Make Justice a Foundation of the New Libya
September 14, 2011
Grantee News from ICTJ
By David Tolbert*
As gunfire dies down over Tripoli, the new Libyan authorities will be coming to terms with enormous dilemmas about the hierarchy of priorities in building a new society. Their offices will see long processions of emissaries from near and far in the coming days and weeks. Some will be sternly pressing for issues of security to be immediately addressed and others will demand that business and development concerns precede all else, while there are also bound to be those advocating for justice to be done first and quickly.
While understanding various interests and merits driving such monothematic agendas that presume separation and sequencing of priorities, Libyans should resist pressures to adopt ad hoc solutions and instead go for the ultimate goal—building a new, just society. Looking to experiences spanning tectonic changes from Berlin of 1989 to Cairo of the present, the makers of a new Libya are perfectly positioned to know that justice is as crucial to the future of their country as it is inextricably linked to stability, security, and development.
The bombed-out streets of Tripoli, Benghazi, Misrata, and other Libyan cities remind us of the tribal and regional divisions deepened by months of conflict and the poisonous legacy of 42 years of Muammar el-Qaddafi’s dictatorship. In the new reality of post-Qaddafi Libya, one task towers in its importance: building institutions capable of delivering justice and safeguarding human rights of all citizens, including—if not starting with—the Qaddafi clan itself.
This is the case not only because it was the thirst for justice and equality that ignited the revolution in the first place, but because rule of law and impartial, fair, and effective institutions will be key to overcoming internal divisions and ensuring a successful transition to a stable society untroubled by its past. And although it is clear that it can never be limited to one man, in today’s Libya a single case is on the mind of all who speak of justice. More>
David Tolbert * is the president of the International Center for Transitional Justice.