Security service reform as a means to achieving the long-term goals through transitional justice, and the immediate goals of demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration.
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The Other Side of Transitional Justice
Over the past forty-two years systematic human rights abuses were committed by the state security services (under the auspices of Mu’ammar Qaddafi), and since February 2011 by armed militia groups (both state and non-state). The current agenda as outlined by truth and reconciliation commission and transitional justice campaigns have been widely mentioned,1 whilst relatively little attention has been devoted towards the long term task of institutional reform.2&3
Transitional Justice in Isolation
Transitional justice aims largely to address the gross violations and crimes committed through a series of methods designed to achieve a holistic sense of justice. In Libya, this is largely aimed at distinguishing the actors and institutions responsible for such crimes, but also to reconcile regions and communities of people.
In isolation, however, such an initiative provides no guarantee at sustaining peace, or preventing abuses of this kind from re-occurring. Present figures indicate thousands of fighters; technocrats and low-level state employees from the previous government, security services, army are incarcerated across Libya. Human rights abuses continue, and the sentiments of displaced people like the Tawerghans residing in Tripoli continue to pose serious threats.4 Institutional abuses continue today in Libya, but are no longer committed by the Qaddafi regime. According to Human Rights Watch systematic abuses are present in makeshift jails.1 In light of these allegations, the efforts of much of the Libyan transitional justice campaign is severely impaired in its role of addressing past injustices. For the future of sustained peace and stability but crucially progress, truth and reconciliation as a component of transitional justice cannot be implemented in isolation, but alongside coherent and effective institutional reform.
Judicial Reform or Security Service Reform?
Whilst both Truth and Reconciliation and Transitional Justice may bring to a court of law those who have perpetrated crimes, security service reform embeds democratic codes and forms of good governance within the mechanisms and procedures of the state. Institutional reform for this reason diminishes the capacity for those working within the state to continue perpetrating such crimes under the immediate fog of war, or during the long term rebuilding process. In this case Libyan judicial reform is complimentary to security service reform.
Institutional reform initiatives are also crucial for other various strategic reasons:
- Re-establishing the state’s legitimate control and reasonable use of force.
- Addressing fundamental flaws within the legislative and administrative mechanisms, which led to crimes being committed.
- Instilling integrity into a security service, which has served to deprive citizens of their democratic rights.
- Creating a guide and skeleton structure for the future of extensive and numerous institutional reform.
The present policy of reintegrating fighters is dire and only gives the appearance of an incentive. Allocating enormous sums of cash, (current arbitrary sources indicate billions of US dollars) assumes loyalty as a monetised figure or that one may remedy anarchy through buying order.5 More plainly however is the offer to merely incorporate rebel fighters into a new national army.6 The cash here may be understood as the means, and the creation of the national army as the ends. If this is so, then the NTC’s efforts illustrate the characteristics of a partisanship and not those of a democratically founded state. The NTC and Executive board at present seem unable to define an agenda, and are acting re-actively to the various agendas set by the armed militias, as opposed to pro-actively setting the agenda through initiatives, which both serve the needs of their people, and their need for legitimacy (BBC News. 2011).
Regionalism and Reform
Unraveling the new incentive structure is most visible through understanding the new social dilemma of the post-revolution political landscape, that of regionalism. Regional sentiments in the immediate fall of Tripoli presented themselves in democratic clothing. There was a strong sentiment of seeking participation, without ever presenting a serious challenge to the NTC’s legitimacy. However, as we enter the state building process, agendas and the underlying power structure has begun to emerge more clearly.
Since the announcement of the Executive Board it is widely believed that the regions of Zintan and Misrata, are receiving key strategic positions (interior minister Fawzi Abdela’ali and defence Osama Juwaili respectively) due to their assumed regional roles within the revolution. This strategy of merely attempting to pacify and quell the regionalist debate, of ‘who is more deserving’, will undoubtedly re-emerge upon the upcoming election of the national assembly.
The outcome of the national assembly is for this reason at threat. It may be little more than a numerical configuration of various non-democratic regional aspirations. The obvious question is whether such regional sentiments will come to undermine the very democracy the Libyans have fought to achieve when elections are due in April 2012?
The NTC and Executive board can no longer afford to evade these issues, and must approach these problems proactively, by taking a lead role in setting the agenda. If the institutions of government are thought to be corruptible then the population could lean on and reinforce regional sentiments, with the capacity for violent challenges to the legitimacy of an elected body.
Institutional reform here plays a crucial role. In removing the capacity of the current agenda for personality politics or regional bias to play counter-democratic roles, and undermine the state building process. Instead institutional reform set the parameters for legitimacy by other means, and injects a different more democratic lexicon into discussions on state building, participation and crucially representation (aspirational or even ideological) as opposed to regionalism.
Institutional reform in this light is crucial for demobilisation and reintegration to be successful. If as is the case today, a qualitatively incoherent policy towards demobilisation is pursued, then it has the capacity to lead to disastrous consequences. Security service reform can provide a vaster social objective to be achieved, of having a state, which includes mechanisms for seeking accountability, where integrity and a degree of transparency are built into sensitive strategic arms and institutions. The actions, agenda and crucially composition of the NTC and Executive board must not be a reflection of which region or personality one believes they can trust in sensitive strategic institutions. Today, the agenda and the actions must be focused upon how to reform these institutions to prevent recurring abuses from occurring, regardless of personality or their origin.
The following policy recommendations are not supposed to be an exhaustive approach, but rather a call to reflect and discuss how a strategic plan could be implemented:
- The announcement of an independent institutional reform commission, which may work alongside the transitional justice, and truth and reconciliation efforts.
- Reconfiguration – avoid a blanket policy of de-ba’athification – (the post-Iraq war intervention of firing and prosecuting all Ba’th party members, at senior, middle and low level positions) in institutional sectors. Institutions which.
- undergo massive overhaul can create a plethora of societal and security problems, not to mention massive instability. Avoiding this achieves and maintains long terms stability.Skill and service based teaching will come to remedy the long term deficiencies of governmental institutions, whilst simultaneously creating a culture of good governance.
- International technical assistance, and domestic participation International assistance may provide expertise where best practice is lacking and impartiality during the decision-making process and mediation between conflicting sides if necessary. Domestic participation through local stakeholder consultation will be of particular importance for security service reform. In doing so it instills both democratic culture and provides tools for both the state and citizens with which to define their institutions. This is also fundamental to ensuring that the process is owned and outcome reflective of the Libyan people’s aspirations in how they seek to be governed.
Anas El Gomati