Tuesday,23 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1148, 16 - 22 may 2013
Tuesday,23 April, 2019
Issue 1148, 16 - 22 may 2013

Ahram Weekly

Libya passes controversial political isolation law

Ostensibly aimed at pushing out of politics Gaddafi regime remnants, Libya’s new political isolation law is a boon for the country’s ascendant Islamist forces, writes Kamel Abdallah

Al-Ahram Weekly

On Sunday, 5 May, the Libyan General National Congress (GNC) approved the so-called political isolation law that had been the subject of heated controversy between political powers and forces in Libya since the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime.

Law 13/2013 states that everyone who had colluded with the previous regime in the corruption of the political, social, economic and cultural life of the Libyan people from 1 September 1969 to 23 October 2011 (on which date the country was declared liberated from the Gaddafi regime after an eight-month civil war that lasted from 17 February 2011 to 23 October 2011) will be banned from political office for a period of 10 years beginning from 5 June when the law goes into effect.

The law identifies 30 government job categories — essentially covering the full gamut of administrative and bureaucratic agencies — that are to be purged of people who had worked with the Gaddafi regime during its 42 years in power.

Also, according to the law, the High Commission for Standards of Integrity and Patriotism (HCSIP) that had been formed by the previous Interim National Council will be dissolved and a new agency will be created to oversee the implementation of the political isolation law.

The passage of the law took place against the backdrop of a concerted siege by armed militias of a number of major ministries, such as the ministries of foreign affairs and justice. The militias, which initiated this action several weeks ago in order to press for the passage of the law, have not yet lifted their siege.

The law was approved by 157 members of the 200-member GNC, with three opposed and 25 absent from the session in which the vote took place. Another 15 members had been eliminated from the GNC by HCSIP.

The new law will redraw the political map in Libya in a single stroke, as it will force out a number of prominent and influential politicians who had played a major role in the revolution and the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime. Not even individuals who had contributed to persuading the international community to support the Libyan revolution will be spared.

Prime among those affected will be Mohamed Al-Magariaf, current chairman of the GNC and leader of the National Front for the Salvation of Libya. Al-Magariaf had served as Libyan ambassador to India before he defected from the Gaddafi regime in the 1980s and joined the opposition. His National Front Party will also lose two of its three seats in the GNC because of this law.

Mahmoud Jibril, leader of the National Forces Alliance (NFA), will also be forced out. Jibril had served as chairman of the Executive Bureau of the Interim National Council during the revolution, and resigned from this post following liberation in October 2011. During the Gaddafi era, Jibril had served as minister of planning from 2005 to 2009.

The liberal-oriented National Forces Alliance is the largest political bloc in Libya and the most prejudiced by the new law, as it will lose the talents of many of its leading figures for 10 years. The NFA had scored an unanticipated success in the GNC elections held in July last year, having won 39 of the 60 seats allocated for political parties (the 120 remaining seats were contended by independent candidates).

Observers have described the passage of the political isolation law as a major blow to liberal forces in the country that has fallen into the grips of armed militias, most of which support Islamist political forces whose influence in government has grown sharply since the revolution. The Islamists and, above all, the Libyan chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood, have the most to gain from the implementation of the new law. It is expected that most of the more than 40 GNC seats that will be vacated by individuals affected by the new law will be filled by candidates drawn from the Muslim Brotherhood camp and the Islamist parties in its orbit.

It is unlikely that the passage of the law will restore stability to the country whose institutions of government have been held at gunpoint for several weeks. After having secured their sieges of ministries and sovereign agencies, the militias pressed home their advantage in order to up their demands. They now insist the cabinet headed by Prime Minister Ali Zeidan must resign, that the budget approved for this government be frozen, and that “impartial” committees be formed to administer the ministries of foreign affairs and justice.

Last Wednesday, 8 May, in an attempt to appease the militias surrounding government agencies and demanding his resignation, Prime Minister Zeidan announced that he would form a new government in order to salvage the country from its current political and security crisis. In his statement, the prime minister softened his tone toward the militias, which he described as “honourable fighters and revolutionaries” who had legitimate demands that needed to be met.

Local and international human rights agencies harshly criticised the political isolation law. Human Rights Watch stated that the law needed many clarifications as its provisions and measures were excessively vague and loose. The international human rights agency also took exception at the recent amendment to the interim constitutional declaration intended to immunise the law against judicial review.

Following the passage of the new law, Tawfik Al-Shueibi, spokesman for the National Forces Alliance, described the political ban as “a very unfair and extreme law,” but added that the alliance “needed to put the national interest first in order to resolve the crisis” that has been gripping the country for several months due to the long delay in putting the bill to a vote and the armed operations against a number of ministries and the GNC.

Founding member of the Party for Change, Suleiman Al-Baraasi, voiced his alarm at the rising influence of militias, whether those representing the Islamists or those working for Jibril via General Al-Qaaqa, and the spectre of increasing recourse to arms to impose their view by force, on the pretext of the revolution and the demands of the current phase, “which were always the pretexts cited by Gaddafi”. He added: “The fear remains that now that one Gaddafi has vanished, several more Gaddafis will emerge.”

France, Britain and the US have not concealed their concern. Following the passage of the political isolation law, these governments urged Libyans to work together to realise the goals of the 17 February Revolution and to encourage the process of building and developing a democratic state, which Gaddafi would never have allowed to come into being.

Meanwhile, in Benghazi two police stations were rocked by explosions. The bombings, carried out by unidentified parties, are the latest in the chain of violence that Libya’s second largest city has suffered since the fall of the Gaddafi regime.

Following the attack, the British Embassy announced that it withdrawn a portion of its diplomatic staff in Tripoli in anticipation of hostile acts against the embassy in the forthcoming days. Simultaneously, CNN, citing an informed US military source, announced that an America force equipped for combat had been put on the alert in the south of Spain in anticipation of being sent to Libya shortly in order to help evacuate US subjects should the security situation there deteriorate further. The military source stated that the combat force was part of the US Marines that had been stationed in southern Spain in order to respond to rapid intervention needs in North Africa. The source stressed that the force was still in at its base, but that it was prepared to move to the nearest point in Libya in order to intervene and evacuate US citizens if the situation required.

The source, which was quoted by CNN on condition of anonymity, said that another force from the US’s Special Operations units had been placed on the ready in Germany in order to furnish backup, if necessary.

According to the CNN report, the US has already evacuated non-essential staff from its embassy in Tripoli. However, the US may be forced to resort to the military option in order to evacuate the remaining diplomatic personnel if the security situation degenerates to the degree that these people are unable to reach the airport, given that gunmen have closed off large sections of the city.

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