Sunday, January 23, 2011

Libya's Reform Chill

While the Tunisian Revolution was getting under way, Libya was reining in its semi-official reform movement:
"In a surprise move, the board of trustees of the Qadhafi International Charity and Development Foundation, the NGO that Saif al-Islam Qadhafi has chaired since its creation, resolved in mid-December 2010 that it would no longer promote human rights and political reform in Libya. This abrupt change in the Foundation’s direction has significant ramifications for reform efforts in Libya. Whether Saif was forced out or withdrew voluntarily, he has had to acknowledge that his work came up against insuperable obstacles in the form of the old guard surrounding his father.

"For much of the last decade, Qadhafi’s son Saif was the public face of human rights reform in Libya and the Qadhafi Foundation was the country’s only address for complaints about torture, arbitrary detention, and disappearances. The Foundation issued its first human rights report in 2009, cataloging abuses and calling for reforms, and a second report released in December 2010 regretted 'a dangerous regression' in civil society and called for the authorities to lift their 'stranglehold' on the media. In the interim, Saif assisted Human Rights Watch in conducting a groundbreaking press conference which launched a report in Tripoli in December 2009...

"The recent decisions of the Qadhafi Foundation constitute an admission of defeat for Saif, who has been forced to retreat publicly from earlier positions and to bow out of politics for a time. Whether his banishment is permanent and affects leadership succession plans remains to be seen. Saif has withdrawn from politics before, notably in the fall of 2008, but he has never fully disengaged. Moreover, his father is a recognized expert at balancing opposing forces, and Qadhafi is unlikely to allow conservative elements – or any other faction – to dominate the political scene for long. It remains the case, however, that at least for now Libyans have lost one of their few avenues to pursue human rights improvements and political reform."



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