Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Situation in Libya

Delivered in Plenary - 14th September 2011

Madam President

Free Libya Forces have courageously liberated Tripoli. They have control of the country’s key population centres. There have been few reprisals or abuses committed by the anti-Gaddafi forces, in contrast to the serious war crimes committed by Gaddafi loyalists and foreign mercenaries. The deranged despot Gaddafi has finally been overthrown and it is clear from this that the people of Libya are now keen to establish a pluralist democracy. I am not sure whether it is going to be liberal yet. However, though Gaddafi himself is no longer in Tripoli, some of his supporters are still at large and still pose a security threat until he is either killed, or captured and surrendered to the ICC.

My group, the ECR, strongly supports NATO in its continued operations – which are, I have to say, unique in that there have been zero casualties from a military point of view to date – to protect Libyan civilians. It is also vital that we support the NTC-led political transition that must now take place from a dictatorship of over 40 years to the ultimate goal, a government chosen by the people and thereafter subject regularly to elections to ensure its legitimacy to govern by consent.

I have to say it was not a proud day for the EU in terms of unity at the beginning, particularly the abstention by Germany in the Security Council over Resolution 1973. The UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, in contrast, must be congratulated on his courageous initiative alongside French President Sarkozy early on, speaking out as lone voices in the international community – though the wider community internationally must now continue to support Libya as it starts to rebuild itself. It has not just to recover from a war that has killed many of its citizens and build a democracy; it has to build this in the absence of any meaningful civil or political institutions.

The mountain that the National Transitional Council must now climb is great, and it will need all the friendly support it can get in order both to re-establish security in the country and to provide the basic services to its citizens, when right now many of the inhabitants of Tripoli, for instance, do not have access to clean running water. I have to say to the African Union, and South Africa in particular, get real. Gaddafi your friend has gone, please recognise the NTC as a legitimate authority in Libya.

Mercifully, once oil production restarts Libya will again be a rich country. We in the ECR therefore welcome the lifting by the EU of the freeze on assets held by the Member States, and believe that these should be returned forthwith to the NTC for reconstruction efforts and humanitarian aid. It will also be necessary to subject Libyan finances, including in the City of London which I represent, to the investigation of forensic accountants in order to determine the whereabouts of the billions that were stolen under Gaddafi’s rule. All this must remain nevertheless a Libyan-led process without any occupying foreign army.

We must also ensure that surrounding countries such as Algeria and Niger pledge to hand over Gaddafi, and any accused members of his family, to the NTC so that they may be put on trial for the crimes against humanity for which they stand accused, either in Libya, or before the ICC in The Hague. The NTC must for its part guarantee fair and transparent trials for all those found guilty of serious human rights crimes.

We congratulate Libya on its achievements thus far. We recognise the bravery of the rebels, in particular the long-suffering Berbers, that had the courage to fight this ruthless regime, and we offer our condolences to the families of the victims both of the regime and of the battle for freedom. We welcome the NTC’s constitutional declaration announced last month as a suitable interim constitution, and we must now fully support their quest for a new, democratic Libya, as a moderate Muslim country eschewing extremism of any kind.