Friday, October 21, 2011

Three-and-a-half down....

(No risk of running out of red paint.....)

Back in January, I put up a tongue-in-cheek post on the Arab world's dictators, taking the chance to laugh at the cults-of-personality that have blighted the governance of the region since decolonisation in the 1950s. All good clean fun, provided that you don't have to live in any of the more-or-less authoritarian states they ran (badly).

I certainly never expected to be recording the final defeat of Gaddaffi's forces in Sirte at the same time as Tunisia is preparing for its first-ever democratic elections - with an astonishing and inspiring 11,000 candidates running for 218 seats - this Sunday. Hence, we are witnessing a zone of democratic opportunity running from Tunisia to Egypt - absolutely excellent news. Moreover, given the UN vote due today, it seems impossible that Ali Abdullah Saleh will be able to revert to running Yemen in the same manner as he has since 1978, bringing the winds of change to Yemen. And Syria? Well, I'd be a seller of shares in Asad Inc., were they publicly traded.

The legal bit
But the process of revolutions matters, and in Libya there was clearly an International Armed Conflict (IAC) between NATO and Gaddaffi's forces, sanctioned by UNSCR 1973, and a Non-International Armed Conflict (NIAC) between the National Transitional Council and the Gaddaffi regime; the ruling law was clearly some flavour of LOAC in places where conflict was actually taking place.

(Gaddaffi's last redoubt)

In the last 24 hours, it has also become clear that Gaddaffi was alive - though injured - at the time of his capture, and that he was subsequently shot dead, apparently in cold blood. Let's be clear - killing Gaddaffi was the execution of a presumptive PoW (presumptive in that Gaddaffi would have had PoW rights until an a GC III Article 5 Tribunal - which doesn't appear to have been held - decided that he did or didn't qualify), which itself is a War Crime contrary to Article 8(2)(b)(vi) of the International Criminal Court's Rome Statute.

As Elham Saudi of Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL) pointed out on the UK's Channel Four news last night, it would have been much better for him to have faced trial, both from notions of justice and for the victims to have their day in court. What is interesting now is how the new Libyan authorities choose to deal with these important legal issues - as the Rome Statute makes clear, crimes committed by both sides of an armed conflict need addressing.

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