Saturday, October 22, 2011

Gaddafi joins a long list of dead tyrants

With the death of Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi Libyan rebels may have removed the last obstacle as they move forward to create a new free Libya.

Found in sewer pipe

Gaddafi was killed soon after he was found hiding in a sewer pipe near to the city of Sirte on Thursday afternoon. Also killed was his son Mutassim and both bodies have since been on display to the public as they lie in a refrigerated unit on the outskirts of the city.

While most Libyans have expressed joy and jubilation there have also been questions over how he was killed. Particularly in the west, there have been concerns raised as to whether the former Libyan dictator was summarily executed, something which would be in contravention of international law.

No show trial

His death will mean no show trial or appearance at the Hague where some had hoped they might get answers over Gaddafi's presumed involvement in the Lockerbie bombing and terror funding. While some Libyans have also showed disappointment that a trial will never happen, it was likely that such proceedings would have revealed very little. Whenever the press confronted Gaddafi with accusations of terror funding or questions over Lockerbie he would chuckle and make evasive statements.

The macabre display of the dictator's body at a supermarket freezer in Misrata was far removed from the way the man lived. Hundreds of Libyans have been queuing to get a glimpse of the body of Col Gaddafi. Many feel they need to see him dead in order to confirm in their own minds Gaddafi has finally gone. "There are some Libyans who don't believe that Gaddafi is dead," said Ali Souwan who had the former dictator laid out in his home on the night of his death. "So people are coming to my house to see it."

Calls for investigation

There have been calls for an explanation into his death. A post-mortem examination on the body is expected to be carried out on Saturday thus delaying his burial which according to Islamic law should have been carried out within 24 hours [BBC].

The United Nations and Col. Gaddafi's family have called for a full investigation into the circumstances of his death. Video footage showed Gaddafi alive after his capture in Sirte on Thursday, and then dead a short time later.

Reports that he had been captured emerged at around midday on Thursday but within the hour it was said he had been killed [As it happened]. Over the coming hours pictures and video taken on mobile phones surfaced showing chaotic and graphic scenes of Gaddafi being manhandled. The details surrounding how he was killed remains a mystery however [BBC].

Disposal questions

Officials are apparently divided about what to do with the body and where to bury it. There are concerns it may become a shrine or a focal point of abuse. Such concerns have been raised in the past when other notorious dictators or terrorists have died. The quick disposal of Osama bin Laden in the Arabian Sea by the United States was said to have been a way of avoiding the creation of a shrine. However, conspiracy theories still circulate suggesting bin Laden may not have been killed since pictures of the dead al-Qaeda leader were withheld by the US on grounds of taste.

Pictures of death

The publication of the pictures would be an "incitement to additional violence as a propaganda tool" the president had insisted at the time. There was no reason to gloat Obama said, "That's not who we are."President Obama had said, "We don't do that". However some have pointed out that the US did release photographs of Saddam Hussein's sons after their deaths.

Following the death of Saddam Hussein's sons in 2003 the US released graphic photographs of both Uday and Qusay Hussein to the media. At the time the US defended the release of the pictures. US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he was "glad" concerning the decision to release the photographs. They would help convince frightened Iraqis that Saddam's rule was over, a consideration that far outweighed any sensitivities over showing the corpses, he said. "I feel it was the right decision and I'm glad I made it," Rumsfeld told a Pentagon news conference.

President George W Bush did not make a direct comment on the release of pictures but said the brothers had been "brought to justice". "These two sons of Saddam Hussein were responsible for hundreds and hundreds of people being tortured and maimed and murdered," Bush said. "And now the Iraqi people have seen clearly the intent of the United States to make sure that they are free and to make sure that the Saddam regime never returns again to Iraq." [The Age]

Three years later the policy had not changed. When Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the so-called head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, was killed during an operation in June 2006 photos were soon released. The US government distributed an image of Zarqawi's corpse as part of the press pack associated with a press conference. The release of the image was criticised for being in questionable taste, and for inadvertently creating an iconic image of Zarqawi that would be used to rally his supporters.

There will be no doubts that Gaddafi has been killed, though the way he died may swathed in mystery. Images of his dead body will also join other iconic images of dead dictators and notorious killers. Amongst them are Saddam Hussein and Benito Mussolini. After being killed Mussolini was photographed hung from his feet alongside other executed fascists in Milan. Saddam Hussein's capture by US troops and his subsequent trial was well documented as was his execution. While officially released footage of the event stopped short of showing the actual execution, an amateur video shot using a camera phone from a staircase leading up to the gallows surfaced, containing low-quality footage of the entire hanging. The amateur footage, unlike the official footage, included sound and witnesses could be heard taunting Saddam at the gallows. There are also some pictures of the former Iraqi dictator lying dead in the ambulance.

Others have escaped being captured on film in their final moments. There are no images of Adolf Hitler's corpse. After he committed suicide by gunshot on 30 April 1945 in his Führerbunker in Berlin he was cremated leaving only some remains which were recovered and interred in successive locations until 1970 when they were again exhumed, cremated and the ashes scattered.

Slobodan Milošević, the former Yugoslavian leader, avoided both a last picture and sentencing at the Hague after he died from a heart attack. Milošević was found dead in his cell on 11 March 2006, in the UN war crimes tribunal's detention center, located in the Scheveningen section of The Hague, Netherlands.

No tears

But whether they left behind iconic images or not there will be few who will shed tears for such tyrants. Gaddafi's death marks a milestone not only for Libya but other countries ruled by tyrannical rulers. In Libya NATO will gradually wind down its operations as the NTC moved forward to creating a new democratic Libya [CNN].

Across the rest of the Arab world and perhaps further afield there will be dictators of one party states feeling a little less confident than they were last week [CNN].

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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