February 18, 2013

A deadly transition: Justice too slow for embittered Libyans

Dozens of Gadhafi-era officials have been slain in the fight to keep old leaders out of new posts.

By MAGGIE MICHAEL/The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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Mohammed Darsi, right, and his son Khalifa Darsi, center, flash victory signs Sunday, the second anniversary of the latest Libyan revolution, in Benghazi, Libya. The elder Darsi, who is 85, fought in the 1928-32 Libyan war of independence against the Italians, while his son fought in the Libyan revolution in 2011 that ousted Moammar Gadhafi.

Photos by The Associated Press

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A member of the Libyan security forces pats a child while celebrating the revolution’s anniversary in Benghazi, on Sunday. In their new society, Libyans are impatient for “transitional justice.”

Al-Gallal says the risk is worth the potential payoff.

"We have lost youth like budding flowers for the sake of the country. We have young men who lost their limbs for the sake of the country. Can't you just lose a post, not become a minister or a lawmaker, for some time?" she said.

"If two out of 10 decisions to oust regime members are not right, it doesn't matter. The most important is to get rid of the eight others."

For critics of the bill, however, such a ban perpetuates the Gadhafi regime's practice of excluding a large bloc of the population from political life.

Mohammed el-Mufti, a historian and veteran political analyst, said such tactics will not lead to reconciliation but will fuel more turmoil.

"The revolution won. We got rid of Gadhafi. So why chase these people now?" he asked. "Why create a scarecrow and new ghosts of the loyalists?"

If implemented, the law would bar a chunk of current lawmakers and government officials, regardless of whether they defected to the rebel side during the eight-month civil war that ended with the killing of Gadhafi in October 2011.

Many of the leaders of the rebellion, including the head of the opposition National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, as well as the rebel's wartime prime minister, Mahmoud Jibril, would be barred. Abdul-Jalil was justice minister under Gadhafi, while Jibril, who is the leader of the largest political party in parliament, was a top strategist with Seif al-Islam's Libya Tomorrow project.

Even the country's current president, Mohammed el-Megarif, would be eliminated because he served as Libya's ambassador to India in 1980.

Another body, called the Supreme Agency for Standards of Integrity and Nationalism, vets Libyans for links to the regime. Sifting through thousands of pages of documents culled from the archives of the regime's Revolutionary Committees, the agency's workers search for evidence of links to Gadhafi's government or security agencies by current officials.

Spokesman Omar Habasi said the agency has disqualified hundreds of people nominated to government posts after finding links to the former regime.

Among those scratched was Ashur Shway, a popular security chief in Benghazi who was nominated by the current government to become the interior minister. Shway appealed to the Constitutional Court, which ruled in his favor and overturned the ban.

"It's impossible to start reconciliation without first presenting those implicated in crimes to justice and then start reconciliation," he said.

But there indications that some people have not waited for the political system to deliver justice.

Such is the case of el-Dersi, whose killing was the last in a series of assassinations in Benghazi that has shaken the city and prompted residents to set up tents in city squares and man checkpoints in their own neighborhoods.

As Libyans filled the streets Sunday, dancing and celebrating the anniversary of their revolt, el-Dersi's 17-year-old daughter remained shaken by her father's death.

"When I hear shooting, I remember the whole thing all over again," she said, choking back tears.

 

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