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8 September 2011 Last updated at 20:12 ET
Libyan dilemma over justice for Gaddafi era
By Rana Jawad
BBC News, Tripoli
Transitional authorities have announced a bounty for Col Gaddafi's killing or capture
Libya Crisis
In pictures: Sirte battle
Vying for power
Where is Gaddafi?
Profile: Sirte
After 42 years without an independent legal system, Libyans are trying to work out how to deal with their toppled leader Col Muammar Gaddafi, his former henchmen, and many other beneficiaries of his regime.
This is a country wrought by decades of lawlessness, which many think has only been reinforced by the judiciary.
Libyans often opted to resolve matters on their own terms - amicably or vengefully - when seeking justice, rather than rely on the courts they grew to disdain.
There has been a lot of talk in recent months of the changes to come, central to which is building a "country of law", as interim leaders have reiterated countless of times.
Any future justice system in Libya is likely to be one of the busiest fields in the country if some Libyans have it their way.
Amongst friends and families, the debate over who should or should not be brought to trial in the short-term is a hot one.
It is not about what you do now, it's about what you did in the last 42 years”
Yusef Serrag
Yusef Serrag, a 38-year-old entrepreneur is eagerly waiting for a long list of personalities, politicians, and businessmen to answer for their past.
"They all had a choice," he says. "They all need to be held accountable for any offences… even those who have no blood on their hands.
"Corruption robbed people like me of the opportunity to expand in business. Some wealthy families have only now tried to make amends with financial contributions for humanitarian aid.
"It is not about what you do now, it's about what you did in the last 42 years."
Held without charge
Not all of the capital's residents are imagining justice through the courts.
In public there have been appeals against vengeance
There is no visible trace of the ex-leader's die-hard loyalists in Tripoli these days.
Many have been rounded up by the rebels for interrogation and are now in detention centres, without legal representation or any formal charges.
Others - particularly the members of Col Gaddafi's reviled revolutionary committee movement - have been interrogated and allowed to return home, often to neighbourhoods from which they likely feel ostracised, with neighbours who now feel they have the upper hand.
Though many will argue against revenge killings, what is said in private does not always reflect what some Libyans here are telling the world media.
"I think they should all be executed [without trial]," says Amin, a local businessman, when speaking of the "the fifth column" - a favoured term to describe remnants of the regime's loyalists.
He is not the only one to hold such views of the people Libyans have feared for decades.
As for Col Gaddafi and his son Saif al-Islam, both are wanted for alleged war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC) - but locals are unlikely to back a trial in an overseas tribunal.
Libyans are suddenly free to vent their views about their former ruler
In late August, interim leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil echoed a similar view.
"The crimes that Gaddafi committed against his people locally before 17 February are enough to bring him to trial for any other crimes he committed after 17 February," he said.
"Libya has not signed the Rome agreement and the ICC's justice is a complementary justice, as the local judicial system is the one responsible for this."
A week later, transitional authorities announced a bounty for Col Gaddafi, captured or killed.
'We smell freedom'
In downtown Tripoli three Libyan women cheerfully point to the festive scenes unfolding in front of them, like the corner where locals are clamouring to buy revolutionary memorabilia.
He must be tried by Libyans here - look at how the country is in ruins”
Fathi Al-Trekki
"For the first time since we were born, we smell freedom," said one of them, a middle-aged woman who introduced herself as Oum Ahmad.
"We were born in Gaddafi's era of course. So God-willing, they will capture [Gaddafi] so they can hang him here in the square - him and his sons," she said as she pointed to the recently renamed Martyrs' Square.
"Right there, in the middle," she added thoughtfully.
Libya is no stranger to public executions. Many of the regime's opponents in the late 1970s and 1980s were hanged from the gallows, often in front of a horrified public audience that could do little but watch.
"[Gaddafi] is a tyrant," says Fathi Al-Trekki, another bystander. "He must be tried by Libyans here… he was OUR dictator, he made US suffer and he robbed us of everything. Look at how the country is in ruins."
Time and again Col Gaddafi and his son Saif al-Islam have insisted that they would fight to the death or die in their country.
There appears to be no shortage of Libyans who are willing to accommodate that.
Libya is at a dangerous crossroads, torn between memories of the iron rule and shattered lives of the old regime and the need to establish the rule of law for the future.
More on This Story
Libya Crisis
Features and Analysis
In pictures: Sirte battle
Images from the Libyan city of Sirte, where transitional government forces have been battling Gaddafi loyalists.
Vying for power
Where is Gaddafi?
Profile: Sirte
Hunt for Gaddafi
Pain resurfaces
Chaotic fighting
Loyalists sit tight in Sirte
Islamists keen to engage
Migrant backlash
Painting Gaddafi
The final phase?
After Gaddafi
Jalil: Crowd pleaser
Waiting for the oil to flow
Gaddafi: African asylum seeker?
Where are the weapons?
Conflict images
'Mass killing' sites
Islamists among rebels?
Profiles & Maps
The Gaddafi story
Gaddafi's co-accused by the ICC
Profile: Saif al-Islam Gaddafi
Gaddafi family tree
Key figures in rebel council
Profile: Mustafa Abdul Jalil
Libya conflict: Q&A
Coalition firepower
Gaddafi's bolt-hole
Where do Nato countries stand?
Where is al-Qaeda?
How war is being funded
Related Internet links
International Criminal Court
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