What To Do With Gadhafi

November 1, 2011

Honor, Military, Political action


A few of the major news stories I followed this year were the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, which eventually led to the protests against Moammar Gadhafi’s regime in Libya. However, these protests eventually turned into countrywide revolts against Gadhafi’s authoritarian rule, which had been in place for well over 40 years. After months of fighting between loyal Gadhafi forces and Libya’s National Transitional Council, Gadhafi was finally captured and killed on October 20th. Almost immediately, pictures began surfacing on the internet of rejoicing rebels holding the fallen ruler’s golden pistol, while other images showed Gadhafi’s torn apart face.

Although most members of Gadhafi’s inner circle were killed by the rebels, there were a few people that were able to flee to the violence. One of these people was Said al-Islam Gadhafi, who is Moammar’s son and was arguably the second most powerful person during the Gadhafi regime. Currently, he is still on the run despite the numerous arrest warrants that have been issued for him. Most notably, the International Criminal Court, has issued a warrant for Gadhafi’s arrest, citing his torturing and killing of thousands of defenseless Libyan civilians. For those of you who have not heard of the ICC, it is a tribunal that was established in The Hague, Netherlands that is charged with prosecuting individuals for things such as crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. It has 117 member nations and was created by the Rome Statue in 2002; it is regarded as the most powerful international court in the world.

Although it might sound like the Gadhafi case is something that should be handled by a body such as the ICC, Libya’s NTC which just recently acquired power believes otherwise. Over the last few days, there has been a lot talk in the news about the NTC saying that if they are to catch Gadhafi on Libyan soil that they should be able to try him in a Libyan court. This has created a major divide between governments and important politicians who are not sure how to handle this situation. Because Libya does not really have a true constitution at the moment, there is nothing that says they must hand Gadhafi off to the ICC. The NTC has said that it wants to prove to the world that their new government will be a fair one and that they are capable of giving Gadhafi a just and swift trial. Many supporters of Libya’s cause have pointed to the way Iraq handled Saddam Hussein’s trial just a few years ago as an example of a young government properly carrying out a major criminal trial. However, there is also the belief that if Gadhafi is brought to trial in Libya it may create further outrage and violence that this new government is not prepared to handle. These people believe (and rightfully so) that this risk should simply be averted by handing Gadhafi off to the ICC who will most certainly give him a fair trial and proper security.

What do you guys think is the right thing to do in this situation? Should the new Libyan government have the right to try Gadhafi if they find him within their borders, or would it be a better and safer situation for everyone if this was handled by a stronger entity such as the ICC? Also, how do you think Locke, Hobbes and Rousseau would feel about this….would they believe that Libya deserves a chance to handle this trial on their own? How would Machiavelli feel about a leader who so cruelly and uncontrollably exercised power upon his subjects?

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3 Comments on “What To Do With Gadhafi”

  1. springsteen1 Says:

    Love the relevance / current story, as well as ties to the political theorists / philosophers.

    A case could be made here either way, but I would argue that the ICC should take the case. If this were America with two similar bodies of legislative or judicial power, the ICC would probably have majority opinion, but the alternative body would most likely try the case, given that America’s democracy provides generally for inherent jurisdiction over precedent in most cases, particularly as of late.

    Hobbes would say that in the state of nature, as described in the Leviathan, people are equal, so either the current / new, less democratic governing body should take it (they have the inherent / direct control, the latter form Hobbes also seems to prefer) or power should be given to one or the other, or a third party. In other words, the biggest thing here that Hobbes would oppose would be a split decision or split / shared power.

    Rosseau too would have criticized Hobbes’ state of nature, and garnering insight based on the “innate ability” concept that Jean-Jacques my brother favors, gone with the ICC in this way.

  2. goldman13 Says:

    The International Criminal Court is powerless. Although it has beneficial and positive goals, it has no way of enforcing its decisions. The ICC is consistently tied up in legal affairs with the countries that are involved in the specific issue. It has no actual army and has no jurisdiction within the borders of any countries. Therefore, it only makes sense for the country in which Gadhafi is found to put him on trial. He can’t be extradited because he’s from Libya, but I’m sure that the United Nations and the Security Council (China, France, Russia, US and UK i believe) will weigh in and influence the case.

    Also, i think you distort the Machiavellian image. Machiavelli supported ruling out of fear rather than respect and felt that a strong hold and a tight grip over a nation would yield the best governing power. However, he did not support the murder, rape, and abuse of innocent civilians.

    I don’t think Gadhafi will get off easy, no matter where he is tried. In fact, in order for him to be properly punished for his actions, i think the trial should be given to Libya. The ICC (if they could even put together a trial) would be forced to be lenient in the name of “justice”

  3. jgurwitch Says:

    The ICC does not seem to have enough of a body of power to truly control a situation like this. I feel that a higher body of power should definitely deal with this because this is a very powerful person on the run and a body of power with a lot of control should be the ones in charge of this situation. Also, if he is not in Libya, there is not much that can be done with the ICC, which is in Libya. Other countries can play into this and have an effect as to what happens as well because if they catch him they have the ability to negotiate for the rights of his body, which would prove to be very valuable in the country.

    Hobbes would feel strongly as to thinking that all people are equal in a State of Nature and therefore no one should take precedent over someone else to deal with this situation. Therefore the ICC would be able to in fact take control of the situation and try to mitigate it as much as possible. Realistically though, as goldman13 mentions, Gadhafi will not get off easy no matter what happens so it does not really matter who takes the lead in what happens to him when he is caught. He will face some type of justice regardless of where he is found.

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