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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Dynamics CRM Developer (C#, .NET, Dynamics CRM 2011/2013)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Dynamics CRM D...

Web Developer (C#, ASP.NET, AJAX, JavaScript, MVC, HTML)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Web Developer ...

C# R&D .NET Developer-Algorithms, WCF, WPF, Agile, ASP.NET,MVC

£50000 - £67000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# R&D .NE...

C# Developer (Web, HTML5, CSS3, ASP.NET, JS, Visual Studios)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Deputy Editor's Letter:

Independent Voices, Indy Voices Rhodri Jones
A couple stand in front of a beautiful cloudy scene  

In sickness and in health: It’s been stormy but there are blessings in the clouds

Rebecca Armstrong
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?