Why Libya’s political isolation law is at odds with democracy

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Populist violence is raging in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, characterized by a revenge-seeking mindset instead of a disciplined and legal transition. Meanwhile, the state seeks to humiliate and isolate its opponents, deepening divisions.

These countries are all seeing the rise of a systematic terror which is a prelude to the return of al-Qaeda and similar organizations, in light of unilateral dominance coupled with crushing economic and social crises.

In Libya, a populist movement is challenging the government through the ratification on May 5 of the political isolation law, which forbids senior figures under the former regime from political participation and public functions, and establishes a “higher apparatus” to enforce implementation.

This is a dangerous political scenario, in addition to the security situation inside the country and at its borders. A struggling democracy is being targeted by attempts to besiege the government and take control.

On March 5, 2013, the General Assembly was attacked, and its members assaulted, in an attempt to exercise pressure until the political isolation law was adopted. On March 7, a huge group attacked al-Assema TV and abducted four of its employees.

On April 23, a group associated with Malian rebels attacked the French embassy in Tripoli, which brought back memories of the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 12 last year.

The adoption of the political isolation law was preceded by violent acts, including a siege of parliament on April 28 and 30, as well as the ministries of foreign affairs, justice, interior, finance, water and electricity.

These militias forced the government and the elected parliament to act according to their own agenda, as they physically encircled parliament until the law was adopted, in a session that was not headed by the house speaker Dr Mouhammad al-Makreef, who is one of the officials affected by this new law.

These events pushed the U.N. mission in Libya to call for support for “the efforts of elected entities and other legal government institutions,” as well as Libyans to engage in constructive dialogue that will help achieve the goals of the revolution.

The political isolation law was adopted and constitutionally protected by forbidding any type of review. This has been described by local and international human rights groups as a crime against humanity.

The political isolation law is a recipe for abusing, rather than rewarding and recognizing, the efforts of those who defected from the ousted regime, such as Mahmoud Jibril, Abdul-Azeem Shalqam, and the late Abdul Fattah Youssof, among others.

The law deprives them of their basic rights, as well as the right to reap the benefits of their sacrifice. It has been described by analysts as worse than the Iraqi de-Baathification law.

It is strange to see the similarity of what is happening in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia, as if the regime is reproducing itself through new democratic tools. Worse than these new tyrannies, however, is the fact that conflict has reached the core of the public sector, which might lead to clashes and a point of no return in destroying the state and society.

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