By Sami Zaptia.
Tripoli, 22 November 2013:
Defence Minister Abdullah Al-Thini revealed that the “rules of engagement needed to be . . .[restrict]established” for his regular Libyan soldiers before they could be fully deployed on the streets.
Answering questions at Tuesday’s GNC session, the Defence Minister questioned what would be the legal position of his soldiers if they were forced to open fire on civilians at this time?
What would their position be, he asked rhetorically, with regards to the law, but also with regards to religious and social norms and practices with regards to compensation or blood money, for example, he added.
The Defence Minister had been speaking at the GNC which had called in Prime Minister Ali Zeidan and his ministers for questioning in the aftermath of the Gharghour massacre at which nearly 50 had died and 500 were injured.
Much speculation has been taking place all over Libya since the appearance of hundreds, if not thousands, of regular security personnel in the form of police and army at various crossroads and locations in the capital.
The speculation has been centred around the question of, if the authorities had had regular police and army personnel in such numbers at their disposal, why had they not deployed them before?
In the past, it was suspected that the newly established post-17 February Libyan state did not have adequate numbers of regular security personnel in order to perform their security mandate.
It was also speculated by analysts and political commentators that whilst the new authorities may have obtained enough recruits, they were still raw and untrained, unprepared for front line deployment amongst civilians.
It was also feared that regular army and police personnel had the moral burden of having to deal with the negative Qaddafi era. There were fears that they would lack a moral legitimacy out on the streets, unlike the thuwar/militias.
Specifically with regards to the thuwar/militias, this issue of moral legitimacy could have led to friction and even out-and-out armed confrontation out on the streets. The GNC and government would have found itself in the awkward situation of having to at best referee between the two “legitimate” sides, or being forced to come down on one side against the other.
Whether the thuwar were seen as the wrong doers or the regular forces, it would have not been good for the morale of either at a time when the weak state needs both sides – in the short term at least.
However, it seems from the Minister of Defence’s brief revelation at the GNC about the subject, that the issue of legal cover, or rules of engagement, for regular troops may have been at the heart of their lack of deployment.