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Will Libya make amends for Gaddafi?
Published on:Saturday, November 19, 2011 - 10:00
Libya has the enormous task of dealing with what the Gaddafi regime has left behind. Its highest priority is to sort out its domestic affairs, but it also has several issues to sort out with the international community.
Now Gaddafi has gone, a number of internationally sensitive affairs have resurfaced, and Tripoli is expected to deal with them. Journalist and Libya expert Gerbert van der Aa lists seven outstanding issues. What’s the state of play and what’s likely to happen - a chronological review.
The murder of Yvonne Fletcher
In April 1984, 25-year-old British police officer Yvonne Fletcher was shot dead while policing a demonstration outside the Libyan embassy in London. The shot was fired from inside the embassy. Libya refused to admit responsibility but did pay her family compensation. Mr Van der Aa:
“This case has never been solved. It was unclear who fired the shot. Recently, more reports have been surfacing and names put forward. A number of Libyans claim to have been in the embassy at the time and to know who pulled the trigger. There are now calls from Britain to have the case reopened in the hope of getting a conviction.”
In 1988, the bombing of an American plane flying over Lockerbie in Scotland claimed 270 lives: 259 passengers and 11 people on the ground. One of the two Libyan suspects, Abdel Masset al-Megrahi was sentenced to life. In 2009, he was freed by the Scottish authorities because he was said to have cancer and was not thought to have long to live. When he arrived home in Libya, he received a hero’s welcome and was immediately freed. He was present at a pro-Gaddafi rally in July.
This is another case which is far from over. Mr Van der Aa says many victims’ relatives are still angry at al-Megrahi’s release: “As long as he is alive, they will demand that he be imprisoned.”
Moussa Koussa, Gaddafi’s former security chief, is said to have been the architect of the Lockerbie bombing. Victim’s relatives want him to stand trial. He fled to the West at an early stage of the Libyan uprising and is believed to be in Qatar.
In 2007, Gaddafi released five Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor Ashraf el-Hojouj. They had been wrongly imprisoned for eight years on suspicion of infecting hundreds of babies with HIV. Mr Van der Aa:
“This case is extremely sensitive. The Palestinian doctor was horribly tortured by the Libyan security forces and has repeatedly demanded legal redress.” Libya’s new administration has already said the nurses and the doctor can ask for their case to be reopened.
Moussa Koussa’s has also been connected to this case. He is said to have personally wanted to extract a confession from the suspects. But he is accused of having much more on his conscience. Mr Van der Aa:
“Koussa has so much blood on his hands that there will be calls from many quarters for him to be brought to justice. On the other hand, he has passed on so much information to the West over past months that he may have been given the undertaking that he will not go on trial.”
Mr Van der Aa points out that many companies had bad experiences in their business dealings in Gaddafi’s Libya. “I can well imagine that those companies will want legal redress and compensation.”
“The best example is the Canadian company Verenex which planned to sell a Libyan oilfield to the Chinese in 2009. Gaddafi forced Verenex to deal with the Libyan government and accept a much lower price. The deal lost the company 100 million euros and I could understand them wanting that money back. And that could get other companies thinking along the same lines...”
Tripoli air disaster
In May 2010, 70 Dutch citizens were killed in the Tripoli air disaster. There was no real inquiry into the incident under Gaddafi. This is said to be a top priority for Libya’s National Transitional Council. A report is expected within six months.
Dutch Lynx helicopter
The aircraft has stood on the beach outside Sirte since the failed attempt on 27 February to evacuate a Dutch citizen and another European from the fighting. The Dutch government wants it returned even if it has been totally stripped down. The Lynx will probably go to a museum in the Netherlands. The defence ministry will be pleased if they receive Libyan compensation to pay for a replacement.
Extradition of Saif Gaddafi and al-Senussi
The International Criminal Court has issued a warrant for Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam and the former security forces chief Abdullah al-Senussi, citing crimes against humanity. It is thought they have fled to Niger or Mali: both countries are considered well-disposed towards the Gaddafi family. If the two men return to Libya, the authorities may not be willing to extradite them to the ICC in The Hague. Mr Van der Aa:
“The Transitional Council has said it wants to try members of the Gaddafi family in Libya. However, the country does not have a properly functioning justice system. That all has to be set up from scratch.”
Mr Van der Aa believes the new regime in Tripoli has more pressing domestic cases to deal with:
“I think they will only look into these cases properly in a couple of years’ time. Their initial aim will be to sort the country’s domestic affairs. Central government is not yet working properly. Various tribes have begun fighting each other. There are also far too many weapons in circulation. For the time being, Tripoli has its hands full with internal problems.”