Friday, 24 February 2012

Libya: National reconciliation, extrajudicial killings

What is to be done about on the thorny issue of national reconciliation? Finding a way to integrate the numerous elements linked to the former regime is a challenge of gargantuan proportions.

The Natuional Transitional Council (NTC) has displayed a schizophrenic approach to this issue so far. While Mustafa Abdel Jalil indicated at the end of last year that Libya was ready to forgive those who had fought for the Qadhafi regime, the NTC's election law is overtly hawkish in its efforts to prevent anyone with the slightest link to the former regime from standing as a candidate. Yet the NTC is aware that it has to do something to resolve this issue because of its potential to create serious trouble down the line. Libyans more widely are also resigned to the fact that the matter has to be dealt with. Some of those celebrating the revolution's anniversary in Benghazi referred to Qadhafi loyalists in their chants and slogans as (green) 'algae' that they had no choice but to accept.

National reconciliation is all the more pressing in view of the catalogue of revenge attacks that are still taking place and besmirching the country's international reputation. This month it emerged that Libya's former acting ambassador to Paris, Omar Brebesh , had been tortured to death after being called in for questioning by Khalid Al-Blehzi , the commander of the Ashura Martyrs Brigade . The ex-diplomat's mutilated corpse was discovered in the mountains of Zintan after his family were tipped off by the brigade.

Although the alleged perpetrators have been arrested, certain elements within the new establishment seem rather ambivalent about his death. Colonel Ahmed Bani, a spokesperson for the army, told the Financial Times this month, 'We are not in paradise … Maybe he [Brebesh] made a mistake in the past. Now he pays for that.' Such extrajudicial killings are clearly not isolated incidents. Amnesty International released a damning report this month that cited evidence of gross human rights abuses by the militias, many of them carried out against alleged members of the former regime. The NTC has to act if it is to put a stop to this cycle of violence.

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

© 2012 Menas Associates

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