By Dr. Ismail Suayah.
In what sounds like an ultimatum to neighboring countries Mustafa Abdul Jalil, head of Libya’s National Transitional . . .[restrict]Council, recently declared at a news conference in Tripoli that the Libyan people would not forgive any country that delayed handing over alleged criminals from the Qaddafi regime. “We are capable of delivering a fair trial,” he claimed
For extradition demands to be taken seriously by the international community, Libya must prove itself stable enough to ensure a fair trial for alleged criminals. In the absence of a statewide police force or a national justice system, this will be nearly impossible to do. Once extradited to Libya, where will these alleged criminals be kept: in military or civilian prisons? Under what conditions? The international community is still waiting for satisfactory answers to these questions. Only when a national constitution is in place and a democratic government has been elected will fair trials be a reasonable possibility.
At this point it is not even clear which body has decision-making power in Libya: the NTC or the transitional government which it appointed. The fact that Abdul Jalil, himself a former judge in the Gaddafi regime, is making these threats and proclamations suggests that the NTC has not fulfilled its promise to transfer power to the transitional government until Libya’s first democratic government can be elected
Despite its promise to step aside, the self-appointed NTC remains a key player in Libya. Each time the NTC asserts itself or speaks on behalf of the transitional government, it undermines the credibility of Libya’s fragile new government and the trust of its citizens as well as the international community. Events like last month’s protest at NTC headquarters in Benghazi re-enforce the media’s perception that there is a power vacuum in Libya, and so do the tribal clashes in Kufra, the revolt of Bani Walid and the killings of Tawerghans near Tripoli.
Many who follow events in Libya feel that power is distributed among many factions whose motives are as disparate as the nation’s geography and tribal history. As many as fifty different militias continue to patrol Libya’s streets, seaports, airports, oil wells, and refinery installations.
The recent attack by armed militia from Misrata on unarmed refugees from Tawergha in a camp in the outskirts of Tripoli and the premeditated killing of some alleged Qaddafi supporters in the same camp raise serious doubts about the ability of the NTC or the transitional government to protect the Libyan people, let alone ensure fair trials of any kind at this time
Libya today is awash with arms that threaten its security and the security of its neighbours. Abdul Jalil himself admitted that Libya’s transitional government is still unable to control the heavily armed militias. Until the militias are disarmed and the transition government alone speaks for the country and oversees policing and defense, the nation’s stability will be in question. Instead of making unwise threats and indefensible claims, Libya’s NTC could better serve Libyans by fully supporting the transitional government, reinforcing its legitimacy, and enhancing its credibility for Libya’s citizens at this crucial time. In the name of those who have died for our freedom, Libya must now stand unified under one government.
Dr. Ismail Suayah is a former geology and marine scientist, currently working in the software industry. He lives in the United States in the state of North Carolina with his wife and two children. [/restrict]