The recipe for peace, the Libyans deserve it.

One of the things I try and impress upon people is that peace isn’t a default state. It isn’t the absence of violence. It isn’t a vacuum situation that just happens when people aren’t fighting. Peace takes time, it takes effort, it requires resources. It needs people to want it, desperately and to be passionate about it. What does it take for peace? What is the recipe?

Libya has lived under the rule of one of the most unpleasant dictators in history for more than 40 years. In all fairness Gaddafi has never quite been a Kim Jong-Il or Stalin but the stories emerging from Libya about his treatment of some sectors of society are gruesome. Libya deserves better.

The National Transitional Council (NTC), now recognised by the United States, Britain and France amongst others as the legitimate government of Libya, swept into Tripoli overnight to a joyous welcome from residents.

This is a moment of great possibility. As Fawaz Gerges at the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics described it on the live stream of BBC news this morning “a moment pregnant with possibilities”. Libya and the NTC have an enormous task ahead of them. Democracy, human rights, peace and justice are all within reach, but it won’t be easy. We mustn’t expect things to happen over night.

So what will it take? How can we make sure that this works, that the Libyans get what they so deserve? What are the ingredients?

Libya needs reconciliation. Saif Al-Islam and Gaddafi need to be sent to the International Criminal Court in the Hague. Evidence needs to be collected, the cold light of day needs to shine upon their crimes. The Libyan people need to know what happened to their brother, or mother or daughter who disappeared one day many years ago. They need to know about the money embezzled, about the dodgy deals with foreign governments and oil companies. They deserve honesty and openness.

The NTC needs absolute unity. It cannot fracture apart into warring sides. The Libyans need an interim government that represents the East as well as the West. Rumblings about dissatisfaction between the two have emerged but they need to put tribalism behind them, they’ve come too far for that. The Libyans deserve an interim government that will open a constitutional dialogue with them, that will immediately respect their universal human rights and promise speedy elections.

The Libyan police under the new authority need to be deployed to the streets as a single, national, cohesive force. They need to be monitored closely and instructed to maintain law and order and to protect United Nations and other humanitarian aid convoys. The Libyan people desperately need electricity and clean water so the police need to ensure that engineers and experts can work safely to bring them those things. The Libyans deserve law and order and justice and a police force that polices with the consent of the people.

The Libyans deserve peace, it is our intrinsic human right. As human beings we have an absolute and unquestionable right to life and liberty and a life of peace. The NTC armed forces must not resort to punishing pro Gaddafi Libyans. They deserve peace too. They may have made unwise decisions but to punish them now is to guarantee the seeds of unrest, resentment and negative peace be sown.

Of course this recipe is only a starter. It will take so much more. The oil facilities need to be rebuilt. The airports need to reopen. Aid, lots of it, needs to pour into the country. Roads need to be relaid and markets need to be stocked. This won’t be over for many, many years but this is a critical time for Libya and for global peace.

 

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Tentative triumph for international law in Libya

As I wrote in my piece for IJC on ‘the year ahead’ all humanitarian intervention needs is one success.

The International Criminal Court can take credit for giving the international military intervention above and the rebels below a boost in the Libyan conflict. In June when the court issued an arrest warrant for Saif Al-Islam and Gaddafi the going was slow. People were wondering if Gaddafi would ever be leaving and the rebels had lost key towns. The arrest warrant reminded the international community that it wasn’t just a military operation. That, as British Prime Minister David Cameron points out, “you can’t drop democracy from 40000 feet”. It served to remind Gaddafi that he simply couldn’t go on. That the moment fighting was over, if he survived it, he would be expected to appear before the court in the Hague. It also gave the public a fresh perspective on it. People know so little about international law that some were surprised that there was this court in the Netherlands that held war criminals that had the authority and support to simply issue arrest warrants for bad people. So many people being ignorant of that would have simply expected killing Gaddafi as the only option or the best of a bad set of options.

What is needed next? The next stage is the most complicated. It’s keyhole surgery. We must, must get Gaddafi and his son Saif Al-Islam out of Tripoli and into the court. They can’t be allowed to be killed in a fire-fight or disappear into the desert. Of course there is a more complex possibility, there have been rumblings early this morning that South Africa intends to airlift him and others out to the south. They should recall immediately that they signed the Rome Statute of the ICC in 1998. However if this scenario were to happen this could in fact provide an easier mechanism for seeing him and others in the Hague. South Africa has signed agreements to make investigation and extradition to the court easier, Libya isn’t even a state party of the Rome Statute of the ICC. Regardless of this, NATO has a no-fly zone over Libya, NATO jets might shoot his plane down unaware of its inhabitant.

Why is it so important that these arrest warrants come to something and see successful prosecutions? The ICC doesn’t have a long history or a significant backlog of successful indictments. It needs this success so it can say in future “we did this, you need international law, it is part of the formula for peace”. It’s not that isn’t good at what it does it’s that capturing war criminals and getting enough evidence to prosecute them effectively is incredibly difficult. Remember, you’re trying to extricate a person and evidence they will have tried to destroy from a situation where they are in charge of a country or military and don’t want to be arrested.

An ICC arrest warrant should be one of the most fierce-some tools of international law and peace. It should instill fear in the hearts of dictators. It shouldn’t be a wasted piece of paper or something that could be ignored. Whilst we need this success in Libya that can’t be the end of it, we need more successes. I for one believe that prospects are looking up… of course depending on what happens in Libya over the next few days.

A swift recovery or a terminal disease? The Responsibility to Protect 2010/11

Could 2011 be the year of the Responsibility to Protect? IJ Central asked me to write a short piece about international law. How it’s fared in the year gone and what the immediate future might hold for it. I was thinking about crucial events in the calendar of international justice and I settled on the Responsibility to Protect (R2P in the language of those who have the inclination to read UN documents for fun) and sovereignty.

I want to start by saying It has been a subtle but promising year for the R2P doctrine. For those of you aren’t entirely sure what R2P is think of it as the idea that the primary responsibility for preventing crimes against humanity falls upon the state. But when a state cannot prevent such crimes or is the perpetrator the responsibility falls to the international community. In these cases, after a number of criteria have been met the community are allowed, and in fact have the duty, to intervene in atrocities.

Before the end of 2010 Iraq syndrome had R2P in intensive care following its invocation as one of the reasons the United States and United Kingdom invaded the country to topple Saddam Hussein. Writers like myself tutted and shook our heads in disappointment. The most pragmatic solution to humanitarian intervention was at death’s door. A principle sickened by improper use and now the subject of scorn and derision. But luckily we’ve been able to find a pulse. From Libya to Cote D’Ivoire the United Nations is managing to cobble together some consensus on the use of military force for resolve conflicts.

All R2P needs is one success to resurrect it as a viable tool of international politics. But success in Libya is still far off and as for Cote D’Ivoire the stakes were less high, the warring factions had been wavering on the edge of crimes against humanity.

So why is R2P part of international justice? Why does it belong there? So often the people that perpetrate crimes that lead to arrest warrants from the International Criminal Court have committed the crimes that merit intervention based on the R2P doctrine. R2P is a crucial part of supporting international law and making it enforceable. The ICC can issue arrest warrants all it wants but sometimes force is necessary. International law can’t defend itself after all and an arrest warrant isn’t going to stop genocide.

So what is the future for R2P? Whilst of course I want to say that the international community has rediscovered its liberal international roots, I don’t want to raise anyone’s hopes. The Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki Moon, opened an Interactive Dialogue on R2P this week saying we need to sharpen our tools for prevention and protection. I’m glad to see the issue is still on the agenda. But if we’re not proactive that is where it might stay, on paper.

I think we need to separate a stylised future of R2P from a realistic one. A stylised image might not be one where interventions based on R2P are frequent but where they are consistent, where the international community doesn’t pick and choose which conflicts it feels it wants to intervene in for some otherwise unknown reasons.

A realistic picture of the future is one where R2P is the best case scenario but bogged down in indecision and squabbling at the United Nations. When countries like Germany abstain on intervention it dilutes the perceived severity of atrocities and provides a reason for other countries to fail in their responsibility and to neglect those most in need.

I am sad to say that the conditions that warrant R2P will continue to occur and the ICC will continue to seek to punish those who caused them. But without a stronger and more assertive R2P principle, the natural partner in law enforcement, the arrest warrants will keep on coming and may start to appear ineffectual. So whilst I think prospects for R2P are looking up I think that anything more than extremely cautious optimism would just lead to disappointment.

International law won’t go much further without a robust means to defend and extend it and to seek out and bring to justice those who flout it. In the year to come I’d like to see a country champion R2P but the odds are against me. Fragile coalitions are the only ones willing to treat the patient so at the very least Libya needs to be a success or the doctrine will end up back on life support.