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Libya: Why Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and Béchir Saleh will not run in December poll

By Jeune Afrique
Posted on Thursday, 25 November 2021 15:52

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, a candidate in Libya’s 24 December presidential election. © DR

Libya’s High Electoral Commission has hampered Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and Béchir Saleh’s return to politics. Meanwhile, there is much uncertainty over whether the 24 December presidential election will take place as scheduled.

His name tops the list, but probably not of the one he had hoped for. On 24 November, Libya’s High Electoral Commission (HNEC) announced that it had rejected Saif al-Islam Gaddafi’s candidacy, which he had filed on 14 November in an electoral office in Sebha, in the Fezzan.

Still wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for “crimes against humanity” because of the role he played in repressing the 2011 revolution, the son of the former “Guide” Muammar Gaddafi’s return to politics has been seriously hampered.

In 2015, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi was sentenced to death by a court in Tripoli. However, a general amnesty law was then introduced, which concerned all Libyans that had been involved in the 2011 crisis.

As a result, his status became unclear as his supporters believed that this meant he was free, while others, including the Tripoli prosecutor’s office, judged that the nature of the crimes of which Gaddafi was convicted meant that he shouldn’t be pardoned.

The second name that appeared on the list of 25 candidates that have been disqualified from running in the presidential election was Béchir Saleh, Muammar Gaddafi’s former moneyman, who registered as a candidate a few days after Saif al-Islam, also in Sebha. Although he has not been formally convicted, he is still extremely secretive about Gaddafi’s billions.

Béchir Saleh too

Saleh, who fled Libya in 2011, took refuge in France. However, he then had to leave the country after the new post-revolution Libyan authorities requested his extradition. He then moved to Niger and South Africa, where he was under Jacob Zuma’s protection, before finally settling in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). He then returned to Libya and registered as a presidential candidate.

In addition, the French justice system still wants him to appear in court, as he was accused of financing Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2007 presidential campaign.

The HNEC made its decision based on several pieces of legislation, as well as on letters from the attorney-general, the head of the police’s homicide squad and the president of the Passport and Nationality Directorate.

However, given how much uncertainty there is over whether the 24 December election will take place as scheduled, it is certainly possible that the two men will contest the HNEC’s verdict.

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