The referral of state employees to court for receiving bribes from foreign contractors sends a message of hope on rule of law and state institutions: Analysis

By Sami Zaptia.

Attorney General Sideeg Al-Sour has referred two state employees to court for receiving bribes from foreign contractors (Photo: Archives Min of Justice).

London, 6 August 2021:

Libya’s Attorney General, Sideeg Al-Sour, announced yesterday that he had referred two employees of the General Electricity Company of Libya (GECOL) to court for accepting gifts from a foreign contractor.

Whilst the two GECOL accused are still innocent until proven guilty, the fact that they have been officially accused of a crime and referred to court for a trial is in itself a huge achievement in Libya. It would have been an achievement during the Qaddafi era when there was a very strong state and institutions let alone in post Qaddafi Libya where state institutions have been very weak.

Return of the state and the rule of law?

The move could be an indicator that ten years after the revolution the state is finally starting to get onto its feet. It is notable that the Attorney General credited the Internal Security Service for investigating and providing evidence against the two accused.

Are the intelligence agencies getting back to work at last?

This two could indicate that the Intelligence Services are beginning to get their act together in securing the state and general public against crime, corruption and abuse of power. It may just indicate that the various Libyan security forces are becoming less militias and more state institutions.

Confidence by the Attorney General Al-Sour?

The move to put on trial two GECOL employees is also a sign of the confidence enjoyed by Attorney General Al-Sour. After, in effect, functioning as the acting Attorney General under the title of the Head of Investigations at the Attorney General’s Office, Al-Sour was finally approved by parliament in April this year as the Attorney General for all of Libya.

There is no doubt that that freed Al-Sour’s hands and his proactiveness after that endorsement is very clear to see. Moreover, his legality, constitutionality or honour has yet to be challenged across the usually polarized political Libyan spectrum.

The fruits of a unified Libyan government?

But it must also be recalled that Al-Sour was only finally confirmed as the undisputed Attorney General of Libya after the announcement of the Government of National Unity (GNU) – Libya’s first unified government since the political split in 2014. This would indicate that political unity is strengthening the Libyan state and its institutions, including the Intelligence Services and the independent judiciary which needs a functioning security sector to investigate and implement its decisions.

Sending a message to foreign contractors?

It takes two to tango. For a Libyan state employee to receive a ‘‘gift’’ from a foreign contractor there has to be a foreign contractor willing to offer this ‘‘gift’’. If the two accused are found guilty and the foreign contractor is publicly named and shamed, hopefully it will send a message to foreign contractors to stop using bribery and corruption to obtain contracts in Libya.

Sending a message of hope to Libyans

It is early day in this case and the accused could be found innocent. But it is not as much the verdict that is important as much as its process, as well as the hope and message it sends. Politically and psychologically, the move surely sends a message of hope to all Libyans that the rule of law, fairness, and equality are not totally dead in post 2011 Libya.

Today its two unnamed employees, tomorrow it could be a leading chairman, director, minister, prime minister a member of parliament or even a top militia head.

Ultimately, it is hoped that the appointment of Al-Sour and his proactive work will hasten the wheels of Libyan justice with hundreds if not thousands of cases pending over the last decade. There is a huge need for the perception that justice is being served out at a time of much suspected illegality, illegitimacy and corruption.


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