Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of Libya’s former ruler Moammar Gaddafi, filed paperwork Sunday to run for Libyan president, adding to an increasingly tense dynamic ahead of elections currently scheduled for Dec. 24
Gaddafi’s father, a notorious dictator who ruled Libya with an iron fist, was captured and killed in October 2011 after eight months of uprising against his decades-long regime during the Arab Spring. The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for the younger Gaddafi the same year, citing two counts of crimes against humanity.
The younger Gaddafi was never extradited to face the charges. He was held by rebel forces for several years after his father died and since his release has remained largely out of the public eye, even as Libya fell into chaos in the decade after the end of his father’s rule.
On Sunday, in the southern town of Sabha, he registered as a candidate in the country’s upcoming election — a process that has spurred wariness among many Libyans and observers but that foreign powers insist is necessary in order to stabilize the country after years of war.
Hanan Salah, Libya researcher for Human Rights Watch, said the move showed the lack of rule of law in Libya. “In my view, the next police officer in Sabha should be arresting him,” Salah said.
Yet Gaddafi’s signing of the requisite paperwork made for a fairly unremarkable scene.
Footage shows him dressed in a brown turban and robe, with glasses and a beard, calmly signing his name on documents at the guidance of election officials.
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Although not entirely unexpected, Gaddafi officially putting his name in for the presidential elections adds a new dynamic to the already fraught electoral period.
“The timing couldn’t be more sensitive,” Salah said.
The presence of armed groups and mercenaries remain rife throughout the country. Khalifa Hifter, who leads the Libyan National Army in the country’s east and received backing from Russian mercenaries, is also expected to formally announce a bid for the presidency.
Observers have expressed uncertainty that the elections will be free and fair. Still, the international community is pushing for them to take place as planned.
Leaders from several countries including Libya and the United States attended a conference in Paris last week and threatened to sanction any parties that interfere in the elections.
Concerns over the ability for these elections to be free and fair have “completely been brushed aside and it’s become this obsession with Dec. 24 which is a completely random date,” Salah said.