Supreme Court Dismisses House of Representatives
The long awaited ruling of Libya’s Supreme Court over the legitimacy of the gathering of the House of Representatives in Tobruk came out on Thursday as a shocker. The Supreme Court, in fact, invalidated the entire legislative and elective process leading to the establishment of the House of Representatives on the ground that the committee instituted to organize it breached the country’s provisional constitution.
What was seen by many as an opportunity to put an end to, or somehow curb, the duplication of institutions and facilitate the negotiation process has instead lead to possibly even more uncertainty. In the Misratan and Fajr Libya camp, of course, the news was very well welcomed. Politicians aligned with the camp of the al-Hassi government have rushed to underline the nullifying effect that this ruling has over all acts and decisions taken by the supposedly now-defunct House of Representatives.
On the other hand, the HoR and politicians and representatives broadly aligned with the Tobruk camp have quickly rebuffed the ruling. Firstly, the HoR rejected the ruling appealing to the legitimacy it derives from its election at the hands of ‘the Libyan people’. Secondly, it is argued from the Hor camp, the ruling is illegitimate because it was proclaimed at gunpoint. The Supreme Court is located in Tripoli, a city firmly under control of the Fajr Libya camp and which is very much controlled through the rule of militias rather than the rule of law, despite proclaims and initiatives trying to demonstrate the opposite. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly in this situation, the Supreme Court went out of its way and scope of competences by ruling over the legitimacy of the February Committee. As a matter of fact, until the ruling was issued today, observers expected the court to rule over the legitimacy of the Tobruk location and members of the HoR camp argue that this renders the ruling invalid.
As stated by the newly appointed Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, this ruling is clearly not encouraging for the future of Libya and goes contrary to the hope of those who wished that the Supreme Court would end this political stalemate and seal the transfer of power between the rival chambers. Whilst it is still to early to tell how things will settle in the medium term, it seems likely that the duplication of institutions will continue unabated, thus confirming the paramount role of militias and armed branches in both camps and giving even more relevance to the developments on the military fronts. Most importantly, all actors should work to make sure that this ruling does not reinforce centrifugal and separatist tendencies beyond the point of no return.