By Mark Edwards
On October 20, 2011, former Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi was killed while his envoy was fleeing the city of Sirte. The National Transition Council (NTC) conducted an autopsy and determined that the cause of death was a gunshot to the head. With the death of Gaddafi, the questions now emerge of what will happen next. There have been calls for independent investigations into Gaddafi’s death and human rights organizations have claimed his death was an execution, constituting a war crime.
Gaddafi was wanted on an arrest warrant through the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity, had he been captured alive he would have been tried. Legal experts have called the death of Gaddafi a ‘missed opportunity’ for international law because of the implications of not being able to try the former Libyan leader under an international legal system that has yet to see a full trial conclude in the ICC. The death of Gaddafi also raises concerns about the intent of the new Libyan government to follow international law. The NTC has claimed that no order was given to kill Gaddafi. With the international pressure growing on the NTC for an independent investigation into Gaddafi’s death and the critics within international organizations claiming international law was breached, the actions of the NTC going forward will be watched closely. The question remains of how international law will be applied to the members of the previous regime and if any charges will be brought against the NTC. The rights of prisoners are an important part of human rights law and organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and others, take a strong interest in them. If in fact Gaddafi had been captured as a prisoner and executed then his rights under international law were indeed violated.
The death of Gaddafi also begs the question of what is next for the country and for Africa. During his rule, Gaddafi was a vital part of organizing the African Union (AU) and was called a ‘true nationalist’ and was not a ‘puppet of foreign influence’ by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. Gaddafi was a symbol against Western activities in Africa. The new administration was assisted by NATO forces in their takeover, which was condemned by the AU. The AU has long been wary towards the West and NATO assistance to Libya could put the new administration at odds with the AU. Nationalism is a huge component of African’s identity, both because of the negative effects of colonialism and the relatively recent independence of the continent’s states. Gaddafi was a believer in the AU and played a strong role in financing the organization. There are concerns that the new NTC government will not have the same relationship with the AU as Gaddafi had. While African leaders realized the attitudes and actions Gaddafi took against his own people, they agree that the relations in the AU will change and the extent of that change is unknown. Questions remain about Libya’s contributions to the AU both financially and politically and it also remains to be seen how other AU members, some of whom were against the rebel take over, and NATO-led attacks, will respond to the new administration. A lot of questions still have yet to be answered in the short time since Gaddafi’s death and it will take weeks and months to determine how his death will ripple through Libya’s domestic world, the AU, and the international community.
[Photo courtesy of Abode of Chaos]