Out with the Old. . . in with the Old?
Are political parties more interested in settling scores or honoring martyrs in a proposed political isolation law?
One need not sidestep two mottos of National Forces Alliance (NFA) (Libya by All and for All), and the Union For Homeland (UFH) bloc (New Libya with New Faces) to understand the extent of anticipated differences about the political isolation draft law; which, has been demanded by the majority of political movements, despite the differences over the details about who should be covered by this isolation, its conditions and duration.
Since the proposal made by Nizar Kawan, member of the General National Congress (GNC) for the Justice and Development Party (JDP), to include the political isolation draft law into the GNC agenda, a final form of this law, agreed by all Libyan political parties, has not yet been decided.
Given the different views adopted by most of today's political leaders about the former regime, the specter of isolation that threatens some of them and the expected failure of isolation that threatens others, it seems that this issue may not be easily resolved in spite of the consensus vis-à-vis the isolation demand.
Despite the lack of accurate statistics about the extent of the support of the Libyan street regarding the passage of this law, and the genuine points of contention about it, the street's division over this matter is clearly and definitely reflected in media and social networking websites.
Two interviews with two different perspectives give some insight into the proiorities and interests of opposing political parties.
Excerpts from interview with Dr. Mahmoud Jibril, head of the National Forces Alliance, NFA:
“Political isolation from what? When the February 17th revolution broke out, it did not have previously agreed upon goals; rather, the only spontaneously evolved goal was to overthrow the regime. The Libyans did not make a dialogue and agree on the form of the state, political system, economic setup, concept of justice and freedom, or political partnership. Consequently, since the fall of the regime, different visions have emerged."
"The dangerous thing,” Jibril continued, “is that all parties claim that the revolution is theirs, while it de facto belongs to no one since it is a shared property of the Libyan people. But, every group claims it is the worthiest of leading the revolution; those who took up arms, played a political role, played an economic role through fundraising, and those who treated the wounded. Even the women who cooked food for the rebels claim they are the worthiest. It is in fact a revolution of the entire people; therefore, a dialogue among all groups representing all Libyans is needed in order to agree on an alternative."
"A political isolation that is proposed in the absence of an agreement on the new model turns into purely personal ambitions. And, if the proposed isolation aims at getting rid of certain individuals, these individuals must be named. The GNC may agree to say – which is not shameful – that Mahmoud Jibril, Abdel Rahman Shalgham, Ibrahim Dabbashi and so on – fifteen, twenty, one hundred or two hundred – of those believed to be a threat to the revolution, for whatever reason, must be banned from participating in politics for 10 or 20 years or for good, for the sake of social peace. I am willing to accept and comply with this decision. But it is not appropriate to accuse more than one million officials of being remnants of the ousted regime and demand that they are isolated."
"If all the civil servants should be excluded because they are remnants of the toppled regime and also those who lived abroad because they are multinational (this idea existed at a particular point in the past), then who is fit to lead the political scene? Are they those who were in prison until the revolution? Those prisoners belong to the Islamic movements. This means that political isolation is intended to exclude the people, regardless of their contribution to the revolution, because they may be contestants due to their popularity, and will ultimately constitute an obstacle in the way of Islamic movements' assuming the leadership of the political scene."
When asked about the fact that the Islamists are not the only advocates of political isolation since prominent historical opposition figures are also involved, Jibril replied: "Of course. But we believe that struggle is indivisible. This must be instilled in the minds of future generations. There is an entitlement I may name 'historical struggle entitlement' or 'history entitlement'. The opposition established abroad since the mid-1970s, not just since 1979, has constituted more than 13 movements, one of which was the "National Front for the Salvation of Libya". Some of these movements were limited in number. There was a long history, and there was a struggle going on at home, for which activists paid their lives or spent their youth in prisons. They belonged to different political affiliations, from left to right. There was also the entitlement of prison sufferings and regime overthrow."
"We must recognize that those who contributed to the toppling of the regime belonged to numerous groups. Some people were not part of overseas opposition or former prisoners, yet they played a more active role in the overthrow of the regime than that of the opposition abroad or those in prison."
"I would not be offending anyone if I said that some of those who lead the political scene at present and demand political isolation did not have any significant role at all in the first month of the revolution, not even in the form of a media statement, even though that month was the most serious, because it marked the highest risk," Jibril insisted.
"After NATO's intervention, many people felt more encouraged to join the revolution. As they saw Gaddafi's troops being bombed, they had a vehement urge to join the fighters' ranks. Some joined the revolution on August 20th and others on October 23, 2011. Some of them now lead the political scene and take decisions on who should stay and who should go, which is tantamount to 'hijacking the revolution', a grave violation of the Libyan history."
"Political isolation must be isolation of behavior, rather than of individuals. The behavior we seek to isolate in defense of the revolution is the discriminatory views held by certain groups with regard to Libyans' rights. This is against the idea of equality of citizenship. Another behavior is to call for marginalizing a region, tribe, city, or one ethnic group in favor of another. There are humanitarian principles advocated by Islam, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and all international conventions that must be a framework for our revolution."
"As for those who call for use of violence and exclusion of others, based on their practice during the former regime, like stealing Libyans' money, killing or intercepting the February 17th revolutionaries, and committing acts of rape or torture, these are flagrant violations and behaviors whose perpetrators must be held accountable.”
"What is being discussed with the proposed plans is centered on the word 'who' was involved in such an action. Therefore, you are talking about isolating individuals, rather than behaviors, while the discussion must be focused on isolating certain behaviors. In other words, the danger may now rest with individuals who were not part of the former regime. There are practices taking place now that constitute a threat to the revolution."
Excerpts from interview with Adbul Rahman Swehli, head of Union for Homeland (UFH):
Abdul Rahman Swehli, represents another point of view. He believes that it is the right of all Libyans to contribute one way or another to the reconstruction stage. However, the dispute is about who will lead in the upcoming stage, rather than who will participate in it. “Whoever belongs to the former regime may 'pray with us',” he says, “but will not be allowed to lead our prayer.”
Swehli says the draft law of political isolation is still under discussion. "We have started an expanded dialogue with several sectors of the Libyan people and with the GNC political blocs, with the National Front Party, and JDP at the top. I believe we are now in the process of developing an integrated draft that will be presented to the GNC in the near future," Swehli said.
When asked about whether this law may hurt some bloc members with whom he is carrying out consultations Swehli said: “We have not agreed yet on the details of the political isolation law, which I think may have other titles. Some suggest it should be named ‘Revolution Protection Law’, but I personally prefer to call it the ‘Loyalty to the Martyrs Law’ because we must be loyal to those who gave their lives and sacrificed for Libya. I think their most important demand was to get rid of not only Muammar Gaddafi and his family, but also the remnants of that regime, so that an opportunity to allow new faces to build a new Libya is availed.”
“In my opinion, the articles of the new law must exclusively focus on the leaders and symbols only, namely those who effectively contributed to ruining Libya's political life. I am not referring to the talk promoted by the media about those with blood stained hands, or those who stole Libyan's money; these are criminal issues that have nothing to do with political isolation at all. I am speaking about those who participated in political corruption,” he explained.
“I want to ask the Libyan people a question: Did not those who assumed positions under the former regime and were symbols of it, clearly contribute to corrupting the political life and prolonging the regime's life? Similarly, other high-ranking officials who knew about the atrocities, crimes, and human rights violations perpetrated by the former regime were also implicated. I believe these people must now stay away from political life for a period of five to ten years. After the isolation period, they will be entitled to participate in politics because by that time we shall have laid down the foundations of the new state. The danger posed by these people lies in their mentality, practices, and culture, which are still saturated with the dictatorial regime's mentality, culture, and practices. Persons who worked for 30 years with that regime are very likely to influence political decisions if they are to be involved in the present political life.”
“Thus, although ‘corrupting the political life’ is not a criminal act penalized under the law, we believe that accelerating judicial reform may be one way of resolving the problem in the long-term, in case no agreement on the draft law has been reached. That will cause many people, who fear that old cases may be dug up, to automatically distance themselves from contesting political life; especially since we see the fate of those who interfere in public affairs and the attacks leveled against them.”
This reform process will also prevent those who take political isolation as an excuse for getting rid of opponents with no direct connection of prolonging the life of the former regime, because they will be required to provide evidence in courts. We also do not believe that restricting the time of working with the regime will have a positive impact on resolving the dispute. The results of the work of the ‘High Commission for the Application of Standards of Integrity and Patriotism’ can be an example to learn from.”