After Qaddafi

Qaddafi’s much-abused body has finally been laid to rest, in an unmarked grave in the desert.  His fate has fallen off the front pages of the U.S. news, eclipsed by the European debt crisis, the elections in Tunisia, and the bid by “Joe the Plumber” for a seat in Congress, even as ever more horrific videos emerge of Qaddafi’s tormented last minutes alive.

Was it reasonable to expect that the rebel troops who captured Qaddafi would handcuff him and bring him to jail?  How much does it matter that he was treated with the most extreme brutality, shoved by the crowd, beaten bloody, and, it now appears, sodomized?  Should we care that Qaddafi’s death makes Saddam Hussein’s last moments on the gallows seem dignified?

Few in Libya seem bothered.  “You have to bear in mind that these young man have seen their friends killed in front of them . . . their cities burned . . . their sisters raped. I am amazed at their self-restraint,” Libya’s interim oil minister reportedly told CBS News, responding to allegations of atrocities.

There was little sign of self-restraint in the fate of Qaddafi, his son Muatassim, the head of the loyalist armed forces, and their bodyguards.  Nor is self-restraint the word that comes to mind in reading about the hundreds of putrid bodies being discovered in Sirte, many with their hands tied behind their backs.  But at least the oil minister gave fragments of a convincing explanation, unlike other top Libyan officials, who initially asserted that Qaddafi died in a “crossfire,” and later said that he may have been killed by loyalists who wanted to silence him.

Qaddafi was brutally killed in a display of revenge, hatred, domination, and fury, and his body was displayed for days as a trophy.  This, at least, is what the available evidence suggests.

Whether Libya’s interim government wanted Qaddafi dead, or whether they were unable to enforce military discipline among the Misrata troops, is not entirely clear.  The latter possibility seems more likely, and is perhaps more worrying.  The existence of armed groups that are beyond the law and out of the government’s control bodes poorly for the country’s future stability.

So what is next for Libya, now that the dictator is gone?  Sadly, in the wake of Qaddafi’s death, the hopeful words of UN human rights official Philippe Kirsch are harder to credit:  “The dawn of a new era provides an opportunity for the NTC and the future interim government in Libya to make a break from [the] past,” he suggested, “by establishing laws and reconstructing state institutions based on respect for human rights and the rule of law.”

Qaddafi is gone but the country’s human rights problems are not.  While a genuine and impartial investigation of Qaddafi’s killing would send a strong signal that a new era has arrived, this seems unlikely to happen.  One very much hopes that Qaddafi’s grisly demise is not a harbinger of things to come.

Joanne Mariner is the director of Hunter College’s Human Rights Program. She is an expert on human rights, counterterrorism, and international humanitarian law.

This column previously appeared on Justia’s Verdict.

More articles by:

JOANNE MARINER is a human rights lawyer living in New York and Paris.

March 22, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Italy, Germany and the EU’s Future
David Rosen
The Further Adventures of the President and the Porn Star
Gary Leupp
Trump, the Crown Prince and the Whole Ugly Big Picture
The Hudson Report
Modern-Day Debtors’ Prisons and Debt in Antiquity
Steve Martinot
The Properties of Property
Binoy Kampmark
Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and Surveillance Capitalism
Jeff Berg
Russian to Judgment
Gregory Barrett
POSSESSED! Europe’s American Demon Must Be Exorcised
Robby Sherwin
What Do We Do About Facebook?
Sam Husseini
Trump Spokesperson Commemorates Invading Iraq by Claiming U.S. Doesn’t Dictate to Other Countries; State Dept. Defends Invasion
Rob Okun
Students: Time is Ripe to Add Gender to Gun Debate
Michael Barker
Tory Profiteering in Russia and Putin’s Debt of Gratitude
March 21, 2018
Paul Street
Time is Running Out: Who Will Protect Our Wrecked Democracy from the American Oligarchy?
Mel Goodman
The Great Myth of the So-Called “Adults in the Room”
Chris Floyd
Stumbling Blocks: Tim Kaine and the Bipartisan Abettors of Atrocity
Eric Draitser
The Political Repression of the Radical Left in Crimea
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan Threatens Wider War Against the Kurds
John Steppling
It is Us
Thomas Knapp
Death Penalty for Drug Dealers? Be Careful What You Wish for, President Trump
Manuel García, Jr.
Why I Am a Leftist (Vietnam War)
Isaac Christiansen
A Left Critique of Russiagate
Howard Gregory
The Unemployment Rate is an Inadequate Reporter of U.S. Economic Health
Ramzy Baroud
Who Wants to Kill Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah?
Roy Morrison
Trouble Ahead: The Trump Administration at Home and Abroad
Roger Hayden
Too Many Dead Grizzlies
George Wuerthner
The Lessons of the Battle to Save the Ancient Forests of French Pete
Binoy Kampmark
Fictional Free Trade and Permanent Protectionism: Donald Trump’s Economic Orthodoxy
Rivera Sun
Think Outside the Protest Box
March 20, 2018
Jonathan Cook
US Smooths Israel’s Path to Annexing West Bank
Jeffrey St. Clair
How They Sold the Iraq War
Chris Busby
Cancer, George Monbiot and Nuclear Weapons Test Fallout
Nick Alexandrov
Washington’s Invasion of Iraq at Fifteen
David Mattson
Wyoming Plans to Slaughter Grizzly Bears
Paul Edwards
My Lai and the Bad Apples Scam
Julian Vigo
The Privatization of Water and the Impoverishment of the Global South
Mir Alikhan
Trump and Pompeo on Three Issues: Paris, Iran and North Korea
Seiji Yamada
Preparing For Nuclear War is Useless
Gary Leupp
Brennan, Venality and Turpitude
Martha Rosenberg
Why There’s a Boycott of Ben & Jerry’s on World Water Day, March 22
John Pilger
Skripal Case: a Carefully-Constructed Drama?
March 19, 2018
Henry Heller
The Moment of Trump
John Davis
Pristine Buildings, Tarnished Architect
Uri Avnery
The Fake Enemy
Patrick Cockburn
The Fall of Afrin and the Next Phase of the Syrian War
Nick Pemberton
The Democrats Can’t Save Us