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Libya - Politics - 2013

On January 07, 2013 Libya's largest parliamentary coalition boycotted the national congress for a second day on, protesting at delays in forming a committee to draft the country's first constitution. The elected body is composed of 120 independent seats and 80 party seats. The National Forces Alliance (NFA) bloc, formed last year by liberal war-time leader Mahmoud Jibril and holding 39 of the 80 party seats in parliament, walked out of the session late on Sunday and did not show up for the meeting on Monday.

The "political isolation" law was adopted by an overwhelming majority on 05 May 2013 at the demand of armed factions who helped end Gadhafi's 42-year rule in 2011. The heavily armed groups had besieged the foreign and justice ministries for days before the passage of the law, which prohibits former officials from holding any high position, regardless of their part in toppling the dictator. Analysts feared the decision to hold the vote under duress could embolden armed groups to use force again to assert their will over congress. Critics and diplomats feared the law could strip government of experienced leaders, further complicating the transition to an orderly democracy. The Political and Administrative Isolation Law, which is applicable for 10 years, lists a wide range of political, administrative and other positions, as well as types of affiliation and conduct, as a basis for the exclusion of individuals from public life. Proposals that the law include provisions for exempting persons on the basis of their early support for the Libyan revolution were rejected. Prior to the adoption of the law, UNSMIL advised the General National Congress on international standards and best practices for the vetting of State institutions, as well as on the potential consequences of exclusionary measures. In a memorandum presented to the General National Congress President, UNSMIL indicated clearly that some of the criteria for the proposed law are disproportionate, and at times vague, and could violate the civil and political rights of many citizens.

Despite a distinguished record in active opposition to the Qadhafi-regime over three decades, on 28 May 2013 Mohammed Magarief, the head of Libya's national assembly, said he was stepping down following the passing of the law banning anyone who held a senior post in Muammar Gadhafi's regime from government. An economist who served as ambassador to India under Gadhafi, Magarief had lived in exile from the 1980s and became a leading figure in Libya's oldest opposition movement, the National Front for the Salvation of Libya.

Islamist militias with the backing of a variety of Islamist politicians from the Muslim Brotherhood and smaller parties blockaded government ministries to force the GNC to pass a law that excluded a wide range of people who had worked for the previous regime from holding public office. The result of that law was to reduce the number of more secular-minded lawmakers, dozens of whom had to leave the GNC. And that has made Zeidans challenge even harder. Ever since then he has been facing a hostile and Islamist-dominated General National Congress that has blocked his policies.

Lawlessness, mainly involving former rebel militias, hampered Libyas efforts to establish a democratic government following the toppling of Moammar Gadhafi in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011. Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan promised 29 July 2013 to re-organize his government following days of chaos in Benghazi that saw a mass jail breakout, bombings, anti-Islamist protests and a spate of assassinations. We are about to make a cabinet reshuffle and decrease the number of ministries to ensure a better performance to face the urgent situation, Zeidan told a press conference after Libyas second largest city was rocked by the worst violence to hit it since the September 2012 attack on the US consulate and the killing of Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Zeidan said those behind the jail breakout, the bombings and the killing of an anti-Islamist political activist and two security officials over the weekend were intent on sowing chaos in order to delay forthcoming elections for a body to draft a constitution.

Over the course of the Summer of 2013, there had been more pronounced political disagreements among the various political forces, Mr. Mitri continued. The main political blocs within the General National Congress had decided, separately, to suspend their participation as organized political parties in national political institutions. Although partially reversed, those decisions were in large part a reaction to wide-spread popular discontent with political parties, and reflected an accentuated polarization in public life.

United Nations investigators said torture is widespread in Libyan jails controlled by militias that joined forces two years ago to overthrow leader Moammar Gadhafi. The world body's top human rights office (OHCHR), in a report 02 October 2013, said about 8,000 prisoners jailed since the 2011 civil war are currently in detention without charges and usually held without access to lawyers. It said torture is most frequently used on conflict-related prisoners immediately after arrests "to extract confessions and other information." It also said the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has recorded 27 deaths in custody since Gadhafi was killed in October 2011, with 11 of the deaths occurring in 2013. The report said conditions are improving for detainees held in prisons controlled by Libya's Judicial Police. But it urged the government to speed up the takeover and the staffing of militia-run jails with trained police and correctional officers.

Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan returned unharmed to government headquarters in Tripoli 10 October 2013 , soon after he was released by former rebel militiamen who had abducted and held him for several hours. Gunmen seized Zeidan early Thursday at a Tripoli hotel where he lives and held him for six hours. A government statement said he was taken by armed men to an "unknown place for unknown reasons." Zaidan later blamed the Revolutionaries Control Room, headquarters for the biggest militia Libya Shield for his kidnapping. The Operations Room of Libya's Revolutionaries claimed responsibility but later denied involvement. The group had blamed Zeidan's government for playing a role in the US Special Forces raid in Libya that nabbed senior al-Qaida operative Abu Anas al-Libi. The group that abducted Zeidan was reportedly formed recently by the speaker of the General National Congress, Libyas parliament. Many other parliamentarians are connected with similar militias.

The kidnapping of a Prime Minister whose authority stretched not much further than his office marked a low point in Libyas struggle to establish stability and order. But it didnt come as a surprise to many Libyans. In recent months they endured a blockade of oilfields and seaports by an assortment of militias and eastern Libyan federalists, a wave of assassinations and abductions in Benghazi and kidnappings and carjackings in Tripoli. Support for Zeidan has waned among ordinary Libyans who have seen no significant improvement since he was elected October 2012 by a narrow margin in the General National Congress. He was Libyas third prime minister since Gadhafis ouster.

While the Transitional National Council did not feel it had the mandate to make lasting legislation, the General National Congress and Prime Minister Zeidan have been more aggressively confronting the security situation in Libya. Yet any legislation seeking to limit the power of heavily-armed, extra-governmental militias has been difficult to enforce, and Libyan judges did not hear criminal cases for fear it could lead to revenge attacks against them. Police and military personnel and facilities were the frequent targets of attacks by pro-Qadhafi and violent Islamist extremist groups, who fiercely resisted any efforts by the government to exert its authority. Many members of the militias that continue to undermine the authority of the army and police refused to join these institutions because they claimed Qadhafi-era officials continued to occupy their ranks.

The Governments preoccupation with the deteriorating security situation and the increasing divisions among political groups and revolutionary brigades inhibited the development of a solid, coordinated and effective national security system. The Libyan experience demonstrated the urgent need for inclusive dialogue and consensus-building on national priorities, as well as for guiding principles, governance norms and basic rules of political action. National dialogue would allow the national interest to prevail over factional, regional and short-term interests, he said. In light of growing disillusionment with the political process, it would give voice to many Libyans and open space for all to contribute to the restoration of a public life now entrenched in partisan attitudes. It would also promote a national capacity to address urgent priorities and ensure public support for State-building efforts.

Libyan government television broadcast a warning 17 November 2013 to militiamen to put down their arms and to leave the country's security to the state after more than 40 demonstrators were killed by militiamen on November 15, 2013. A three-day general strike was called to protest Friday's shootings. The Misrata militiamen abandoned their headquarters in the southern Tripoli district of Garghour. Residents of many parts of Tripoli set up roadblocks to prevent militiamen from entering their neighborhoods. The Libyan National Congress, or interim parliament, moved to dissolve a pro-government militia known as the Revolutionary Operations Bureau, which has been a source of trouble and turmoil in the capital.




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