On road to reconciliation, Libya meets trail of anguish

The New York Times reports: The present and future are daunting enough for the wobbly authorities here, but then there is the tormented past to consider as well: four decades of state crimes whose wounds demand attention.

With mass murders, disappearances and public executions, the victims of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s People’s Court, Internal Security Agency and State Security Court number in the tens of thousands, human rights advocates here and abroad say. How will Libyans come to terms with their past?

Already, the provisional leaders are pondering options for exposing the long catalog of killings and torture, looking to models from South Africa, Europe and Latin America. They are motivated by a conviction, they say, that a new nation cannot be built unless light is shed on the dark corners of the old.

The specifics are being worked out, like so much else in a country that appears to be shaking itself awake after a long, bad dream. But the interim minister of justice, a veteran of legal jousting with the Qaddafi government from within and without, said there was a tentative plan: investigation, public hearings and prosecution, with the inquiry reaching all the way back to the earliest days of Colonel Qaddafi’s rise to power in 1969.

“We look to Chile, Argentina, South Africa — we take part of South Africa,” said the interim justice minister, Mohammed al-Alagi, referring to the approach of that country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which emphasized fact-finding and accountability rather than punishment.

Most important, Mr. Alagi suggested in an interview in the empty and echoing Justice Ministry here, was the imperative for Libyans to confront Qaddafi-era crimes in a country where there were no independent media to report them.

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