Libya: Foreign Nationals Arrested By New Rulers


No reaction came so far from a group of countries called ‘Friends of Libya’ a day before their meeting in Paris, about the arrest of several foreign nationals by security forces in Libya during the last days.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy has invited countries that consider themselves “Friends of Libya” to a meeting in Paris on 1 September, after talks with the prime minister of Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC), Mahmoud Jibril last week. A day before the meeting, the messages sent by Libya’s National Transitional Council are controversial and raise questions about the future of the North African country.

According to recent media reports, several foreign citizens have been detained in Libya without any reasons given. The International Committee of the Red Cross confirms that Libyan rebels are holding “several hundred” prisoners, including foreign nationals. Balkan media reported that there are 17 Croats and 5 Serbs among the prisoners of the new authorities in Tripoli.

It is astonishing that none of the governments supporting the NTC have reacted so far to clarify the reasons for the foreigner’s arrest. It is also surprising that Libya’s ‘fighters for democracy’ have provided no information whatsoever about the condition and whereabouts of the detainees. In addition to the moral and other support from the international community, the NTC has  received solid financial help and now should be held accountable for its actions. The simple truth is that the toppling of ex-dictator Gaddafi is not enough to ensure democracy and rule of law. The end of Gaddafi’s era may have come as a desired result in the context of international economic interests but it also raises questions about the new beginning.

It is somewhat worrying that the Draft Constitutional Charter adopted as a provisional constitution by the Libyan National Transitional Council states, that Islamic jurisprudence (sharia) will be “the principal source of legislation”.

Article 1 of the NTC document reads, “Islam is the religion of the state” – Gaddafi’s 1969 constitution says the same.

The NTC’s Charter envisages that non-Muslims in Libya  are allowed to practise their religion and it hints the possibility of different personal status laws for different religions. The experience in Egypt and elsewhere has shown that attempting to use different personal status laws for members of different religions is a dangerous game.

One of the curious traits of the document is that it has omitted the word “Arab” in Article 1, “Libya is an independent democratic state wherein the people are the source of authorities …” in contrast to Art.1 of the 1969 Constitution “”Libya is an Arab, democratic, and free republic in which sovereignty is vested in the people…” This can be interpreted as denial of Gaddafi’s nationalism.

The big question is whether the principles in the charter will be put into practice. The answer, to an extent, depends on the next steps of the international ‘Friends of Libya’ and whether their efforts will go on after the end of Gaddafi or not.

(Comment by Mariela Zamfirova, MBA; 31 August 2011)

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About Johann Brandstätter

Photojournalist and documentary photographer based in Bulgaria, working mainly in the Balkans and the Middle East. Conflicts & crises, social and environmental issues, defense & military, travel, transportation.
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