A story in today’s New York Times describes how the site of a massacre of dozens of alleged Gaddafi loyalists in Surt was scrubbed before evidence required for a careful investigation could be collected.
It appeared to be one of the worst massacres of the eight-month conflict, but days after it occurred, no one from Libya’s new government had come to investigate. The interim leaders, who declared the country liberated on Sunday, may simply have their hands full with the responsibilities that come with running a state. But throughout the Libyan conflict, they have also shown themselves to be unwilling or incapable of looking into accusations of atrocities by their fighters, despite repeated pledges not to tolerate abuse.
There’s a sharp tension in Libya right now between demands from external forces for the NTC to police rights violations and the NTC’s own need to expand its circle of loyalty. The NTC just isn’t powerful enough to impose its authority across Libyan territory, so it will have to try to induce compliance from disparate militias by offering gains from cooperation. Even where clearly warranted, investigations and trials of rival militias’ members are more likely to push those groups away than pull them in.
In short, the NTC simply can’t please both constituencies–foreign patrons calling for instant hierarchy and domestic militias seeking a share of power–at the same time. Unfortunately, all good things do not always go together.