The year 1999 marked a turning point in Libyan history. The Libyan exiled community, and members of the opposition reached a level of hopelessness, and despair trying to overthrow the Libyan dictatorship, and failed to affect any democratic changes from the outside of Libya. It became apparent to Turbi, and many Libyan exiles then that the only path for improving the lives of the Libyan people is working on change on the inside of Libya. Towards that end, Turbi began to promote constructive engagement between the U.S government and the Libyan regime. Turbi was invited by Chairman Congressman Ed Royce to testify before the U.S House of Representatives Foreign Relations subcommittee on Africa & the Middle East.
At the hearings, Turbi appealed for intervention by the U.S government for the release of political prisoners, encouraged the U.S government to follow the lead in engaging the Libyan regime.
Excerpts from the testimony..
Ladies and gentlemen, U.N. sanctions and embargoes on Libya imposed as far back as 1981 crippled the economic structure and social fabric of the Libyan people, degraded the quality of life and exasperated human rights efforts. I would call for an immediate lifting of U.N. sanctions and the gradual—and I emphasize the word ‘‘gradual’’—move toward the eventual total normalization of relations with the Libyan regime. This would be in the interest of the American and Libyan people.
We must also pay attention to this. A policy based on enlightened self-interest is far superior to one driven by strictly economic or political interests alone. Let our foreign policy be consistent with American values. The requirements for civil society must supersede narrowly defined endeavors.
The Libyan people, ladies and gentlemen, are presently in a quandary, and I really mean it. On the one hand, they suffered and are barely recovering under crippling U.N. sanctions that lasted nearly 10 years, while at the same time, they are oppressed by a brutal regime which has exhibited and continues to exhibit total disregard for human dignity. Freedom of speech, expression and assembly are nonexistent, and I am very disappointed that nobody here has talked about human rights issues in Libya so far.
To move forward with full normalization and without regard to the human rights dimension would be un-American. Lip service alone will not do, and I emphasize that. We must set specific conditions prior to total normalization that should include the immediate release of all conscience and political prisoners; the establishment of a fact-finding committee to visit with prisoners; and the call for gradual implementation of democratic reforms. It is in the best interest of America and the Libyan people to call on the Libyan regime with such conditions now. If we do not aggressively pursue these goals at this time, the Libyan regime will assume that we acquiesce its ill treatment of its people, and that would be a tragedy. Thank you.
The congressional testimony summed up the successes of Turbi's vision born in 1999. Only recently, and post the 2011 Libyan revolution, that it was revealed that Turbi was instrumental in the an overall strategy to persuade the Libyan regime to give up its Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD’s) in exchange for normalization of relations with the United States.
"I deeply believe the success in dismantling Qaddafi's chemical arsenal in 2003 and 2004 not only saved the region from a catastrophe but saved many Libyan lives. If Qaddafi had the means to use WMD's in 2011, he would have done so on the people of Benghazi"
Libya at a Crossroads: A Faltering Transition
A Omar Turbi Delivered testimony to the U.S House of Representatives - Foreign Relations Committee -
Wednesday, June 25th, 2014.
Turbi made an appeal to the U.S government to support the United Nations in a more effective intervention for a resolution of the current deadlock and crisis in Libya.
Quotes from the testimony..
It has become abundantly clear, three years after the fall of the Qaddafi regime; the Libyan people have not been able to establish viable democratic institutions, and a functioning state. The crisis at present has reached alarming levels and threatens the peace and security, not only of Libya but also of North Africa, the Sahel countries and the Mediterranean. The prospects of an intractable crisis are looming, and Libya is on the brink of becoming a failed state at the center of a critical region of the World.
Many current and former senior Libyan government officials recognize the requirement for international intervention.
Today the Libyan people are electing a new 200 member legislative body to replace the outgoing General National Congress (GNC) of which term had expired in February this year. Although many Libyans are optimistic at the prospects of a new beginning, I am pessimistic due to anticipated low voter turn out due to lack of public security, poor planning and the possibility of more of the same of less qualified new members of a new GNC.
The Libyan people are grateful for the on going engagement by the United States to help contain further crisis. Myself, and a group of prominent Libyan experts submitted an initiative to Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki Moon on June 5th, 2014, some of its content is provided below. Although we are pleased that the UN has recently undertaken steps along the lines of our proposed initiative, more effort by the U.S as a powerful member of the Security Council is needed for effective UN intervention.
The mission of such intervention, however, must be under the UN and in accordance to UN resolutions adopted in 2011 under chapter 7. It must be noted that during the course of drafting and planning the subject initiative we spoke with many Libyan government officials, current and former holders of senior positions, former prime ministers, and deputy prime ministers, members of the General National Congress (GNC) and Libyan Ambassadors abroad. The vast majority who reviewed the draft and final version of the initiative have applauded its content and endorsed the call for IMMEDIATE AND ACTIVE INTERNATIONAL INTERVENTION IN THE ONGOING LIBYA CRISIS and pledged their support. While we wanted to publish their names, they, however, requested their names to be withheld due to personal and security reasons. A summary of the initiative is provided below from (1) through (5):
1- Strengthen and expand the mandate of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), under the existing UN resolutions adopted in 2011, to actively convene a conference of all Libyan armed militias and all key political groups. In such conference the UN would start and directly administer a credible and serious process of national reconciliation, disarmament, and amnesty programs between all parties in order to go beyond all grievances of the past including those before February 17, 2011. The UN should act, as the neutral party Libya needs now the most and take the lead in managing and guaranteeing the enforcement of any outcome by all means referenced in the current active resolutions with the support of the International Community.
2- UN should guide a new political road map and democratic mechanisms for the establishment of a legislative body as soon as possible that can replace the current General National Congress (GNC) and provide direct support and effective guidelines for the nominations, elections and congressional conduct for the new GNC.
3- The UN should provide more direct and active support for the new constitution's drafting and ratification process, already in place by the recently elected committee in charge of drafting the constitution, as well as greater support for the adoption of the new constitution in a national referendum to be managed by the UN.
4- Work closely with the national army of Libya, under the authority of a newly elected legislative body and its nominated government to stabilize the country and create viable and secure Libyan territories for all its civilian population whom may potentially be caught within the warring factions in different regions of the country.
5- Support the inclusion of all Libyans regardless of beliefs or political opinion in the process of a peaceful political transition including all political exiles and war refugees of over 1.5 million Libyans scattered between Egypt and Tunisia.
Honorable Congresswomen and Honorable Congressmen, I believe in order for our foreign policy to succeed with Libya and the region, we must pursue one that is truly based on enlightened self-interest. I would like to make the following recommendations:
(a). Islamists in the region have become a reality of the political landscape. Therefore, we must not view and lump extremist Islamists with none extremists ones. The dynamics of political Islam in Libya are different than those in Egypt. The failure of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt may not reflect the realities of the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya. I am a strong advocate of carrying out a constructive and direct dialogue with the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood of Libya. I have had discussions with their leadership. I believe they have genuine interest in a more successful democracy in Libya because of lessons learned from the Egyptian experience.
(b). Support for democratic processes in Libya and assistance in the construction of Libyan institutions has to go beyond encouraging the work of American NGO’s. Libya’s diplomatic and economic missions around the world are dysfunctional and require overhaul and rebuilding from the ground up. We must not be restricted by sovereignty matters. The U.S government should offer to help the anticipated emerging new Libyan government to build a more effective Libyan diplomatic corp around the world.
(c). We must work closer with our European allies to stem the growing flow of migrants from the African sub Sahara through Libya. We have not done enough to assist the interim Libyan governments install working systems for control of Libyan borders.
(d). I encourage current programs underway by the U.S in training Libyan military personnel in Libya’s quest to build a national army. We should learn from any set backs and continue with greater numbers and speed.
(e). We must learn lessons from the attack on the U.S Consulate in Benghazi in September, 2012. I believe the U.S clandestine operations in and around Benghazi in trying to identify AlQaeda elements leading up to that time of the attack on the Consulate may have contributed to the assault on the U.S Consulate and the death of U.S Ambassador Chris Stevens and four U.S servicemen.
Honorable Congresswomen and Honorable Congressmen Libya’s unique and beautiful coast line, year long lush green mountains, beautiful desert and its close proximity to Europe and the gates of Africa, its treasures of thousands of years of history, and most of all its wealth with natural resources place Libya as an important player on the world scene. Thank you.