When President Obama launched the war to support the anti-Qaddafi rebels in Libya, he said that the action would take “days, not, weeks”. The Libyan dictator proved more resilient and bloodthirsty than even his worst critics expected and ended up lasting more than four months. Finally, his time seems to be up. Qaddafi has gone into hiding and given the bunkers he is rumoured to have built throughout the country, there is no guarantee he will be found anytime soon. Still, Qaddafi can run but he will not be able to hide forever. The question is, what will be done with him once he is found and captured.
The rebels must resist the urge to dispense victor’s justice. Qaddafi’s alleged crimes are shocking both in their scope and brutality. The proper thing to do would be to try Qaddafi in an open court, preferably the International Court of Justice. This should not be because Qaddafi deserves the legal protections he denied to all Libyans but because it would symbolise a new, more open Libya, one that abides by international norms.
The disparate groups that formed the anti-Qaddafi opposition now also need to prepare a transition to democracy. Fighting to oust a dictatorship is one thing; resisting the temptation to wield absolute power yourself, quite another. The signs so far are not encouraging. One rebel commander was killed last month and opposition fighters immediately started hurling accusations at one another. Other rebels have quit the Transitional National Council that was supposed to be the united front of the opposition. At some point in the near future, the United Nations may have to step in to ensure an orderly transition and the international community will certainly have to help in the holding of elections. The stalled economy will have to be kick-started by resuming the production and sale of oil, and the ruined infrastructure rebuilt. Libya’s hated dictator may be gone but the country’s long nightmare has not yet ended.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 25th, 2011.
Watch a slideshow of photos from Libya here.