Libya: UN condemns attack on court ahead of national vote

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CAIRO (AP) – The UN mission in Libya on Friday condemned an attack by armed men on an appellate court as it would reconsider an earlier decision that disqualified the son of longtime dictator Moammar Gaddafi from running for president.

On Thursday, gunmen surrounded the court in the southern city of Sabha and prevented judges from gathering to review Seif al-Islam Gaddafi’s appeal. Earlier, the country’s electoral body had ruled that Seif al-Islam was not eligible to run in next month’s presidential election, citing his previous convictions.

“Attacks on judicial or electoral facilities or judicial or electoral personnel are not only criminal acts, punishable under Libyan law, but (they) also undermine the right of Libyans to participate in the political process,” tweeted UNSMIL.

Libya will hold the first round of presidential elections on December 24, after years of UN-led efforts to usher in a more democratic future and end the country’s civil war. The forthcoming vote, however, faces many challenges, including unresolved issues of election-governing laws and occasional conflicts among armed groups. Other obstacles include the deep rift that remains between the country’s east and west and the presence of thousands of foreign soldiers and troops.

The county is currently governed by an interim government elected by Libyan delegates following UN-led talks in Geneva in February.

Libya’s interim interior minister Khaled Mazen promised on Thursday to hunt down and prosecute the attackers. He insisted that the transitional government is committed to securing the electoral process to encourage all Libyans to go to the polls, according to Libya’s state news agency.

On Wednesday, the High National Election Commission decided to exclude Seif al-Islam from the race with reference to his criminal record. Seif al-Islam had been sentenced to death by a court in Tripoli in 2015 for using violence against protesters in an uprising against his father in 2011, but that sentence has since been questioned by Libya’s rival authorities. He is also wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity related to the uprising.

The announcement of his possible candidacy aroused controversy in the divided country, where a number of other high-profile candidates have also emerged in recent weeks. Among them are the powerful military commander Khalifa Hifter and the country’s interim prime minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah.

“The mission reiterates its call for open, fair and inclusive elections on December 24,” UNSMIL said.

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