Although Libya was formally declared its liberation on October 23, three days after the death of former leader Moammar Gaddafi, the future of the country’s stability remains uncertain. Violence has continued in the wake of Gaddafi’s death, and rebel forces remain largely autonomous from Libya’s interim government, the National Transitional Council (NTC), and have essentially been operating with impunity.
Throughout the revolution, military aid from international forces has been instrumental to the rebels’ success. NATO intervened in Libya on March 23, when it launched operation “Unified Protector” to take “control of all military operations for Libya,” assuming the mission “to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under attack or threat of attack,” according to a NATO brief. The mission delegates the NTC, along with the United Nations, as consultants on its Libya operations.
Since the beginning of the revolution, the NTC has packaged itself as the legitimate government of Libya, releasing a Draft Constitutional Charter for the Transitional Phase this March. After NTC prime minister Mustafa Abdel Jalil declared an end to the revolution, President Barack Obama announced that the United States “look[s] forward to working with the NTC and an empowered transitional government as they prepare for the country’s first free and fair elections.” Currently, the NTC plans to hold elections in 20 months. Since the beginning of the revolution in February, the U.S. has provided $135 million in aid to the interim government. In September, the U.S. allocated $700 million of Libya’s frozen assets to the NTC for humanitarian purposes. Assets were frozen by the United States during the revolution to prevent Gaddafi from using them to buy additional weapons. The United States plans on dispensing an additional $37 billion in frozen Libyan assets to the NTC.
CRITICISM AND CONFLICT
The United Nations, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch have all condemned the unorthodox execution of Gaddafi and his son Muatassim Gaddafi. According to Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, “Finding out how they died matters. It will set the tone for whether the new Libya will be ruled by law or by summary violence.” A warrant for Gaddafi’s arrest was issued July 27, 2011 by the International Criminal Court, and these organizations argue that he should have answered for his crimes rather than been killed in custody. The way the interim government deals with Gaddafi’s killing, and killers, will set the tone for re-integrating former Gaddafi supporters into the new Libya.
Four days after the killing, the NTC bowed to international pressure and announced the formation of a committee to investigate Gaddafi’s execution. Speculation places Gaddafi’s envoy trying to escape the city of Sirte when it was attacked by French air forces. Then Gaddafi and security guards tried to hide from rebels in a nearby sewer pipe, where he was discovered. Reuters reported that Libyan Prime Minister Mahmoud Jabril read the medical examiner’s report at a Tripoli press conference, which claimed, “Gaddafi was taken out of a sewage pipe... he didn't show any resistance. When we started moving him he was hit by a bullet in his right arm and when they put him in a truck he did not have any other injuries.” Jabril implied that the bullet that killed the dictator could have come from pro-Gaddafi fighters, but there are inconsistencies between this account and the video evidence.
Videos posted on YouTube by rebel fighters show the dictator’s body being rolled through the streets. Gaddafi was on display in a refrigerator locker in Misatra, along with his son and an aide, for four days before his burial. The NTC claims it will not exhume the body for additional autopsies, and Jabril says that the medical examiner could not determine if the bullet that killed him came from pro-Gaddafi or rebel forces.
REBELS AND HUMAN RIGHTS
The NTC has yet to quell rebel forces. Human Rights Watch reports that more than 100 militia brigades from Misrata have been operating outside of official military control since Tripoli fell in August. In the wake of Gaddafi’s death, the country has seen widespread human rights violations, including torture of residents in pro-Gaddafi areas. On the day of Gaddafi’s death, 53 suspected Gaddafi loyalists were shot execution style in a hotel in Sirte, and were left to decompose.
On October 30, the Associated Foreign Press reported graffiti on a wall near decomposing bodies in Tripoli which listed the names of Misrata-based rebel groups and declared: "If the NTC fails to investigate this crime it will signal that those who fought against Gaddafi can do anything without fear of prosecution."
In many areas, residents of pro-Gaddafi towns are being attacked and run out of their homes. Angry Misrata rebels have displaced the entire town of Tawergha, Northern Libya, whose residents are mostly descendents of African slaves. The town is now abandoned, and Human Rights Watch reports that rebels have been burning homes and looting. Tawergha was the epicenter for planning Gaddafi attacks on Misrata, until it was captured in September by rebel forces. Angry Misrata rebels have been committing revenge attacks on the city and its people. Ibrahim Beitelmal, spokesman for Misrata's military council told the Associated Press, “If it was my decision, I would want to see Tawergha gone. It should not exist.” Human Rights Watch reports arbitrary arrests and beatings of Tawerghan detainees, as well as incidents of Misrata militias shooting unarmed Tawerghans.
Ibrahim Yusuf bin Ghashir, a representative of the NTC, told Human Rights Watch, “We think it would be better to relocate them [the Tawerghans] somewhere else.” Thousands of former Tawerghans are taking refuge in camps near Tripoli, Benghazi, and in the South. According to the United Nations, the number of displaced citizens is on the rise, as the situation in Tawergha mirrors conditions in other pro-Gadaffi cities throughout the country.
STABILITY STILL IN QUESTION
On October 31, NATO ended its campaign in Libya. Although the NTC had asked that they remain in the country through the end of the year, the United Nations has deemed it unnecessary.
However, Libya doesn’t have a strong military infrastructure, largely due to Gaddafi’s fear of a military coup. Post-NATO, the military power of the NTC relies on the heavily armed rebel forces whose oft erratic actions are largely out of the council’s control. As Al-Jazeera’s Jonah Hull explained in a recent article, “Gaddafi's death leaves the NTC to fend off disparate fighting groups—some still loyal to Gaddafi—as much of the deposed leader's vast weapons arsenal remains unaccounted for, all without an official military force.”
Mahmoud Shammam, an NTC spokesman, told The New York Times that “Nobody wants to give up arms now, and many tribes and cities are accumulating arms ‘just in case.’” On November 2, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon encouraged the NTC to gather weapons and guard warehouses of weapons that could be looted. Abdul-Jalil responded that the NTC would be better able to secure weapons once Libyan assets are unfrozen.
In the interim, militias continue to fight, with violence erupting in Tripoli between Zintan and Tripoli militias on November 2. There have been reports of heavy machine gun artillery on both sides of the struggle. NTC military spokesman Col. Ahmed Bani told CNN, "We would like to reorganize our army again. When we have a great and strong army, we are safe.” However, the NTC’s ability to control hundreds of militias under a national military umbrella remains questionable.
Now, the NTC finds itself disconnected from regional militias which formed their own military councils and leaders during the fighting, gaining respect and authority within their regions. In order to instill peace in Libya, the NTC needs to unite Libyans and reign in militias.
The rampant ownership of military grade weapons and the lack of accountability for rebel fighters is resulting in more civil unrest and bloodshed. In the wake of Gaddafi’s death, the country remains divided along supporter and rebel lines. Until the people of Libya unite under a singular banner, the future remains tenuous.
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