Libya’s new political landscape is characterised by parallel forces of equal powers with usually opposing interests. Such parallel forces include the Supreme Security Committee alongside the National Police Force and Army, as well as the National Integrity Commission alongside Libya’s courts of justice.
The former National Transitional Council established the Integrity Commission on 4 April 2012. The commission has been tasked with investigating candidates for high profile public offices in the new Libya for any links to Gaddafi’s former regime, and any hostile activities against the Libyan revolution.
Since its establishment the commission has issued many verdicts, some of which were nullified by Libyan courts of appeal. Four congress members from the National Coalition Forces Alliance, led by Mahmoud Jibril, have so far been disbarred. The most recent decision to disbar four ministers from Ali Zedian’s newly appointed cabinet was the most controversial and revolved around the decisions to disbar Interior Minister Ashour Shuwial and Electricity Minister Ali Emhairreeg.
Many in Libya consider the commission an essential body for excluding former regime loyalists or figures from holding high public offices. However, the commission’s work is characterized by vagueness and obscurity, and with its recent controversial decisions it will be in the spotlight of criticism and scrutiny from the public and the political elite.
Libya’s National Congress needs to re-evaluate the work of the commission by debating the commission’s governing law, as well as, the criteria used and the mechanism followed to reach decisions on individual cases.
There is a risk that the Commission will become a parallel entity to the Libyan courts of justice. The work of the commission has already attracted criticism within Libya and from organisations such as the Human Rights Watch. Such negative criticism would slow the new government’s efforts to address the more pressing issues at hand, such as the security, economy and national reconciliation.
Another worrying aspect of the work of the Integrity commission is the lack of any detailed and comprehensive legal guidelines that clearly define all the terms and conditions laid out by the law governing the work of the commission. Such vagueness could easily lead to misinterpretation of the law, which in turn could be used to achieve political goals by certain groups with possible links to foreign countries seeking to influence Libya’s politics.
Despite the consistent position that its establishment is completely independent from any external influence by groups or individuals many observers in Libya’s political sphere have questioned the circumstances under which the commission was formed. One can easily assume that the commission was set up to help a certain group establish control over Libya’s high public offices.
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Fingers have already been pointed at the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Libya supported by Qatar, which dominated and influenced the ranks of the former National Transitional Council, the same council that created the National Integrity Commission. There is increasing sentiment that the Muslim Brotherhood has established entities such as the Supreme Security Committee and the National Integrity Commission to control, or at least have effective influence on, Libya’s political landscape even if they lost the elections in July 2012.
There is legitimate concern that selective justice is being used against certain individuals and groups of the Libyan society. It is also rightful for Libyans to demand that their elected representatives in the Congress debate the law that was legislated by an unelected body, i.e. the NTC.
Extremists are constantly targeting army Generals and security personnel and yet there is no justice for the victims and their families. Such silence by officials in Libya towards these criminal and unjustified crimes brings to mind a disturbing assumption that government officials are complacent in that regard, and that a quiet and undeclared degaddafication of Libya is underway.
The creation and work of the National Integrity Commission contrasts the position that the transitional leadership took on reconciliation and inclusiveness in the political process. The former NTC leadership vowed to build a new Libya based on an inclusive and cohesive system that would promote national reconciliation and prevent eradication of former officials who worked in Gaddafi’s regime.
Libya’s General Congress should urgently amend regulations and review decisions made by the commission, and work to eliminate vague and broad terminology that may prohibit individuals from serving as government officials or hold high public offices.
Human Rights Watch criticised the law and the vague criteria used by the commission. In addition, there is a strong argument that the current regulations prohibit people from holding senior government posts or running for office if they were “known for glorifying” the previous government or they “stood against the February 17 revolution” that overthrew Gaddafi’s regime. The standards and procedures to determine whether an individual meets these are unclear.
The Human Rights Watch also highlighted that it is understandable and reasonable that after decades of corrupt dictatorship, public officials in the new Libya should meet high standards of integrity, but exclusion from public office should be based on concrete and provable claims of wrongdoing, rather than poorly defined connections with the previous government.
Finally, Libya faces huge challenges in the process of rebuilding government institutions, and if all former regime technocrats and bureaucrats are disbarred then government institutions will be weak and incompetent. The law has to be amended and ensure that the vetting process does not become politicised and used to strengthen the dominance and influence of one political group in Libya.