A dictator is never alone. A dictator is a system whereby one man or woman is the figurehead with whole strata of society deriving their social position and wealth from their participation in a system of rule both headed and symbolised by a specific ruler. Removing just the figurehead and his or her direct entourage does not cleanse a nation of its dictatorial past. With a figurehead removed in a spectacular way, entrenched deeper layers of a system of dictatorship tend to remain largely intact. Summary execution – which may have happened today to Gaddafi by unruly troops of the new power – bypasses any attempt at reestablishing a just society.
Trying a dictator in court may help to lay bare the social strata that have been keeping a dictatorship in place. The dictator and his entourage may defend themselves and point to others who were part of their rule and may now pose as liberators. The defence of a dictator in court may also expose all forms of international support for a regime by countries, parties and other leaders who may only recently have turned against a dictator whereas before they were supporting a totalitarian system in economic, military and diplomatic ways.
The killing of Gaddafi without any form of justice serves many interests: many members of the new Libyan government involved in Gaddafi’s regime; Libyan businessmen that derive their wealth from dealing with the Gaddafi rule; political leaders both retired and active who have received Libyan support or did make economic deals; academics, intellectuals, artists, architects and so on that did get Gaddafi’s financial support or who performed for him. The killing has been tried by NATO many times in the last months, throwing tons of bombs on Gaddafi’s premises and saying that they were not targeting the leader as such. Now we will have to wait to see if sufficient details of the circumstances of the violent death of Gaddafi will come out to establish at least some form of truth of what has happened today.
Those who dance in the streets to rejoice the violent death of a dictator may well be the recruiting force for the next totalitarian regime in the making.
written Thursday October 20th 2011
See also these related articles from previous months on Libya, Gaddafi and international law:
– 2011/05/02 NATO’s Collateral Tyrannicide: will it bring Justice and Peace?
– 2022/05/16 Yet another telephone call from Libya to The Hague…
– 2011/05/26 2006 Saddam ~ 2008 Karadzic ~ 2011 Mladic captured alive: what about Gaddafi?
– 2011/05/28 G20 2011 dinner: dessert from the desert: a Libyan Oil Cocktail
– 2011/07/23 The disembodied Leviathan of Libya
– 2011/08/02 Emblem for the International Criminal Court: Iustitiae Languor
– 2011/08/21 What will be the last view of Gaddafi of this world?