On July 28, a Tripoli court sentenced the son of Libya’s ex-President Muammar al-Qaddafi and eight other prominent former regime officials to death. The verdict prompted widespread denunciation. Critics cited flaws in the legal proceedings, which clearly fell short of accepted standards of due process. Human rights activists assailed the court’s treatment of the prisoners, noting allegations of abuse of Saadi Qaddafi, the former dictator’s son.
In sum, the botched trial marks yet another missed opportunity for justice in Libya.
All this would be bad enough in itself. Yet the most ominous consequence of the trial may well turn out to be its effect on supporters of the old order. One week after the announcement of the verdict, adherents of the toppled Qaddafi regime staged street protests throughout the country to demand the release of prominent regime figures still being held by the militias who toppled the dictator in 2011. By and large, supporters of Qaddafi’s government have played little role in public life over the past four years. Now, however, they are clearly feeling emboldened by the turmoil that has engulfed the country since Qaddafi’s fall. And the dubious trial in Tripoli has supplied them with a perfect pretext to undermine the 2011 revolution.