Libya Should Turn Saif over to the Int’l Criminal Court

The capture of Saif al-Islam Qaddafi on Saturday has created a knotty set of political and judicial issues.

Aljazeera English has video:

Saif was indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. At one time the most reform-minded of Qaddafi’s sons, Saif faced a moral test from February 17 when the protest movement took off. He failed it miserably, shouting “let’s go, let’s go!” as he directed airplanes, tanks and artillery units to shell the demonstrating urban crowds. It is ironic that many in the Western Left, who now are rightly outraged about college students being pepper-sprayed by police at UC Davis while peacefully demonstrating, continue to defend the criminal Qaddafis, who attacked their own protesters with munitions rather more potent than pepper spray.

Although the International Criminal Court would very much like to see Saif Qaddafi brought to the Hague, ICC principles of complementarity do allow for a trial in Libya.

The interim Justice Minister on the Transitional National Council, Mohamed al-Alaqi, is insisting that Saif be tried in Libya. Though al-Alaqi maintains that Libya has the judicial infrastructure to ensure a fair trial, a post-revolutionary society in turmoil might be challenged in this regard. Al-Alaqi also is warning that Saif Qaddafi could receive the death penalty.

Libya’s new government should stop to consider that after the horror show of Muammar Qaddafi’s death and the exhibition of his mangled body, it has a lot of critics who need to be convinced that it is capable of instituting a rule of law. Delivering Saif to the ICC would go a long way in that direction. Moreover, having him tried abroad would be better for social peace in places like Sirte, where some still idolize the former ruling family. The ICC has the resources fully to establish Saif’s guilt and that of his father and brothers, which would be good for the new Libya. I understand post-colonial sensitivities about forwarding such a matter to an outside court, but the ICC is international, and Libya is a signatory to it.

Turning Saif over to the ICC will also require that the NTC interim government assert its authority and work out a deal with the Zintan militia, which is the force that captured Saif.

At the moment, al-Arabiya is reporting in Arabic that the people of Zintan are insisting on keeping Saif imprisoned in that town and resisting turning him over to the capital, Tripoli.

Zintanis are demanding a security portfolio on the next interim cabinet, as an acknowledgment of the key role they played in liberating the country. They fear that technocrats (some of them formerly having served Qaddafi) will marginalize the fighers and populations that actually made the revolution. But while Zintanis have a right not to be marginalized, they don’t have a right to do with Saif as they please. He should be turned over to the central government and, ideally, then delivered to the International Criminal Court.

Security, still shaky, is just good enough to have allowed Libya to get back up to producing 560,000 barrels a day of petroleum, up substantially from two months ago when production resumed. Before the war, Libya produced 1.7 million barrels a day, but during the civil war such production ground to a halt. Libyan authorities hope to return to producing 1.7 million barrels a day by June of next year, though some are skeptical that they can get past 1.2 mn. b/d next year. The return of the 2,000 foreign technicians may be important to restoring pre-war production.

Ironically, oil production depends in part on a perception of security and a rule of law. But bringing in the kind of money Libya could earn at nearly $100 a barrel could in turn contribute to a return to security and prosperity, as the government (which owns the petroleum) gains the ability to pay the bureaucracy and fledgling new army. For the time being, the refineries are being guarded by militiamen like those from Zawiya, but Libyans want them integrated into a national army, which will require resources as well as moral authority on the part of the NTC.

To get back to normal, Libya needs investment and trade, the prospects for which will be strengthened if it is perceived as a country where the rule of law prevails. Libyans would be doing themselves a huge favor to avoid the kind of fiasco that attended the execution of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, which struck most observers as more vendetta than due process. Images and symbols can be important in shaping public confidence, inside the country and abroad.

21 Responses

  1. My only question is why everybody is so mum, including Aljazeera, about the murder of Qaddafi and especially Mutassim. Founded and largely funded by the Qatari royals, Aljazeera fell from grandeur in my eyes because of this Libyan affair. They were ostentatiously biased. They never talked about Qatari ground troops, never even squeaked about the repeated calls for truce by the Qaddafi regime, no follow up was provided on Abdel Fattah Younes’s killing, almost complete blackout on news about Libya after Qaddafi’s killing and consistently downplayed the civilian damage caused by the Nato bombings.

    Aljazeera’s sense of journalism has changed. It is reminiscent of Qatar’s ulterior ambitions as the region’s top broker. Bending and twisting events to bring about an acceptable change in perception.

    The dictator is gone but the ones replacing him are hardly different. They did whatever was necessary, by hook or crook, to achieve their objectives. They have blood on their hands. Saif will most probably be put up for show to legitimize NTC’s rule but his brother wasn’t that fortunate. Summarily executed, Mutassim’s killing is a blatant war crime. The funny thing is, nobody will object. Nobody. As the ‘evil’ has been replaced with a blessed evil, tame and acquiescent.

      • Probe or travesty of probe. Lets see if they’ll probe into these:
        Hospital bombing
        Killing civilians and more and more
        Terrorizing civilians
        Abusing Detainees
        Executing prisoners
        A little summary of NATO’s charade in Libya is always helpful.
        Ofcourse the residents of Misrata and Benghazi were more dear to NATO than Homs, Hama, Manama(Bahrain), Qatif(KSA), Gaza, ………… How altruistic of the NATO nations to carry out thousands of sorties in an R2P turned regime change scenario to prevent ‘humanitarian crisis’. I can’t with any reasonable conscious buy into that crap.
        P.S. I am not saying that the residents of Misrata and Benghazi were rightfully suppressed but the foreign actors changed a purely indigenous movement for democracy into a mere tool to further their own strategic interests.

        • Actually Qaddafi’s attacks on his people turned a protest movement into a civil war, which someone was going to win. The international community decided it shouldn’t be Qaddafi that won it. Listing 6 NATO strikes isn’t really a balanced argument. There were thousands of strikes by Qaddafi forces. You couldn’t leave Misrata to be crushed by Qaddafi, crushing that began well before outside intervention.

    • As I pointed out before, no one expresses any problems with how the mob dealt with Benito Mussolini or Ceaucescu. One was a fascist, and the other was a Communist who was an embarassment to the left, so it is politically correct to look the other way, isn’t it?

      And I personally would love it if Jefferson Davis had been torn limb from limb by a mob of liberated slaves, or Hitler chopped to pieces by concentration camp inmates. I can’t believe that there’s anyone who disagrees with me about this. Would Adil really, really have a problem with a pro-American dictator being butchered by a pissed-off mob? No wonder the western Left is viewed as pathetic.

      • Pardon my aggressiveness professor. I was just carried away a bit. Its just very hard for me to accept anything coming from NATO especially USA on face value owing to their historical record. In case of Libya, there are so many variables pointing opposite to the popular direction. An oil rich country with a whimsical dictator and a distrusting citizenry emboldened by the Arab Spring was too much in my opinion for her erstwhile colonial masters to pass on. Any popular uprising can be easily ‘converted’ into a civil war if required.

        Mob justice is not right SUPER390. I think everybody agrees on that too. Would you also love to see Wall-street managers shredded by the OWS protesters?

  2. Dear Juan,

    I think your comment: “It is ironic that many in the Western Left, who now are rightly outraged about college students being pepper-sprayed by police at UC Davis” is a cheap shot. Right or wrong, people are against military intervention by foreign forces for verities of reasons. It is cheap shot to stay their stance against war is a support for the Qaddafi regime.

    • Being always against ‘foreign military intervention’ is simple minded and deserves to be roundly condemned and in fact ridiculed. France intervened in the American Revolution. If anything the outside world did not intervene against Germany in WW II soon enough.

      • While everyone has a right to their opinion (and even to ridicule) i am not sure that this is a very honorable position to take vis-a-vis the diverse pacifist traditions such as quakers and buddhists.

        Also it is telling that you need to go all the way back to WWII to find precedence for a positive intervention.

        If pepperspraying non-violent protesters or outright killing largely non-violent protesters is wrong (on which almost all of us here would agree) then why is it so exotic to be wary of dropping explosives from the sky on densely populated areas? Even if there were a clearcut case in history of aerial bombing that may have reduced overall violence (and I am frankly hardpressed to find a single one) I still would always be haunted by the dead, maimed, and poisened by heavy metal dust over generations, never quite sure if “the price was worth it”… who am I to decide who should live and who should die?

        I would suggest treating those who advocate against bombing with respect, while criticizing their critiques to make them ever sharper…

        What is the use to stop doubting the morality of our past actions? It is only a matter of time before they kill in our name again – let’s practice some soul-searching before the next round of killings.

        • The problem is that you aren’t upset about Qaddafi showering children in Misrata with cluster bombs.

          Very few NATO sorties resulted in actual bombings, and virtually all of those were on distant weapons depots or tank formations in the desert. People in Misrata were upset with NATO for *refusing* to bomb inside their city, where Qaddafi’s tanks had gathered. There were some strikes on command and control centers in Tripoli, but they were relatively few.

          Qaddafi’s forces killed thousands of noncombatants. NATO raids probably killed a few hundred noncombatants. All life is precious, and the NATO killing of noncombatants is reprehensible. But scale matters, and spewing propaganda for Qaddafism is daffy.

        • Professor Cole hardly needs me to defend him, Andreas, but your statement, “Also it is telling that you need to go all the way back to WWII to find precedence for a positive intervention” assumes that he “needed” to go back that far. Professor Cole may have used WWII as an example because it is a pretty clear-cut one, but it doesn’t necessarily mean he could not have offered more recent ones. For example, many people consider the NATO war against Serbia, in defense of the Kosovars, a positive military intervention. I, myself, did not support that war, not because it lacked UN authorization (which it did lack), but because I saw no United States national interest involved. Nevertheless, even though it was a European concern, the Europeans were paralyzed and NATO stepped in (without UN imprimatur), with the US flying 80 percent of the sorties and the UK flying most of the remaining 20 percent. Unlike me, most people, even on the Left, consider it to have been a worthwhile intervention.

          You may, as you put it yourself, “never be sure that the price was worth it.” If your moral gyroscope is so far out of alignment that nothing is clear cut in your mind, that is your prerogative. But it is also why we are fortunate that others with a greater grasp of both the US national interest and of the need for humanitarian military intervention are in charge. (And, again, I say that as one who thought we should not have intervened in Serbia on behalf of Kosovo.)

        • I’m tired of this peacenik crap.

          I’m half-Okinawan. Two of my mother’s oldest sisters died in the Battle of Okinawa. It probably happened because US Marines used flamethrowers to clear out caves in which thousands of Japanese soldiers and conscripted nurses were hiding. The Japanese told the nurses that all American GIs were rapists. So when the Marines ordered those in the caves to surrender, the nurses kept quiet, and all were killed. This happened many, many times.

          Now do I hold this against the Marines? Hell no. Those same Japanese soldiers tried to seize my mom’s teenaged brother for conscription. They also indoctrinated Okinawans into committing suicide, and some of the conscripts, now elderly men, are still speaking out that they were ordered to shoot civilians who would not commit suicide.

          More importantly, I know what the Japanese did to ordinary Chinese, Vietnamese and Filipinos, and their particularly small-minded cruelty. And I can well believe that what the US was planning to do to Japan barring use of the a-bomb would therefore have resulted in millions of deaths.

          This is so richly appropriate to bring up in the context of US economic sanctions over the invasion of Indochina actually provoking the bulletheads in Tokyo to okay the attack on Pearl Harbor. We don’t have very good tools to punish foreign governments for their actions. They are terribly messy and mostly ineffective and often backfire. We must educate our children, as part of their responsibility as voters, in the effects of those tools on innocent civilians.

          But I will go to my grave certain that the people of Asia are better off today than they would have been if the Japanese Army had conquered Asia. And the reason those old Okinawans are speaking out on what they were ordered to do is that Japanese Education Ministry fascists are still writing lies in their school textbooks about the war. 60 years of the no-war constitution have not stamped out this evil.

        • who am I to decide who should live and who should die?

          Have you never heard of the concept of a sin of omission?

          We would have been deciding about life and death – and deciding in favor of a great deal more death – by averting our eyes as Gadhaffi massacred his people.

      • By the way, John Adams claimed that American opinion at the start of the Revolutionary War was split 1/3 for independence, 1/3 for British rule, and 1/3 for empire. We really, really needed French help. So does this mean that our independence is illegitimate? Or more disturbingly, does it mean that humans use force on each other all the time and then try to make the best they can of the results? There is blood on the hands of the Founding Fathers; so does that mean we should shut the whole thing down and swear allegiance to Queen Elizabeth, or does it mean that we have as much right to violence as that minority faction did to remake the Republic to meet our needs, instead of treating the Founders as sinless deities and their doctrines as infallible?

  3. It is ironic that many in the Western Left, who now are rightly outraged about college students being pepper-sprayed by police at UC Davis while peacefully demonstrating, continue to defend the criminal Qaddafis, who attacked their own protesters with munitions rather more potent than pepper spray.

    Thanks for the great work you do,,, however
    …I read much from the “Western Left” and cannot relate to your accusation here.
    Who is defending the Quaddafis???

    • “Who is defending the Quaddafis???”

      Maybe a couple of dead-enders at Counterpunch, that’s about it.

  4. The debate about how to treat Qaddafi loyalists is focused on the ex-leaders. The plight of common people accused of being loyalists needs more attention. Human Rights Watch’s 10-30-11 report on ‘Militias Terrorizing Residents of “Loyalist” Town’ gives examples of the kind of abuse that must end.

  5. There is a factual error in your post:

    Libya is not a signatory to the Rome statute (establishing the International Criminal Court ICC).

  6. what the US was planning to do to Japan barring use of the a-bomb, it may kill thousands of people.

  7. Why Sadam Husain was not turned over to International Criminal Court?

    Why west do not want to see a similar Kangaroo court in Libya?

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