Change takes time, Libyan judge says
Interview by Nohad Topalian for Magharebia in Beirut – 19/01/12
Naima Mohamed Jebril, a Benghazi appellate court judge and chairperson of the Commission to Support Women's Participation in Decision-Making in Libya, shoulders a great responsibility for realising transitional justice and legal reform.
She headed the Libyan delegation to the January 15th-16th "Reform and Transitions to Democracy" conference in Beirut, where Magharebia sat down with Jibril to ask her about the role of women, her thoughts on protests and efforts to disarm former fighters.
Magharebia: Just last week there was gunfight near Gharyan between rival groups. What steps are being taken to secure weapons in Libya and control militias?
Jebril: There is no doubt that revolutionary formations and the volume of weapons are sparking fears and concerns for a large segment of Libyans. However, the state, National Transitional Council (NTC) and transitional government have started preparing the necessary programmes to rehabilitate the revolutionaries and reintegrate them in the building of economy and social development, and after that they will play their role in the march of the new state.
Practically, the revolution was peaceful, but Kadhafi's regime militarised it when it attacked it and started to liquidate it using tanks and machine guns, prompting the revolutionaries to get armed and then they won. The integration plan was announced on 24 December 2011 and it provides for integrating about 20,000 revolutionaries in the army and police, rehabilitating them and meeting their demands for a dignified life. Meanwhile, students would return to their schools. However, this plan will need some time because we're in a sensitive, critical transitional period.
The removal of a dictator is easy, but achieving a change and making it a success will need time. As to weapons, there are revolutionary formations that have already started to turn them in. The only thing acceptable to us is to put an end to this phenomenon in return for legal guarantees for the activation and application of the plan.
Magharebia: What are your thoughts on the recent Libya protests calling for speedy reforms and jobs?
Jebril: It's an excellent scene because it is an indicator of real democracy. Protests and sit-ins are a legitimate right as long as the demands are peaceful and realistic. We're in a critical transitional period, and we're preparing for a parliamentary election. Therefore, the ceiling of expectations must be realistic because we're dreaming about building a democratic state with institutions and a constitution. However, we realise that this will need time, including a shift in values and prevailing thoughts.
Sit-ins are a healthy and excellent phenomenon, and are the result of deviations on the part of the NTC or government from the course established by the revolution. Such phenomena are needed, and the NTC is not worried, and says that they complement and guide its role.
Magharebia: However, the new Libyan government has been accused of a lack of transparency. What does it need to do to win people's confidence?
Jebril: This is correct and is clear to everyone. Therefore, the General Transparency Commission has been created to ensure transparency. We ask the NTC to speak to us every week about the decisions they take and to speak with transparency about how they are spending the money. We also ask the government to hold a conference to announce all of its decisions with complete transparency. More importantly for this stage, we stress the need for dialogue, which is absent now, with civil society organisations.
As the Commission to Support Women's Participation in Decision-Making in Libya, we submitted a document signed by all civil society organisations in which we requested the involvement of civil society in the committee that will draft the election law. However, our demand, together with our nomination of specialised cadres in vital fields, was not taken into consideration.
This is the contradiction we're now experiencing, and this is the precariousness of the transitional period we're currently living in the absence of transparency and a transitional justice law so as to achieve justice and equality. Dialogue and the involvement of civil society inspire confidence both internally and externally.
Magharebia: How would you describe the situation of Libyan women now?
Jebril: They had a stronger presence in the February 17th revolution and they were struggling even before that date under Kadhafi's regime. Libyan women constitute half of society and have received a high level of university education. They took to the streets before men during the revolution, but, unfortunately, their role retracted and is now restricted to civil society. All of this was due to social concepts and society's view of women, together with the mentality and social and cultural clichés.
For the time being, now that there is a conviction that the decision-making is vested in men alone, women are working as part of the Commission to Support Women's Participation in Decision-Making to increase women's quota from 10% to 30% so as to enhance their political role.
I hope to build a society with integrated roles, with equal rights and duties, in order to have a democratic society.
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