A new foundation is being launched to tackle the absence of justice in Libya, as lawlessness leaves crimes unpunished and threatens future peace.
Speaking at the launch of “Justice First”, among numerous tribal elders, the foundation’s organisers said there is a need to support the civilian population in Libya to obtain justice. It claims it will support initiatives that preserve human rights and redress criminal and violent activities.
The foundation is the brainchild of Hassan Tatanki, a moneyed and well-connected Libyan businessman, who also has a string of media and charitable organisations to his name. Tatanki is known to be strongly opposed to the role of Islamism in the country, and has been outspoken against “terrorist groups” destabilising Libya.
“Whoever commits an offence should be punished, or at least questioned, and if we cannot present our cases through the Libyan courts, then they will be punished internationally,“ Tatanki said.
Tatanki has managed to enlist the services of Luis Moreno Ocampo, a Former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, but despite the high profile launch at a Nile-side Cairo hotel, those involved in the project claim to have their aim on the local level in Libya.
“I like to work with local people. I will not intervene at the International Criminal Court, it’s not my job. But I see that local tribal leaders can be very important as part of the solution. But they need some advice on how to deal with the United Nations Security Council, the Tripoli government, and how to challenge crimes,” Ocampo said.
Both Ocampo and Tatanki see that the key to the future peace of Libya is in uniting the tribes of Libya, and that requires redressing crimes. “Justice will help bring peace. Without justice you will see retaliation. Libya is a tribal society, if a tribe is affected and does not receive justice then they will resort to retaliation and there will be an escalation. So we are discussing with tribal leaders how to enact justice and enact peace,” Ocampo continued. “There are two different problems in Libya, one is conflict between tribes and another is Daash, if we can solve the problems between tribes then we can work together against Islamic State.”
Though the legal foundation is in its infancy, the founders aspire to open branches across Libya that collect information about crimes and criminals that could lead to national or international prosecution.
“The Security Council has not dealt with the terrorism in Libya and not fought them as has happened in Iraq and Syria,” said Hajj Hesham Al-Khatabeya, an elder of the Abadad in Eastern Libya with around 400,000 people. He told Daily News Egypt that there are double standards among the international community, and Libya has been given an unfair deal. “They [the international community] ignore the legitimacy of the government in Libya but go to the rescue of legitimacy in Yemen.”
But justice also requires force for Al-Khatabeaya, and he feels that the Libyan army of the internationally-recognised government has been abandoned by the international embargo on supplying arms to Libya. “We call upon the international community to lift the arms ban on the Libyan army… the army is trying to reactivate after the appointment of the general commander of the armed forces.”
“Those militias now are trading in human beings and traffic them to Europe,” Al-Khatabeya added. Unchecked, the flourishing of the militias in the wake of lawlessness following the revolution, he continued, has also led to the criminal trade in humans making headlines with migrant boat deaths across the Mediterranean.
Al-Khatabeya also appeared to hope for a restoration of earlier times in the history of the Arab nation: “This foundation will be headquartered in the Cairo of Gamal Abdel Nassar and Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi… staffed with those with judicial competency and legal knowledge.”
A common message from the organisers of Justice First was that all Islamist groups were terrorists, and that the difference between them is in name only.
For Tatanki, he feels that “we use many different names, Daash, Al-Qaeda, Brotherhood, but essentially they are all the same with one aim. They desire to rule by force, imposing rule upon people, under the auspices of an untrue Islamic rule.”
“What’s the difference if they are called Daash or Tom or whatever? We did not work to topple a dictatorship of 42 years to have it replaced by a collective dictatorship, instead of one dictator,” Tatanki said. “When you chop someone’s head off, you don’t ask what ethnic tribe they come from. It’s just chopping people’s heads off.”