A mixture of pain and hope Salah Zaatar receives the 10-year anniversary of the Libyan revolution in which he participated with millions of Libyans against the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, and for which he lost his dearest people, two of his brothers.
“It was like a dream that we did not expect, under a regime that did not allow any room for political activity or demanding change or even reform, because talking about politics meant arrest and imprisonment for many years,” says Zaatar.
The Libyans went out in 2011 calling for freedom – a revolution on March 9, 2011The protests that erupted on 17 February 2011 were met with violence. Zaatar recalls how the Libyan army and police opened live bullets on the protesters, killing hundreds in Martyrs’ Square.
It quickly escalated into full-fledged armed conflict. It led, in the wake of a NATO air campaign, to topple the regime of former Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi.
‘Dream and hope’
Zaatar says: “Despite the violence that we met, we lived with the revolution the dream and hope of finally obtaining equality, democracy and freedom of expression, and to obtain our full rights, especially in a rich country like Libya, which has the resources that make us live at a very good level.”
“The revolution suddenly came, and there was no ready alternative that would lead the stage as it should be,” says the Libyan writer and political analyst Abdullah Al-Kabeer to Al-Hurra website. “On the eve of the revolution, Libya had no political competencies worthy of leadership, and there were no institutions that could be caught up in crises.”
“In the two years following the revolution, things were fine. The elections took place and the Libyans began to interact with a new era full of wonderful promises. There followed a frantic power struggle that soon erupted into an armed conflict,” he explains.
Al Kabeer believes that the political conflict, regional strife, desertification of political life, and external interference have combined to produce the current Libyan scene.
“We did not do the revolution for the sake of electricity or livelihood, like most revolutions, but for rights, equality and freedoms,” says Zaatar. “Now the greatest ambition for Libyans is to live only in peace.”
Fear of unknown fate
He explains, “We did not only expect democracy and freedom of expression, but rather that the people’s living conditions would improve and that we would become safe, but unfortunately we lived ten lean years of killing, deprivation and fear of an unknown fate, because of the wars and militias that have come to control people’s lives.”
Since 2014, Libya has been divided between two competing entities for legitimacy, governance, and control.
Libya is mired in chaos fueled by foreign interference since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011, and has witnessed a conflict between two powers: the United Nations-recognized Government of National Accord that takes Tripoli in the west as its headquarters, and an authority embodied by General Khalifa Haftar in the east of the country.
“We lost our dearest people”
For Zaatar, the memory of the revolution is mixed with the memory of the loss of his loved ones, the most important of whom are his brothers Ali and Musa Zaatar, who lost their lives in 2015 when one of them confronted ISIS, which was controlling their city, while the other organization kidnapped him a month later and liquidated him, “The revolution took from me the dearest people who died. To protect the rest. ”
And because Salah was a journalist and activist defending human rights, and due to the unstable situation, his life became in danger, so he moved to Europe, and resides in Germany until this moment.
Just as accountability remains elusive for the crimes committed under Gaddafi, including the 1996 massacre of prisoners in Abu Salim Prison, the killers of my brother Salah Zaatar are still far from justice, as impunity has been deeply entrenched over the past ten years. According to him.
Amnesty International said, Wednesday, “A decade after Muammar Gaddafi was ousted, justice has not been achieved for victims of war crimes and gross human rights violations, including unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, torture, forced displacement and abductions, committed by militias and armed groups. “.
The matter did not stop at lack of accountability, but rather the Libyan authorities promoted and legitimized the leaders of the militias responsible for the horrific acts, including the murderers of my brother Salah Zaatar who joined militias in Tripoli and some of them traveled to Turkey, he said.
Since the fall of Gaddafi, successive governments have consolidated numerous militias under the ministries of defense or interior, or as separate entities accountable to the presidency, and have included them on the official payroll.
In Last JanuaryThe Presidential Council of the Government of National Accord, which is based in Tripoli, appointed the leader of the Central Security Force militia, Abu Salim, Abdul Ghani al-Kikli, also known as Ghaniwa, as the head of a new entity called “Stability Support Device Responsible directly to the presidency, according to what local Libyan newspapers reported.
And according to Amnesty International, “The Government of National Accord had already provided legitimacy and salaries to the Ghaniwa militia since 2016, by integrating them into its Ministry of Interior, which would facilitate more unlawful killings, kidnappings, and torture, including sexual violence against female detainees.”
Ghaniwa and his forces in Abu Salim are not the only ones to be rewarded despite their bleak human rights records.
Haitham al-Tajouri, who headed the Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade militia, which was involved in the operations, has been appointed Arbitrary detention Enforced disappearance and torture, according to United Nations report Ghaniwa’s deputy in January 2021.
According To Amnesty International Successive governments have failed to prosecute militia members responsible for war crimes, including: Attacks Against civilians, such as the 2011 attack on the city of Tawergha, in which nearly 40,000 people were forcibly displaced. The Misrata-based militias have also subjected their residents to widespread arbitrary arrests, unlawful killings, and torture in custody. This sometimes resulted in the death of detainees. ”
As for the forces of the so-called “Libyan Arab Army” of the strongman in eastern Libya, General Khalifa Haftar, they have failed to arrest the militia leader. Mahmoud Al-WarfaliHe is wanted by the International Criminal Court for the murder of 33 people; According to the court’s website, instead he was promoted to lieutenant colonel in the Thunderbolt Brigade, according to Amnesty International.
Many other individuals against whom the International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants on suspicion of having committed crimes against humanity, or have been subject to UN Security Council sanctions for their role in human trafficking, remain free, or have even fought alongside the Government of National Accord or the Libyan Arab Armed Forces.
The Libyan Arab Armed Forces continued to harbor leaders of the 9th Brigade, known as the Nickname Forces“Despite its involvement in mass killings, dumping of bodies in mass graves, torture and kidnapping in the city of Tarhuna, according to Human Rights Watch.
Why was justice absent?
The head of Nidaa Organization for Human Rights and Community Development and Professor of International Law and Human Rights at the University of Misurata, Musa Al-Qunaidi, in his interview with Al-Hurra website, believes that there are many reasons that have led to the absence of accountability for the perpetrators of violations during the past ten years, the most important of which is the weakness of the central authority and the transitional governments. “Their successive failure to play the security role, the proliferation of weapons and the control of armed formations and their carrying out security tasks instead of the Ministry of the Interior, and the use of these formations after the fall of the previous regime enabled it to strengthen and organize itself well.”
“There is little hope for accountability. First, there must be a strong state with a monopoly on violence, and an independent judiciary that has the necessary tools to bring criminals to justice,” Al-Kabeer told Al-Hurra.
The judicial system in Libya remains dysfunctional and ineffective, with judges and prosecutors risking assassination and kidnapping for doing their jobs.
“Libya is a fragile state, and we do not have institutions, including the judiciary,” Zaatar told Al-Hurra. “If a perpetrator of a crime is arrested, a group of militia affiliated with this criminal comes to the detention center and evacuates it by force if necessary.”
A country torn by conflict
General Khalifa Haftar launched a campaign against the United Nations-recognized Government of National Accord in Tripoli nearly two years ago. The Government of National Accord repelled the attack in the middle of last year with the support of Turkey, despite the support of Egypt, the UAE and Russia for Haftar’s campaign.
Since the failure of the forces loyal to Haftar to capture Tripoli, numerous mediation attempts have been made.
A ceasefire brokered by the United Nations came into effect in October and is still largely in place.
The dialogue between the Libyans this month resulted in the selection of a new executive authority led by interim Prime Minister Abdel Hamid Dabaiba and a three-member presidential council charged with preparing for an election in December. All this, with official support from both Haftar and the outgoing Government of National Accord.
In his interview with Al-Hurra, Al-Qunaidi believes that the new phase represents a real opportunity to reconfigure the executive authority and the Presidential Council, with the support of the UN mission, and to adopt a comprehensive punitive policy to address the past legacy of violations and deal firmly with those responsible.
Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Diana Al-Tahawi, called on the parties to the conflict in Libya and the incoming unity government, to “ensure that those suspected of committing crimes under international law are not appointed to positions where they can continue to commit violations and entrench impunity. “, Stressing that individuals accused of war crimes should be suspended from positions of authority pending the results of independent and effective investigations.
Hope despite the pain
Although their country still suffers from divisions, the re-launch of political dialogue and the setting of elections revived hope among Libyans for the birth of a democratic state. On Wednesday, the Libyans went out to commemorate the revolution and the streets were decorated with banners, lights and decorations, while the facades of buildings were re-painted.
In Tripoli’s residential neighborhoods, traffic jams slow traffic and cars blast off popular songs of the revolution. Despite the public holiday, many stores opened their doors.
The main part of the celebrations was organized, on Wednesday, in what was known in the past as Green Square, where Gaddafi used to give his speeches. And tight security measures have been imposed there.
Al-Qunaidi says, “Yes, he is optimistic about the coming stage, provided that the elections to be held with international support and support and on a solid legal basis, that they be on the constitution after the referendum, for example, and the matter is also attached to the non-renewal of armed conflicts in any region of the country and not to be obstructed by Before some armed groups and formations, or some political parties that fear elections, or by some states that support chaos. ”
Al-Kabeer believes that the elections are a crucial step to end the conflict over legitimacy and power, “but there are other contentious issues that will not be resolved by the elections, such as the conflict between East and West over power, wealth, and the share of each party.”
But Al-Qunaidi says that “the elections at least will bring about governing bodies that have legitimacy by the people and are considered an important step towards ending the division of institutions and unifying legitimacy.”
Despite his sadness over the death of his brother, Salah Zaatar still believes in the revolution in which he participated for the sake of the blood that was shed, “and it chose the best of us. I believe in the revolution because of my sisters who sacrificed for justice and believed in freedom and democracy and I am sure that their blood was not wasted.”
And he says, “Even if the revolution does not succeed now, I am sure that the generations that will come after us will struggle to reach what we wanted, because the revolution needs time to mature.”
Although Zaatar won a European prize in journalism, he left the profession to escape from grief and pain.
Zaatar moved to the field of art, through which he tries to express refugee, marginalized and human rights issues, and to combat racism.
“I have great hope that Libya will prosper and that the Libyans learn over time the path to freedom, democracy, peaceful coexistence, accept each other, and learn diversity because we have the Amazigh, Tuareg, Tebu, Arabs and Libyans. Of course we will meet a way in which we coexist and the time comes when we share good things and live with each other. In love and peace. ”
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