Libya to debate Gaddafi officials law

2013-05-05 18:00
Flashback: Intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senoussi, right, whispers to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in Sabha, Libya. (AP, File)

Flashback: Intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senoussi, right, whispers to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in Sabha, Libya. (AP, File)

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Tripoli - Libya's General National Congress met on Sunday ahead of a vote on a controversial law to exclude former Gaddafi-era officials from government posts amid pressure from armed militias to pass the bill.

"The bill on political exclusion is on today's [Sunday's] agenda. Depending on how the sitting goes, we will decide whether the vote goes ahead or not," independent GNC member Abdelfattah Sheloui told AFP.

"They are leaning towards a vote today."

The GNC, Libya's highest political authority, has been studying proposals for a law that would see top figures from the regime of late dictator Moamer Kadhafi sacked from their posts in government.

Gunmen in Tripoli have encircled the foreign ministry for a week and the justice ministry since Tuesday, to demand the speedy adoption of the bill, stepping up pressure on the GNC.

Proposals for the law have caused a stir among Libya's political elite, as several current senior members of the government could be affected, including Prime Minister Ali Zeidan and president of the GNC Mohamed Megaryef, who were diplomats under Kadhafi before joining the opposition in exile.

According to the text of the law, all those who occupied key official posts from September 1, 1969, when Kadhafi took power, until the fall of the regime in October 2011 would be excluded from government for five years.

Human Rights Watch condemned the way in which the law is being pushed through.

"The GNC should not allow itself to be railroaded into making very bad laws because groups of armed men are demanding it," Sarah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch said in a statement Saturday.

"Libya's long-term prospects for peace and security will be seriously diminished if the congress agrees to nod through this law."

The GNC has debated the law in several sessions, but has failed to reach an agreement, as it proved particularly controversial with the National Forces Alliance, the liberal coalition that dominated elections in July, who feared the law was aimed at their leader, Mahmud Jibril.

Vice president Salah al-Makhzum said a compromise had been reached among the political blocs by adding "exceptions" in the bill in order to retain key individuals.

But militia leaders warned that they would not accept any exceptions to the law.

In April, under pressure from supporters of the law, the GNC made an amendment to the provisional constitutional declaration exempting the law from judicial review even before it was voted on.

Some Libyans have objected to the gunmen's siege of the ministries pushing for the exclusion law, and on Friday, demonstrators against the militias clashed with a rival protest in support of the law in Tripoli.

Zeidan said Saturday that the government preferred using "patience" and dialogue over force to resolve the sieges.

Since the fall of Kadhafi's regime, militia groups, mostly ex-rebels, have managed border controls, prisons, strategic facilities in the country and vital institutions.

They received salaries and other perks from the authorities, and benefitted from smuggling and extortion.

Gathered in Tripoli, leaders of the ex-rebel militias said on Saturday that the government had agreed to give five ministries over to their members.

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