Libya’s political leaders must not mistake the lack of demonstrative political pressure to address the issue of national reconciliation as a sign that all is forgiven. Dealing with our past is akin to treating national internal bleeding whose symptoms might not be immediately apparent to the naked eye but whose long term consequences for the health of Libya’s body politic can be extremely harmful.
When a 42 year-old regime ends as a result of a violent revolution, anomie is inescapable. But it is the duty of the successor regime to come up with a strategy that ensures justice is dispensed in a balanced way. This brings to the fore the urgent need to establish accountability for past crimes of human rights abuses and addressing allegations of active participation in systematic abusive practices in a court of law in a transparent and fair manner. It is in the proceedings of this transitional justice process, perhaps more than anywhere else, that the notion that “justice must be seen to be done” is of paramount importance specifically in helping speed up the national reconciliation process .
Transitional justice will not only help consolidate Libya’s nascent democracy. It will also preclude the rise of vigilante jus- tice with people taking the law into their own hands. Justice served and seen to be done will be an important deterrent against future abuses of human rights. It will also entrench in our people’s mind the value and high esteem and dignity associated with upholding human rights and the ignominy and contempt deserved by those who abuse it. Publicly acknowledging the pain and grief of victims can be instrumental in accelerating the national healing process, reducing the likelihood of continuing the vicious cycle of revenge and counter revenge and ending the vigilantism and lynch mob mentality beginning to take root in parts of post revolution Libya. A truth telling process, including full disclosure of human rights abuses, ensures that “the facts” are not forgotten but remain alive in memory. Lest we forget, Libyans need to establish permanent reminders of the past, such as monuments, museums and public holidays to commemorate the victims of tyranny and human rights abuses.
The worst investment we make in the future is to allow the present atmosphere of vindictiveness and desire for revenge to prevail. Unfortunately this is what is taking place at present. At a time when we are mov- ing towards a system of government based on the rule of law and of equality in justice and the championing of human rights, it would be difficult to exaggerate the harm that is being done to the raison d’être of the Libyan revolution by continued reports of human rights abuses in post revolution Libya.
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