Libyan ‘Political Isolation law’ is national unity disaster

Libyan citizens suffered immensely under Muammar Gaddafi’s former dictatorial regime, but their dreams of democracy, freedom and political stability now seem to be teetering on the brink of collapse.

Yesterday, the Libyan parliament approved, almost unanimously, a controversial law of political isolation. The legislative move came after armed militant proponents of the law besieged sovereign ministries, including the ministry of foreign affairs and the ministry of justice.

The militants’ siege upon these ministries ceased immediately the law was adopted.

However, a siege on freedom and national reconciliation has begun, which might foretell confrontations and clashes in the near future.

The draft law, which has yet to be ratified by the Judicial Committee of the General National Congress, prohibits former regime collaborators from engaging in political and administrative work, thereby negating their right to run in Libyan elections. It also bans anyone who worked in government under Gaddafi 's rule from holding leadership, administration or finance positions in all civic organisations for the next 10 years.

Former regime collaborators will also be forbidden from establishing or joining political parties, civil society groups, federations, associations and clubs.

Libya’s new legislation is even more severe than the de-Baathification law, developed by Ahmad Chalabi and adopted by Paul Bremer, the American Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority of Iraq following the 2003 invasion. The de-Baathification law was a democratic black spot in Iraq, and a major obstacle to national reconciliation and stability.

It is ironic that the President of Parliament, Mohammed Maqrif, served as Libya’s ambassador to India under the Gaddafi regime before defecting and forming an opposition party. He was assisted by the CIA, which trained him to assassinate Gaddafi and advised him to invade Libya from the south, entering from Chad.

Under the new law, Maqrif is not entitled to stay in office.

The same is true for Mustafa Abdul Jalil, who led the first National Transitional Council after Gaddafi was ousted. Jalil was a member and chairman of the Revolutionary Court set up by Gaddafi to prosecute his opponents, and also served as the former dictator's Minister of Justice.

Mahmoud Jibril, post-Gaddafi Libya’s first prime minister, also faces isolation under the new law. Jibril served as minister of planning under the former regime and was previously Saif al-Islam Gaddafi’s right hand man.

More seriously, the majority of Libya's current ambassadors will be deposed.

Abdel-Rahman Shalgam, who played a major role in persuading the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution authorising military intervention to overthrow Gaddafi regime, will be prohibited from participating in politics.
Shalgam served as director of Libya’s national news agency, minister of information, and foreign minister under the former regime.

Mahmoud Nakua, the current Libyan ambassador to the UK, is also set to be banned. Nakua was on good terms with Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, whom he praised and upheld as a beacon for Libyan development in an article in Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper.

Those who drafted the new law do not understand that such political alienation will kindle anger and frustration among hundreds, of Libyans who worked with the Gaddafi regime for over 40 years. Gaddafi was the legitimate authority at the time, and politicians had no choice but to work and feed their children.

These former leaders, along with their children, could turn into enemies of the new regime, which already faces animosity due to territorial division, insecurity, and the failure of state institutions to provide basic services to citizens.

Angry rebel clans, together with hundreds of thousands of former regime supporters who have been marginalised and whose regions of Sirte, Bani Walid, Tawergha and Sabha were bombed, may yet form a counter-revolutionary army. Such a group could now be joined by those who face political isolation simply because they worked with the former regime, whether by will or force.

Adopting this draft law, unanimously and under the threat of armed groups, clearly reflects the mentality of revenge pervading Libya at a time when the country needs to rise above grudges and feuds to head towards reconciliation and forgiveness.

The draft law is a recipe for instability, infighting and the concretisation of political, social and perhaps territorial and tribal divisions.