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article imageOp-Ed: Libya - Don't Celebrate Too Soon

By Anthony Organ     Aug 22, 2011 in World
Tripoli - As it appears that the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) are close to ousting Muammar Gaddafi, it's tempting to see the war as over. This would be unwise.
As reports continue regarding the rebels' advance on the Libyan capital it appears that Gaddafi's war is all but over. Although his whereabouts are unknown at present, the dictator continues to broadcast his voice on state television, ordering his supporters to fight the invasion whilst he hides himself conveniently out of the way. Fighting continues in small pockets of the city but it is already largely under rebel control, surely meaning the war is finished.
However that would be a premature conclusion to draw. Apart from the fact that there are still several towns left to secure, the end of the fighting will not equal the end of the war. These next few weeks or perhaps months will be more important than any of the fighting so far and will decide the path which Libyan history shall take.
Perhaps most importantly the end of the fighting will allow the world to start to learn more about the largely ambiguous rebel force. Particularly for Nato and the countries which supported military intervention it will be telling of whether they have supported a noble group of aspiring democrats or simply another form of autocracy in disguise. In addition to this, the rebels who came together to fight against a common enemy may discover that they do not all share the same political ideas. It is less than a month since the rebel military commander Abdel Fattah Younis was assassinated in mysterious circumstances, leading to divisions within the NTC. There has been concern from the start that a portion of the rebels are Islamists linked to al-Qaida, and if a violent minority, or even majority, were able to fill the power void left by Gaddafi then the revolution may have proved irrelevant.
The leaders of the NTC should look to their predecessors in Egypt and take careful note of how their nation could end up in a similar situation. Months after ousting Mubarak, the Egyptians are still struggling for their freedom as the military continue to hold a large amount of power. The same could happen in Libya now that the rebels control armouries formerly held by Gaddafi. The rebel leaders should make watching these armouries a top priority or risk a faction of their own breaking away to take weapons and possibly attempt a coup d'état before the NTC have time to consolidate their control of the country. Also of importance is the way in which the rebels deal with their new prisoners. Already the head of the NTC, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, appears to be attempting to head in the right direction. He has called on all Libyans to treat "prisoners of war well and kindly". This is essential in differentiating the new government from the old and must happen if the rebels are to earn the respect of the rest of the world.
Similarly, as the rebels confirmed that they had captured two of Gaddafi's sons, Jalil also said that he wanted to see a "fair trial" for Gaddafi. As this coincides with Mubarak's current trial in Egypt, the NTC would have some important decisions to make should they find and capture Gaddafi. First they would have to decide where to place the dictator on trial. The International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Gaddafi and his son Saif al-Islam at the end of June and so sending the prisoners there would be one option. After fighting so hard against his forces though, the rebels will surely be more inclined to have the trials in Libya in front of the people whose lives they have ruined. Whereas a trial at the Hague would lead to imprisonment, a trial in Libya would most likely lead to execution which carries the risk of turning the dictator into a martyr. Similarly, the trials themselves have to be very carefully orchestrated. Again the rebels should look to Egypt for help. As Hosni Mubarak has been wheeled to the dock in a stretcher he has transformed into a pitiful man, a far different man from his days in power, and has even begun to look not unlike a victim. The Libyans must ensure that this does not happen with Gaddafi and must restrain the urge to humiliate their former leader during a trial at the risk of creating sympathy for him.
The near future will be the decisive test for the Libyan rebels. The battles may be nearing an end but the war is far from over.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
More about Libya, Rebels, libyan war, Muammar gaddafi, Saif alIslam Gaddafi
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