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


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

Senior Pensions Administrator

£23000 - £26000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: I am currently recruiting level 3 n...

Are you a Teacher interested in Special Needs?

£110 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Are you a qualified Teacher w...


£60 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Preston: The Job:* The Tutor will prepar...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Photo issued by Flinders University of an artist's impression of a Microbrachius dicki mating scene  

One look at us Scots is enough to show how it was our fishy ancestors who invented sex

Donald MacInnes
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp  

Oscar Pistorius sentence: Judge Masipa might have shown mercy, but she has delivered perfect justice

Chris Maume
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album