Gaddafi’s death: Humiliating fall of a dictator or a martyr’s death?

October 21, 2011

By Belachew Mekuria Fikre, Addis Ababa University Centre for Human Rights

The news of Muammar Gaddafi’s death has come as a surprise leaving quite many unanswered questions. The event clearly marks the end of a 42 year old dictatorship in Libya and indeed it could be considered as a national liberation day. Nonetheless, for the 6.7 million people Arab country it evokes issues that remain yet to be further interrogated.

Liberation movement denying justice to the unjust leader?

The eight months old liberation fight has been rationalised by the ideals of freeing the nation from decades of unjust rule by the Cornel and his entourage. Now that his power had been significantly eroded it was only a matter of not ‘whether’ rather ‘when’ he would be caught. After Sirte became increasingly exposed to the NTC’s fighters what most people, if not everyone, expected was the capture of the former Libyan leader and then after as it had been claimed, to bring him to the national judicial system for his trial.

What we have seen live in the pictures, however, turned out to be a very powerful man being dragged on the ground by angry and amateur fighters of the TNC. Could this, therefore, be regarded as denying justice to the dictator who ruled Libya for 42 years unjustly?

It is something to fight for the fall of a dictator but completely another thing to do justice to what the dictator did. Though the circumstances leading to his death are yet to be unveiled, it is certain that he was alive when captured. Thus, the fears for extra-judicial killing loom large unless the TNC comes up with convincing evidence to prove the contrary, which could be that in fact his death happened as a result of cross-fire gun shots, and not by ‘shot-to-kill’ type of measure. Even if it can be proved that he died in cross-fire that too would build a martyr’s reputation for the Cornel who ruled his nation as a soldier since his young age of 27 and also died as one. However, at the minimum that would spare the TNC’s profile from being tarnished by accusations of extra-judicial killing at these defining periods of transition.

We have witnessed in this same year the assassination of Osama bin Laden who was found unarmed in his Abbottabad house with his family and shot to death by the American Commandos. It is therefore interesting to ask if that measure is setting a new precedent in dealing with those individuals that otherwise should have been brought to justice for trial and conviction.

Now that Gaddafi is no more at large, members of his family, particularly the LSE educated son of Gaddafi-Saif Al Islam-could continue to pose a challenge to the TNC. On the other hand, they provide a second chance for the new Libya to exercise and taste the virtues of forgiveness, justice rendition and inter-communal reconciliation. One truth is however we may legitimately hope that Libya will not be any worse in governance without Gaddafi.

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