Libya: Gaddafi show over, killing to be probed

Officials at the refrigeration unit declared that show was over, closed the gates and started turning people away.

Updated: Oct 25, 2011, 00:32 AM IST

Misrata: A day after Libyans declared a "liberation" that consigned Muammar Gaddafi to the "garbage bin of history," hundreds again filed past his rotting corpse in a grim display as

With their Western allies expressing quiet unease that Gaddafi was battered and shot after his capture on Thursday, then put on show for days in a market cold store, the rebel factions which ended his 42-year rule were still wrangling over the body, amid wider negotiations on dividing up power.

The killing of the 69-year-old in his hometown of Sirte ended a nervous, two-month hiatus since the motley rebel forces of the National Transitional Council overran the capital Tripoli and ended eight months of war -- though Gaddafi`s son and heir-apparent Saif al-Islam is still at large.

In Misrata, Libya`s long-besieged third city whose war leaders are pushing for a big role in the peace, fighters handing out surgical masks against the stench were still ushering hundreds of sightseers into the chill room where the bodies of Gaddafi, his son Mo`tassim and his former army chief lay on the floor, their flesh darkening and leaking fluids.

Show Over

Officials at one point declared the show was over, closed the gates and started turning people away. "That`s enough," said one of the guards, "He`s been causing us as much trouble dead as he did alive." But, within an hour, there was a change of plan as dozens more sightseers arrived and were shown in.

Nonetheless, the attempt to discourage more visitors may indicate progress on reaching a deal to bury the bodies.

The Islamic law that NTC Chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil said during Sunday`s liberation announcement should be upheld in the new Libya would dictate a swift burial within the day.

But NTC officials said negotiations were going on with Gaddafi`s tribal kinsmen from Sirte and within the interim leadership over where and how to dispose of the bodies, and on what the Misratans might receive in return for cooperation.

The killings near Sirte, after cellphone video footage was taken showing the captive Gaddafi being beaten and mocked by fighters apparently from Misrata, are also a matter of controversy -- at least outside Libya. The United Nations human rights arm has joined the Gaddafi family in seeking an inquiry.

Gaddafi killing to be probed

Abdel Jalil told a news conference on Monday that the NTC had formed a committee to investigate. He also indicated that the interim authorities still held to an official line that Gaddafi may have been killed in "crossfire" with his own men, a view many NTC officials themselves seem ready to discount.

"Gaddafi was killed during the clashes with his supporters while arresting him," Abdel Jalil said, adding that whoever killed him may have had something to hide.

"Those who have an interest in killing him before prosecuting him are those who had an active role with him," said Abdel Jalil, who like many of the new leadership formerly held positions of authority under Gaddafi.

Adding to concerns about Libya turning over a new leaf on respect for individuals, New York-based Human Rights Watch called on the NTC to probe an "apparent mass execution" of 53 people, apparently Gaddafi supporters, whom it found dead, some with their hands bound, at a hotel in Sirte.

Few Qualms

Few Libyans seem troubled about either how Gaddafi and his entourage were killed or why they are being exposed for so long in what seemed a grim parody of the lying in state often reserved for national leaders.

"God made the pharaoh as an example to the others," said Salem Shaka, who was viewing the bodies in Misrata on Monday. "If he had been a good man, we would have buried him.

"But he chose this destiny for himself."

The killing of fallen autocrats is far from a novelty. In Europe in living memory, similar fates befell Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania in 1989 and Benito Mussolini, who had created modern Libya as an Italian colony a decade before he died in 1945.

However, some of the anti-Gaddafi rebels` Western allies have expressed disquiet about the treatment of Gaddafi after his capture and after his death and worry Libya`s new leaders will not uphold their promise to respect human rights.

"They were not pleasant images," said British Prime Minister David Cameron, an early supporter of the rebellion.

"Everyone understands that is not what should have happened. It should have ended in a trial and should have ended in Gaddafi facing justice," Cameron told parliament in London.

In France, the other main driving force in NATO backing for the rebels, the foreign ministry was asked at a news briefing if there was concern about the future of democracy in Libya. An official noted that Abdel Jalil had spoken of "moderate" Islam:

"We are confident in the Libyan people, who have courageously set themselves free of 42 years of dictatorship, to construct a state of law, conforming to the principles and universal values shared by the international community," the ministry said. "We will be vigilant about human rights."

As their Tunisian and Egyptian neighbors whose uprisings inspired Libyans to rebel held or contemplated free elections, fellow Arabs also voiced distaste at Gaddafi`s treatment, even though sympathy for the fallen strongman was in short supply.

"Forty-two dark years under a merciless dictator has naturally left the Libyan people very damaged," said Mahmoud Nofal, a 36-year-old bank employee in Cairo. "It has driven them mad for revenge. The rotting body is just emblematic of the rotten political and social environment under Gaddafi."

The NTC wants the bodies buried in a secret location to prevent the grave becoming a shrine for Gaddafi loyalists. But authorities in Misrata do not want them under their soil.

Libya laws to be based on Sharia

Libya`s interim leader Abdel Jalil had announced on Sunday that a free Libya would base its laws on sharia, but a day later, on Monday, he sought to dispel fears that the North African nation would adopt hardline Islamic rule.

"I would like to assure the international community that we as Libyans are Muslims but moderate Muslims," Mustafa Abdel Jalil said at a news conference in the eastern city of Benghazi.

The National Transitional Council chief stressed during today`s media conference that sharia would be the source of legislation but that this did not mean current laws in contradiction of sharia would be summarily annulled or made void.

"My reference (on Sunday) doesn`t mean we will abolish or annul any laws. When I mentioned the law on marriage and divorce I just wanted to give an example (of laws in conflict with sharia)."

Bureau Report