Amid the jubilation over the death of Muammar el-Gaddafi, questions have arisen that could cast a shadow over the still-fragile National Transitional Council (NTC) government. These include when, and where, to bury him: Under traditional Islamic law, every effort should be made to bury a body within 24 hours. Furthermore, the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay called on Friday for a full investigation about the circumstances of Gaddafi’s death. Videos have been widely circulating on the internet, one showing him alive and the other showing him dead. As Pillay’s spokesman Rupert Colville, said, “there are four or five different versions of what happened in between those two cell phone videos — something that raises “major concerns” about whether Gaddafi was executed, an “extra-judicial killing” that is illegal under international law.
Acting NTC Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril has said that Gaddafi was shot in the head during crossfire between his supporters and NTC fighters after his capture. He was alive when he was dragged onto a truck but died while it was moving. But “gruesome mobile phone footage obtained by the Global Post undermines this account,” showing Gaddafi, bleeding from the left side of his head, being dragged out of the drain pipe where he had been hiding.
A group of fighters then frogmarch him towards a pick-up truck. There are shouts of “God is great” and the rattle of gunfire. At one point Gaddafi keels over; a fighter kicks him and scuffs dirt over his bloodstained clothing. The rebels prop Gaddafi back on his feet and propel him onwards.
Gaddafi is clearly dazed and wounded – but is alive, conscious, and pleading feebly with his captors. Fighters at the scene said that he was injured in the shoulder and leg when he was found. Fresh blood is also flowing from a head injury.
It is yet unclear whether Gaddafi will be buried in his birthplace of Surt or in Misrata, where his body was brought after fighters from that town found him and the remnants of a convoy that had been struck by NATO fire including French warplanes and a US Predator drone. Gaddafi’s body and that of his son, Mutassim, who was also captured in Surt, have been moved to different private houses for people to see and are being kept in a meat storage container. Misrata’s chief forensic doctor, Othman al-Zintani, has said that full autopsies will be carried out. NTC officials have expressed concerns about Gaddafi’s burial site becoming a shrine for supporters and are considering a burial at sea, as occurred after the US Navy Seals killed Osama Bin Laden in May.
Also in question is the role of NATO in Gaddafi’s death with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, criticizing the NATO airstrikes. On Friday, NATO said that it had destroyed at least 11 vehicles of an 80 vehicle convoy that was seeking to flee Surt and that, according to new information, it has now learned “that Qaddafi was in the convoy and that the strike likely contributed to his capture.” NATO has said that it will seek to end its operations in Libya by October 31, and will make a formal declaration next week.
Libyans have been celebrating the death of the man who ruled as a dictator for 42 years. Residents of Misrata stood all day in line to glimpse the deposed dictator’s body.
“I felt joy,” said Mustafa Ali, 37, an unemployed Misuratan exiting the meat locker. “How long have we been waiting for this? We have martyrs and this is his penalty.” Libya’s oil minister Ali Tarhouni has said that Gaddafi’s corpse will be kept “for a few days” before burial and commented that, while looking at the body, he was “…thinking of all the comrades and friends who spent decades fighting him, that didn’t live to see this day.”
One of Gaddafi’s sons, Saif al-Islam, remains at large. Justice minister Mohammed al-Alagi had said he was wounded and is being held in a hospital in the city of Zlitan, but other reports have said that al-Islam is fleeing south towards Niger.
Libya’s liberation will be announced Saturday in Benghazi, where the uprising began in February, rather than in Tripoli. A new interim government is to be formed and headed by a new prime minister who will replace Jibril; this new official will lead Libya until elections are held in eight months. He will have much to contend with: There are competing factions in Benghazi, Tripoli and Misrata and the political and military bases will need to be brought together.
Gaddafi’s violent end casts a cold light on the yet unresolved conflicts that have arisen in the Arab Spring:
Across the region, Colonel Qaddafi’s bloody end has brought home the growing awareness of the challenges that lie ahead: the balancing of vengeance against justice, impatience for jobs against the slow pace of economic recovery, fidelity to Islam against tolerance for minorities, and the need for stability against the drive to tear down of the pillars of old governments.
“For all of us, it is a hard road, because our battle is against ourselves,” said Ahmed Ounaies, a former Tunisian ambassador who served briefly as minister of foreign affairs after the ouster of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. “We have to listen to our values, our aspirations, our present, against all the past that we have lived. It is a hard test, and success is not assured.”
Once the euphoria over Gaddafi’s death subsides, could Libya become a failed state — or is the past several months’ fight for liberation the beginning of a new and stronger Libya?
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Photo taken in Ben Jawat, Libya, March of 2011 by شبكة برق | B.R.Q