BENGHAZI, APRIL 18 — Virtually everyone in Libya’s opposition-held east agrees that Muammar Gaddafi must leave Libya for the country’s war to end. But how would Libyans feel about a peace deal that granted the colonel immunity from domestic and international prosecution? Would they accept a hypothetical agreement stipulating that Gaddafi and his children leave Libya tomorrow, bringing an immediate end to the war and the fall of the loyalist regime in western Libya — but on condition that Gaddafi and his family never have to answer for their crimes in a courtroom?
I posed this question to people on Benghazi’s streets. Opinions varied.
“We don’t want any negotiation with Gaddafi — he’s a murderer”
Abduh, 52, stood in front of the Hotel Tibesty holding a sign that read, “NO NEGOTIATION WITH MURDERARS [sic]… GHADDAFI MUST LEAVE.”
“We don’t want any negotiation with Gaddafi,” said Abduh. “He’s a murderer.” Abduh was opposed to any deal that would grant Gaddafi and his sons immunity. Together with around 2,000 other people, he was protesting the presence of an African Union delegation inside the Tibesty on April 11 that he considered too close to Gaddafi to produce a diplomatic outcome fair to the opposition.
“He’s been killing our people for 42 years,” said Hussein, a 49-year-old shipmaster. “Even if everyone here dies, that’s no problem,” he said defiantly. “There must be international prosecution.”
Khadijah, a 46-year-old engineer standing in the crowded women’s section of the protest area in front of the Tibesty on April 11, agreed. “He’s killed many people — maybe 10,000. And he’s still bombing Misrata, Zuwarah, and the western mountains. There absolutely must be a trial.”
“I myself haven’t had any friends or family die,” said Mus’ab, a 27-year-old oil-company employee. “But all [Libyans] — from the west to the east — they’re our brothers.” He opposed a settlement granting Gaddafi and his sons immunity. So did Abdul Hafiz, a 50-year-old electrical worker. “The blood of Libyans is priceless. Gaddafi oppressed the Libyan people for 42 years — killing them, hanging them. Now he and his sons are international criminals.” Hasan, a 52-year-old mechanic sitting next to him, nodded in agreement.
Some Libyans insist that Gaddafi must be brought to justice because he will otherwise be a threat to a free Libya. “He has millions in his bank accounts, and if he goes off somewhere in Africa, he could raise an army and try to come back to Libya,” said Suleiman, 26, who co-owns a car-rental agency, on April 17. “Also, there are so many families who lost sons and brothers and fathers during the fighting. He absolutely must be prosecuted.”
“Just go — to save these people.”
In the name of saving lives, others would accept a deal that would get rid of Gaddafi without prosecuting him. “He jailed me, and he killed my brother,” said Idris, 39 [conversation in Benghazi, April 17]. This mechanical engineer spent a month in prison — “for being a Muslim,” he says, stroking his three-inch beard in allusion to Gaddafi’s crackdown in the 1980s and 1990s on thousands of Libyans who made the mistake of praying regularly at mosque or growing out their beards. Idris’s brother died during the Abu Salim prison massacre in June 1996, when Gaddafi’s forces killed over 1,200 prisoners.
But despite his personal travails, Idris’s main concern is that Gaddafi leave, to end the ongoing bloodshed. “Just go,” says Idris to Gaddafi. “Save all of these people.” Idris would accept an immunity deal if it would lead to Gaddafi’s immediate departure…
Cross-published from Ryan Calder’s blog revolutionology, where you can continue reading this post.