While the death of Moammar Gadhafi has caused massive celebrations in Libya, it may also have a downside. It could mean the Libyan people will not have the chance to go through the full peace and reconciliation process by putting him on trial.
Professor David Crane of Syracuse University is the former chief prosecutor for the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the man who signed the arrest warrant for former Liberian leader Charles Taylor.
“There is a bit lost. Yes, justice seems to have been done, but in reality we tend to focus on the dictator,” he said. “We should be focusing on his victims – 42 years of oppression. And the victims want the truth to be told about their families, about what took place in Libya.”
Crane said when a “dictator” is killed, it holds the “potential of the truth not coming out.”
Rule of law
Trials are still possible for Gadhafi’s son, Saif, and the country’s former intelligence chief, who are still at large.
Crane said, “We have two competing equities here. We have the people of Libya and their new government wanting to prosecute Moammar Gadhafi and his son and the intelligence chief and others under Libyan domestic law, whereas we also have now the International Criminal Court very much involved. And they’re certainly going to want to be involved or at least certainly prosecute as well.”
Crane prefers that the Libyan people hold trials in their own courts.
“In the long term, the key to their success will be rule of law,” he said.
But does Libya currently have a functioning judicial system to accommodate such proceedings?
“That’s another good question because again we want to make sure that justice is done, but the justice has to be fair and open. The standard would be a willingness and an ability. If they are unable or unwilling to do this according to international standards, then the International Criminal Court could step in…. But if the Libyans have standing courts, they’re open and ready to function, then it’s going to take a pretty big showing that they’re unable or unwilling,” Crane said.
He said in neighboring Egypt, trials are underway of former government officials.
“I think that that the future, frankly, of modern international criminal law is that countries stepping forward and prosecuting those who abuse their own citizens, versus the International Criminal Court stepping in. The International Criminal Court has always been a court of last resort,” he said.