Libyan opposition sets out post-Gaddafi vision

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The Independent Online

Representatives of the Libyan opposition today set out their vision for a democratic country after dictator Muammar Gaddafi has been removed from power.

A delegation from the transitional Interim National Council (INC) was in London for today's international conference, led by special envoy Mahmoud Jabril, who met Prime Minister David Cameron for talks in 10 Downing Street.

In a statement entitled "A Vision of a Democratic Libya", the INC said it was committed - following the defeat of the "illegal" Gaddafi regime - to a "civil society that recognises intellectual and political pluralism and allows for the peaceful transition of power through legal institutions and ballot boxes; in accordance with a national constitution crafted by the people and endorsed in a referendum".

Every adult citizen would have the right to vote in "free and fair parliamentary and presidential elections as well as the right to run for office", it said.

It said the state would "respect the sanctity of religious doctrine and condemn intolerance, extremism and violence" and "denounce violence, terrorism, intolerance and cultural isolation".

Unveiling the opposition document at a press conference in London, the INC's UK coordinator Guma El-Gamaty said: "The Libyan people have been suffering for 42 years under sheer tyranny and repression and dictatorship.

"The real aspirations of the Libyan people are to be free, to live under a constitutional democratic system, where there is rule of law, all essential freedoms are guaranteed and people can fulfil their potential and realise their aspirations.

"That is the hope. That is the vision."

Mr El-Gamaty said the INC aimed to "facilitate that process through a transition period until we reach a permanent state where there is a constitution crafted by the Libyan people".

The constitution will produce a framework for a new democratic civil government in Libya, he said.

"We have had enough of tyranny. We have lost a golden chance over the last 42 years to develop our country and utilise the huge resources Libya had to have proper development, proper prosperity and real freedoms," said Mr El-Gamaty.

"Now, once hopefully Gaddafi is out, this chance will be possible again and the Libyan people are determined to achieve it."

Mr El-Gamaty said the interim council consisted of 33 members representing all the cities of Libya.

"Two or three" had been ministers under Gaddafi, he admitted, but added: "These are people who carry a lot of respect locally in their cities and towns and we think they are quite representative.

"This is something we have never been given by Gaddafi for 42 years, and this is just a transition, an interim - this will not be the final government of Libya.

"This will only guide Libya through a transition stage, until a constitution is crafted, the constitution will decide how elections and government, presidential elections, parliamentary elections will be organised and that will be the final status."

Mahmoud Shammam, head of media relations for the Interim National Council, said the opposition wanted to take its demonstrations to Tripoli.

"We want to continue our peaceful revolution, we would like to go - if we've got the chance and the organised message - I think we want to go to Tripoli and demonstrate there and show Gaddafi that this is the means we have to go through to the end of it," he said.

"Of course we are looking for a political process. We are asking all the governments to start to think about a few things about how we are going to make it.

"One thing we are sure about is we are not going to allow Gaddafi or his family to be part of this process."

Asked whether he would like the allies to arm the rebels, Mr Shamman said: "Of course we are welcoming any help we can get from any country.

"Until now we did not get anything, so I am not going to comment on something that we did not get the offer yet and we did not ask."

Mr Shammam said that so far, they had not sought or received any offer of weapons, but added: "Of course, we welcome any help we can get from any country."

Mr Shammam said the opposition fighters had only "very light arms" to fight against troops armed with machine guns.

He said: "We don't have the arms, otherwise we would finish Gaddafi in a few days."

The INC representatives said that Gaddafi should not be allowed to go into exile, but should be made to face trial for his crimes.

"The Libyans said from the beginning that the ideal is to hold Gaddafi accountable for his crimes with a fair trial in Libya," said Mr El-Gamaty.

"Now he is also facing a potential trial by the International Criminal Court. That is the ideal, because these crimes should not go unpunished. They should be punished in a proper way, in a fair trial, which is something Gaddafi never offered his opponents in the last 42 years."

Mr El-Gamaty said that the INC feared more than 12,000 young Libyans suspected of involvement in the opposition are being held by Gaddafi's forces and may have been killed.

He said: "Tripoli - a city of two million people - for the last five weeks has been living in sheer terror, fear, kidnapping of young women and young men. Anyone suspected of being an activist or an organiser of demonstrations is kidnapped and taken away.

"We reckon there are over 12,000 young people in Tripoli taken away and put in prisons and military camps.

"We are extremely worried about their fate and what is happening to them. The thing is happening in Zawiya and in other cities.

"This is the hidden side of the sheer terror that Gaddafi is using to prevent the Libyan population continuing the revolution and bringing about change."

He added: "We are very proud of these young Libyans but we are at the same time extremely worried about the fate of those taken away by Gaddafi.

"We hold him responsible. We think the international community has a duty and a responsibility to send missions to investigate where these people are kept, because there are well over 12,000 and we think some of them may have been killed and their bodies used to pretend that these are victims of the international community air attacks."

Mr El-Gamaty said that the INC regarded the case of Iman al-Obeidi, a lawyer who claims she was gang-raped by Gaddafi militiamen as "a genuine case of kidnapping and rape which is just the tip of an iceberg of the sort of things that the security services carry out in Libya".

He said that the INC did not intend to write a new constitution for Libya. The text would be written by a body representative of the whole country and would be subject to approval in a referendum, he said.

And he insisted that the opposition was not asking the international community to overthrow Gaddafi: "The INC made it very clear that we are not asking any outside power to bring about regime change in Libya. We are not asking for any non-Libyan to come and change the Gaddafi regime.

"That is the job of the Libyan people and the Libyan people alone."