Leading article: In the Gaddafi clan's end is Libya's new beginning

 

Share
Related Topics

In one respect, the capture by pro-government forces of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi brings the victorious Libyan uprising to its appropriate conclusion. Until Saif was seized, it was just about possible for remnants of the old regime to hope that their defeat might prove temporary; now the revolution is complete.

The dead leader's favourite son and presumed heir was taken prisoner as he tried to flee to Niger, as other members of his family had successfully done before him. That he failed is the final proof that the Gaddafi clan's rule is over.

In almost every other respect, however, Saif Gaddafi's capture potentially causes as many problems as it solves. The first relates to his custody. Saif was taken prisoner in the south of the country and is reportedly being held by local militia forces in the northern town of Zintan. Whether the local militia will be prepared to surrender him to the interim government, and whether they try to exact a price in terms of senior posts or influence, will be a gauge of the real power of the Prime Minister, Abdurrahim al-Keib. Clashes between rival militias not far from Tripoli last week do not make this a superfluous question.

The second problem relates to his treatment. In capturing Saif alive, Libyan forces have done what they were not able to do with his father: popular rage could not be restrained when the injured Muammar Gaddafi was caught. But will it be possible for those baser instincts to be restrained for as long as Saif may be in custody? Ensuring that Saif Gaddafi is treated correctly, according to international requirements, will be a further test of the new rulers, both of their intentions and how far their authority actually reaches.

The third problem relates to the course of justice. The Prime Minister has pledged that Saif will receive a fair trial, and it is understandable that Libya's new rulers would want to have him tried under their jurisdiction. This could be cathartic for Libyans, while also validating the new government. Yet Saif is also wanted by the International Criminal Court, and there is an argument that the ICC and charges of war crimes should take precedence over any claims that Libya might have on the erstwhile favourite son.

There is an awkward conflict of interests here, and one that might equally have arisen with Saif's father, had he survived captivity. One suggestion is that a joint trial might be held in Libya, and that could provide a solution of a kind. But this is unlikely to be the first or last time that such a conflict might arise. It would be unfortunate if the first international exposure of Libya's new government were to be as one party to a bitter dispute about who should try Saif. This is not what the new Libya or its friends abroad need. The joint option should not be rejected out of hand.

Fourthly, and finally, there is the sensitive matter of Saif's international role as Gaddafi's chief envoy, and especially his interaction with the last British government. There is enough that remains murky in what has already emerged to suggest that there could be a great deal more to come out, and it is unlikely to be flattering to the British side. Saif's involvement with the London School of Economics has already cost that establishment its director, but the full extent and nature of the contacts that government, academia and business established with the Gaddafis, as the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, set about his rapprochement with Libya is still largely a closed book.

There are probably many, in Britain and elsewhere, who might have hoped that Saif Gaddafi would meet a fate similar to his father's, and take his secrets to the grave. For both countries, however, it is far preferable that the full truth should be known, if only to reduce the risk of similar costly misjudgements in the future.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission, 1st yr OTE £30-£40k : SThree:...

Middleware Support Analyst

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Senior Java Developer/Designer

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: My client are looking fo...

Domino Developer and Administrator

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Domino ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Medical staff members burn clothes belonging to patients suffering from Ebola, at the French medical NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in Monrovia  

The reality of Ebola: Buckets of chlorine in the streets, and no one shakes hands any more

Patrick Jamiru
Good2Go is the sexual consent app  

Good2Go: It's proper Sex and Relationships Education that will help end assault, not an iPhone app

Sian Norris
Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?