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

Much credit seems due to the NATO force in Libya’s eight months liberation movement which had lost not even a single life in the eight months fight of ousting the Libyan dictator. No doubt that the strict enforcement of the no-fly zone had significantly augmented the rebels’ strength in digging deep into the strong holds of the Libyan army. Countless Libyans have dearly sacrificed their lives and stood shoulder to shoulder until they scored that decisive victory on 12 Oct, 2011 by killing the 69 year old dictator Muammar Gaddafi. History is being written in the minds and hearts of the living, and future generation, of course by the blood of those who had lost their lives selflessly.

Truth must be told that the victory that the Libyan public is yet to cherish has come through the agency and sacrifices of the same Libyans. The acknowledgement of this fact is of paramount importance both for the past, the present and future fate of the country. The past must benefit from the true records of history so that the martyrs to be remembered for posterity; while the present must be permeated with that sense of victory and ownership so as to remain empowered for what is to happen right now; well the future, that is what all the sacrifices are meant for, to ripe the benefits of lasting peace, democratic governance and the rule of law.

This fact is all the more decisive in providing the required morale for those who are yet to write their own history by ousting their dictators single-handed. It must be acknowledged a united public motivated by the thirst for just social order would be stopped by no earthly force. And what the Libyans did was clearly opposing the ‘right of might by the might of right.’ This belief and achievement, I suspect, would largely be undermined where a higher credit is made to go to the external and aerial force that only operated from above in facilitating the road to Benghazi, Misrata, Sirte, Tripoli, etc. Underscoring the role of MI5 and MI6 agents, or the Canadian or French veterans’ role in whose name a celebration is to be held, celebrating the US secretary of state’s diplomatic calibre and her president’s exceling ability in discharging his role as commander in chief, only reveal the blind-folded rush to regard the victory solely to be that of the coalition force. We listen to the news that primarily discusses how the killing of Gaddafi would boost the polls of the presidential candidates in the upcoming elections in France and the US.

Acknowledging the super powers’ role

It is not my desire to usurp the credits that must duly go to the US that played the initial and defining role towards enforcing the no fly-zone resolution and the NATO force that took over full control of the mission a week after the start of the operation and oversaw it through till the end. That had significantly reduced the risks of civilian massacre that Gaddafi was dangerously disposed to carry out, and solidified the rebels’ determination to get rid of the regime.

They enabled the rebels to corner Gaddafi and put him within a bullet reach to finally watch the august autocrat plead for mercy from the very people whom he had defiantly called rats and infidels. And to his misfortune, those who had him captive emoted more than they reasoned under the circumstances as we saw his last moments on the global media outlets. That possibility would have hardly materialised in time if it were just the liberation forces that were left to face the mighty hands of Gaddafi’s military, mercenaries and those supporters who were highly intoxicated by hate against the liberation forces that Gaddafi managed to saw. Acknowledging that is important in many respects but above all for the symbolism it embodies for others to observe that the international community would not remain as an inactive on-looker in the face of impending genocide. For that no doubt the Libyan people must extend their effusive gratitude and recognition.

A need for recording history

The Egyptians, after the forced resignation of Hosni Mubarak on 11 Feb 2011, instituted a Committee to Document the 25th January Revolution. The task of recording peoples’ power for posterity by the people themselves who have done the history is crucially needed for Libya and Libyans. The capture of Saif al-Islam (the sword of Islam) and Abdullah al-Senussi marks a significant leap forward to the end of the Libyan liberation struggle. Saif’s statement about his wounds on his hand as being inflicted by the NATO air strike a month ago explicates the card he wishes to play by blaming the West. He consistently defies acknowledging the ICC’s jurisdiction and showed now his preference to his home-based justice, or so it appears. The capture of these two prominent figures of the former regime some 19 days after NATO’s engagement officially came to an end discloses the salience of the NTC force and new Libya that started the revolution and also reveals its capability to sustain that victory.

It is now an opportune time to start piecing events together for the purpose of recording history that the Libyans have written, and the sacrifices that have been paid by the death of over 30,000 people. Unlike Egypt and Tunisia, in Libya there had been an external involvement of a new sort that only provided an aerial support to cripple Gaddafi’s military capabilities. That requires due recognition in writing the history of the Libyan revolution. History provides the groundwork that enables the present and future generation to march forward through a rightful path by avoiding the wrongful turns of the past. Accordingly, those recordings must establish a balanced account about the proper owner of the victory and the invaluable contributions made by the outside forces.

By Belachew M Fikre, Lecturer at Addis Ababa University, Institute of Human Rights

It is now 4 months since the Operation Odyssey Down (as named by the US), Operation Harmattan (as named by the French), Operation Ellamy (as named by the UK), and Operation Mobile (for the Canadians) has started enforcing on Libya the UNSC Resolution 1973 that authorises, among others, a no-fly zone over Libya, freezing of assets, enforcement of an arms embargo, ban on flights, and all other necessary measures to protect innocent civilians. Recent predictions are being heard about Muammar Gaddafi’s readiness to cede power (see The Telegraph, 12 July 2011). However, since this was a statement that he said three days after it had been reported about his warning to attack Europe (The Telegraph 09 July 2011), the optimism is far from real. The hard truth that he will have to face is nonetheless his days are numbered as the opposition gets emboldened by every single day as the backing by the international community intensifies.   And it is reasonable to make notes, on the basis of ‘if it happens’, about the issues of transition to a new dawn for Libya.

One critical decision that befalls the Libyan public and the transitional government would be issues relating to how to deal with those individuals responsible for so much atrocity and in holding them to account. That task would either make or break the momentum, legitimacy and sustainability of the leaders of the opposition who would temporarily be running the nation. The Libyan military, unlike what we saw in Egypt, is not an organ on whose hands the transitional government power could be placed for the very reason that it is killing the Libyan people that it was supposed to protect in these trying days. If one ventures on possible ‘whys’ behind the success of the Egyptian popular uprising, the military personnel’s wisdom, self-imposed restraint, and progressive thinking on impartiality of the military as a public institution must come as part of the list of those reasons. Obviously this by no means puts the Egyptian military personnel in general in complete innocence as there had been over 900 reported deaths that happened during that revolution as well. On balance, however, what we see in Libya compared to Egypt is a complete opposite.

Forgetting or facing the past

Acknowledging the undesirability of ‘let’s try to forget it’ type of approach as a categorical position must be the starting point. It is never possible to cover up these horrendous violations no matter how clever we are in convincing the public that revenge is of no good for the future. Even if people may be told to forgive, forgetting is not that simple and those wounds will eventually fester with a renewed momentum of anger, desires for retribution and dire need for re-establishing the lost dignity. Thus, there has to be a consensus on the relevance of facing the past rather than trying the impossible, which is to forget it.   

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By Natasha Harrington, pupil barrister (Essex Court Chambers, London)

On 27th June 2011, the Pre-trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for Muammar Gaddafi, Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi and Abdullah Al-Senussi (see here). The Court found reasonable grounds to believe that the three have committed crimes against humanity by murder contrary to article 7(1)(a) and persecution of opponents to the Gaddafi regime contrary to article 7(1)(h) of the Rome Statute.

Muammar Gaddafi has become the second serving head of state, following President Al-Basheer of the Sudan, to face prosecution by the ICC, where state officials are not immune from prosecution. Libya is not a State Party to the Rome Statute. Therefore, the jurisdiction of the Court is based on United Nations Security Council Resolution 1970, referring the situation in Libya to the ICC as of 15th February 2011, in accordance with article 13(b) of the Rome Statute.

In contrast, no investigation or charges have been brought against any members of the National Transitional Council (NTC), despite a report from the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights that cited evidence of serious abuses by NTC forces. Nevertheless, Gaddafi has made clear his intention to use the Libyan State courts for this purpose, and to try the NATO member states for war crimes.

Justice 1: 0 Peace?

If Gaddafi and his close associates do not relinquish power and slip away it may take NATO and the NTC many more weeks and months to remove them, and in the process Libyan civilians and the unity of their country will suffer the most. Many are now questioning whether the ICC arrest warrants are a triumph for justice at the expense of peace because, in the words of the Italian Foreign Minister, once a warrant is issued ‘from that moment on an exit from power or from the country will no longer be imaginable’.

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