Sunday, 20 November 2011

Is Saif al-Islam Gaddafi's Capture A Turning Point in Libya?

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi was captured yesterday in the southern desert of Libya,   Gaddafi had been tracked for days by a small unit of fighters from the town of Zintan, acting on a tip-off, intercepted Gaddafi and four armed companions driving in a pair of 4x4 vehicles on a desert track.

Immediately after the capture the wrangling started on how he would be brought to justice.  The National Transitional Council (NTC) wants him tried in Libya under Libyan law, while the International Criminal Court, who had a warrant for his arrest, wants to try him.  Regardless how he is tried in the end, no one wants a repeat of what happened to the elder Gaddafi, who was captured alive, was killed and his corpse displayed for days, before a funeral took place in a secret place.

The Rebel Fighters, who are holding Saif al-Islam in a safe house in the town of Zintan, have refused to turn Gaddafi over to the NTC until a government is formed.  Since the death of Muammar Gaddafi the process has started to form a government, with a lot of wrangling by tribal elders on what the composition of this government should be.

Abdurrahim El-Keib, the Prime Minister designate for the new government, has indicated that the composition of this government may be announced as early as Monday. 

What appears to be clear is that the new Libyan government will not turn Saif over to the International Criminal Court.  Indications are that the government intends to try him.   Without functioning government institutions, including judges trained to conduct a trial fairly, this may become a difficult task.

If and when the composition of the new government is announced, the test will be whether or not it gets widespread acceptance by the Libyan people.  Every tribe has a dog in the fight and there are bound to be winners and losers.  As Libya turns a new page, the test will be whether or not they can unite the country and its tribal leaders, a difficult task to say the least.

Western leaders have appealed to Keib to look for foreign assistance to try Gaddafi.  Keib, who taught engineering at a U.S. university, has promised that justice would be done but Saif al-Islam would not be handed over to the International Criminal Court at The Hague.   The eyes of the international community will be on him to do the right thing.

 Keib said Libya would make sure Gaddafi's son faced a fair trial and called his capture the "crowning" of the uprising.
"We assure Libyans and the world that Saif al-Islam will receive a fair trial ... under fair legal processes which our own people had been deprived of for the last 40 years," Keib told a news conference in Zintan.

A trial by the International Court had the probability that some dealings of Western leaders with the Gaddafi regime might be revealed.  A Lybian trial may not. 

One can only hope that the younger Gaddafi gets a fair trial and Libya can finally turn the page on 40 years of the Gaddafi dictatorship.

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