By: Huda Biuk
A political isolation law which calls for the exclusion of those linked to the former regime from the current government is being drafted and will be submitted for the General National Congress’ vote in the coming days.
Last month, a group of GNC members issued a statement in favour of the draft law and said that figures from the former regime needed to be removed from the judicial establishment.
The law has international human rights groups worried that a piece of legislation might legalise and justify the need for discrimination in Libyan law. Human Rights Watch has urged the committee drafting the law to consider how it would fit into and complement Libya’s larger process of transitional justice.
A planned protest for February 15 is expected to push for the law, among other things, despite these warnings. Many people feel that the move to completely exclude officials of the former regime solely based on their past role will simplify things. Whether or not the law will succeed in eliminating corruption in the government; one thing the law won’t do is simplify things.
If you think about it, a commission is already in place to do the job this political isolation law will supposedly accomplish; only its decisions are based on hard-core evidence. The Integrity Commission was mandated to investigate any person seeking high political office for ties with the Gaddafi regime or evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
The reasons the commission does not publicise the charges made against disbarred officials has been publicly explained, and is largely for the protection of the disbarred official’s own rights.
While the vast majority of the commission disbarments have been backed by the High Court when appealed, the commission has faced attacks from the public for “lacking transparency,” as media reports claim.
This, to me, questions whether Libyans want a political exclusion law at all, since in the case of passed legislation, evidence of crime won’t even be required. It will be enough that a person who worked for the former government to be excluded from the government, as well as society as a whole.
While the argument that any official who climbed high enough in the Gaddafi hierarchy of government had to have committed crimes in order to attain a position of power at the time very well may be accurate, the political isolation law only assumes it. And, justice should not be based on assumptions.
Justice is a vital area of democracy, and is essential to a transitional period like the one Libya is going through now. A justice system that justifies any type of discrimination is not just at all, and it is not one that I want running my country.
I should take one moment to say at this point that I just may be one of the biggest advocates of holding accountable those who are guilty of crimes committed during the regime and revolution. Being the daughter of a former opposition member who lived her entire life in exile, believe me, I get it. But, the reality of democracy is – innocent until proven guilty.
If the average Libyan doesn’t ensure that our judicial system remains objective and non-discriminatory, who is to say that someone in some part of Libya won’t be wrongfully accused?
Another saying in Libya, one that I heard stated frequently prior to the revolution is, half of the Libyan population works for the government.
This statement is a reflection of just how deep the former dictatorship settled into every aspect of the country; from the oil fields to the seats of central government.
What seems hard for some Libyans to accept is that even if a piece of legislation can do the job of justice, if it does not sustain the visibility of justice, it is, put simply, not good enough to pass as legislation. Interestingly, very few politicians have expressed their stance in respect to the proposed law.
It would be both useful and appropriate to hear their different takes on the law’s prerogative. After all, it is their job.
How do you feel about the proposed law?
(This article was originally published in Tripoli Post on 2/1/2013)