Thursday, 6 November 2014

Libya’s High Court Rules Parliament Unconstitutional.....

Libyan lawyers celebrate in Tripoli after the Supreme Court invalidated the country's parliament on Thursday. Reuters
TRIPOLI—Libya’s Supreme Court on Thursday ruled the nation’s isolated but internationally recognized parliament is unconstitutional, a decision that threatens to plunge the oil-rich nation into further political chaos.
Control over Libya and its vast oil resources has been violently contested since the 2011 overthrow of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi by rebels backed by airstrikes from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Today, Libya is split between two rival governments and many activists and observers said they fear Thursday’s court ruling, which can’t be appealed, could scuttle internationally mediated efforts for reconciliation.
Late Thursday, the parliament—which has operated out of the remote eastern city of Tobruk following intense fighting that saw Tripoli fall to militias who backed a previously dissolved body dominated by Islamists—issued a statement in which lawmakers vowed to keep working.
The statement characterized Tripoli as a city “out of control” ruled by armed militias and accused the judges there of coming to their ruling “under the threat of weapons.”
The lawmakers added that they reject the ruling and declared themselves the “sole legislative authority” elected by Libyan voters.
The defiant statement is likely to heighten tensions in Libya, where the Supreme Court has been seen as one of the few remaining institutions that hadn’t fallen under direct political influence.
The Supreme Court sits in Tripoli and supporters of the Tobruk parliament said it has operated under intimidation by a coalition of armed groups thereknown as Operation Dawn, raising questions about its ability to rule independently. The court hasn’t responded to any of the accusations.
Late Thursday, the reasoning behind the decision and whether it would result in the dissolution of the parliament, remained unclear. The judges who issued the ruling didn’t offer a public explanation and couldn’t be reached for comment.
Individual lawmakers blasted the decision, while supporters of a rival government, which operates out of the capital, Tripoli, with the backing of militias, declared victory.
“This decision represents the nail in the coffin of Libyan national unity,” said Nasser Ahmed, an activist who supports the Tobruk government.
Mr. Ahmed said the ruling will fuel calls for the partitioning of Libya as the dueling governments have battled for control.
The legislature, known as the House of Representatives, was elected in June and nominated Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani. It has won international recognition as the legitimate government of Libya but enjoys scant political support at home and hasn’t been able to wrest back control of Tripoli or Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city, from militias aligned with the prior government.
Known as the General National Congress, the Tripoli government has taken control over most of Libya’s ministries. It is led by Omar al-Hassi and is backed by powerful militias from the city of Misrata and other Islamist-inspired armed groups.
The case stemmed from a lawsuit brought by 30 elected members of the House of Representatives who have Islamist leanings and have boycotted the sessions. They argued the legislature is in violation of the constitution because it doesn’t convene in Tripoli or Benghazi.
Aly Abuzaakouk, a member of the faction that brought the suit, dismissed the claim that the judges had been under the threat of violence. He said the decision is “historic and a key to a bright future in Libya.”
His view is unlikely to be shared by the United Nations, which has been attempting to broker an end to the political deadlock while warning that the nation was on the brink of civil war.
Late Thursday, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya said it “will be studying [the decision closely]” and would consult “with Libyan stakeholders across the political spectrum, and with international partners.”
Western powers including the U.S. and regional powers, including Egypt, that have backed Mr. al-Thani’s government didn’t immediately respond the court ruling.
Despite little clarity on what the decision means for the rival governments, members of the GNC immediately declared victory as street celebrations erupted in Tripoli and Misrata.
Saleh al-Makhzoum, a leading GNC lawmaker, told the Associated Press that the decision represented a “victory for the nation” and effectively made the House of Representatives “nonexistent.”