisting Libya's peoples' attempts to make a better country for themselves would send an unequivocal message to tyrants in the middle east's other despotic dictatorships:
Enable positive changes in the way your countries are governed and in the basic rights your countries' peoples are afforded!!
Roderick V. Louis - Vancouver, BC, Canada
31 August 2011
Sad to hear about Egypt, if true then I guess they may have blown it. Doesn't sound like the makings of a brand new ultra modern Democracy to me. Which is a shame given Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya feel to have been off the World map for a long time. At least from the perspective of a public minds eye. Of course Egypt and Algerian State rulers can play luvies with the political elites of this world if they like. Though as long as they mistreat their own citizens the British public won't really want to know them.
I should think it would be important for Libya to be an open society and have a good un-skewered education system to educate the young. Also to be thinking hard how it can develop industry so that it isn't simply relying on oil and letting down the public.
In the mean time a useful chart/index to check how things are going is below. Although perhaps asking a lot if Libya could find itself somewhere near the top end. Then at least it could be seen that it was making good progress.
Chris - Keighley