Gaddafi is dead- hold the front page

Gaddafi is dead. There can be no more speculation about that, given that pictures of his capture and his corpse are emblazoned across every UK newspapers front page today.

The images are graphic, gruesome and disturbing. They have courted a great deal of controversy see this Guardian gallery of front pages, and this comment piece on how editors have justified their use and this blog on BBC about the challenges of covering Gaddafis death. Yet as well as being gruesome, they are also indisputable. One of the justifications put forward for showing pictures of a famous corpse is that they conclusively counter conspiracy theorists and doubters. That much has been accomplished. But that is not the only question to be answered. The Daily Mail, runs the headline Dont Shoot- battered and bloody, the tyrant pleads for his life. Moments later, he was dead- executed with a bullet to the head.  The Sun leads with Thats for Lockerbie.

No attempt there to suggest that this was anything other than a vengeful extrajudicial execution. He died the way he had lived, without mercy many of the editorials have screamed today (No mercy for a merciless tyrant says the Telegraph). That is so. There is no doubt that his was a tyrannical and bloodthirsty reign. That he slaughtered his opponents and made the people of Libya cower. Yet this uprising, and the dawn of a new Libya was intended to be a watershed. A breaking with that period and its legacy. He may have died as many of his enemies had at his command, but it is a damning indictment of the new authorities, that they appear to have picked up where he left off. Amnesty is today calling for an independent investigation into the exact circumstances surrounding his death, preferably led by the International Criminal Court. That is the way to demark a break with a culture of impunity.  

For many Libyans today is a time to rejoice, after 42 years of repression and brutality. Far from ducking the blame, rebel soldiers are rushing to take the credit for pulling the trigger that ended the life of the worlds most iconic dictator. The glory attached to that claim, is troubling. If this is the way that old scores are to be settled in the new Libya, then we are in trouble.

 In any event, this is not an ending that can be considered a triumph.  Indeed it is merely the end of the beginning, as Ban Ki Moon cautioned today. The challenges ahead are many. There is concern that Gaddafi served as a unifying force in Libya to the last- the many factions of a divided country brought together in a mutual hatred of a cruel ruler.   Read more in Amnestys  Libya: Human Rights Agenda for Change  which proposes an overall programme of institutional reform for the new government, which sets human rights at its core.

Reforming the justice system to ensure its independence and ability to provide a remedy for victims must be a priority for the NTC now.  Investigating his death might be unpopular, but even those who have categorically denied justice to others, must be the subject of justice. That is how the rule of law works. The opportunity to give Gaddafis many victims the answers they sought from him in a court room and the satisfaction of justice and reparations is now lost. He will never be in the dock.  

 For now though, he has indeed died as he lived, as a magnet for media attention and an icon. It is the end of a tyrant, (The Independent) lets hope too, that it can be the end of tyranny.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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