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Libya Elects Liberal Congress; Death Penalty in America

Aired July 12, 2012 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

The Arab Spring has brought democracy to countries across the region, but with a distinctly Islamic flavor. In my brief tonight, one country that's bucking that trend: Libya. The Libyan Muslim Brotherhood had hoped to replicate the success of its neighbors in Egypt and Tunisia.

But in the land ruled for so long by Moammar Gadhafi, the people appear to have elected a congress dominated by a liberal party called the National Forces Alliance. It happened because of this man, Mahmoud Jibril, the American-educated political scientist who was the transitional prime minister.

He ran a campaign stressing economic reforms, stability and inclusiveness. Jibril's faith may have been on all the campaign posters, but he was barred from seeking a seat himself because he once worked for Gadhafi's son, Seif.

But Jibril turned on Gadhafi early in the revolution, and met with key international players, such as then-French president Nicolas Sarkozy to singlehandedly put the rebels on the world map and get them international approval.

So will he find a way to become Libya's next leader in a country that must essentially be rebuilt from scratch? I'll speak with Mahmoud Jibril in just a moment about all of this, but first, a look at what's coming up later in the program.



AMANPOUR (voice-over): Closing time for a deadly (inaudible), finding a new and unusual way to stop lethal injections. And tinker, tailor, soldier, spy, this daring Frenchman fought the Nazis with panache and exploding baguettes. We'll explain.


AMANPOUR: We'll get to that in a bit. But first, Mahmoud Jibril is Libya's game-changer. And though full official results from the weekend elections are not yet in, initial results show that he has swept most of the major districts around the capital and around the country. So how did he get from a rebel outpost to perhaps the country's next leader?


AMANPOUR: Mahmoud Jibril, thank you so much for joining me from Tripoli.


AMANPOUR: Let me ask you, today the results of your election have been announced. How is it that you did so well? What accounts for Libya bucking the trend, if you like, whereby in other countries that have had elections, the Islamists have won? But not so in Libya.

JIBRIL: Well, first of all, I think the Libyans did so well, you know, the level of awareness was a big surprise for everybody. And I think it's unprecedented case in the history of a human being that elections take place in the absence of the state. Usually the state is there and elections take place under the state's umbrella, where you have an army, you have a police and you have everything.

So from that perspective, I think the only victorious party is the Libyan people.

AMANPOUR: So how did the Libyan people, then, have the opportunity to put, let's say, a more secular, a more liberal group over the top? In other words, what was it politically, do you think, that you had that the Islamist party did not?

JIBRIL: The Libyan people have nothing to do with liberalism or secularism or ideology in general, you know. What matters to them is to restore stability order and start their own life and be convincing that for 42 years of deprivation, of (inaudible) sort of development. This what matters to them.

I think our program, which we presented to the Libyan people, to a large degree, was compatible with those needs.

AMANPOUR: You just mentioned something that, of course, everybody is looking at. You talked about the absence of the state, not just now in this transitional period, but throughout the Gadhafi regime. We see a systematic destruction of the state, of civic systems there, civil society. Is that a challenge or is that an opportunity as you look ahead?

JIBRIL: I think it can be looked at both ways. It's a challenge in the sense that there is no sense of order, of discipline in the minds of people. And this takes time, you know, to install and restore this sense of discipline and obedience to the law.

But for the other -- from the other side, I think it's an opportunity that all parties, all political forces can have a new start where all of them can participate and take part and reestablish in the states. So the legitimacy issue can be granted.

AMANPOUR: So how do you deal with what we've been seeing throughout the transition period, and especially around the elections? There was a lot of factionalism, a lot of violence. We know that there is tribal strife and we know that are militias who are in control of various areas.

How do you bring all of them under a national umbrella going forward? How do you create a national army, for instance, out of these disparate militias?

JIBRIL: Well, in the past there's no legitimacy, you know. The legitimacy that we had during that TNC period was some sort of consensual legitimacy.

The legitimacy that we've been granted as Libyans now, as political forces now, is a 100 percent accurate legitimacy derived from the polls, you know. In that sense, any government, an office can enforce whatever programs that can maintain order and carries toward (ph) the state and its balances back to our life.

AMANPOUR: Many talk about you as the next eventual leader of Libya. I know you've talked about it in the past. But is that something that you look forward to? Will you run for the highest office in the land?

JIBRIL: I don't think that question has to do anything with votes, whether a president or a leader or the prime minister. I think the question in my mind is a question of role. If there isn't a role that I can play, what matters to me is the effectiveness of that role.

If I can contribute to the national interests of my country, I will not hesitate. But if there is a role that I cannot do anything from within that role, then I will not take part in it.

AMANPOUR: So you're leaving the door open to seeking further high office?

JIBRIL: What? That depends, you know, sometimes I'm just a consultant. I can provide consultancy to the next government, the next president and that role can be more effective than the post itself, you know. So it depends what role I can play, you know, where I can find myself.

AMANPOUR: So what is the biggest challenge now that this round of elections has taken place?

JIBRIL: I think the biggest challenge right now is to convince our potential partner, especially the Islamist forces, with the fact that now it's time that we sit around one table and talk about one destiny that's the interest of the Libyan people. Consensus is the name of the game. It has nothing to do with who prevails in those elections and those who does not prevail.

AMANPOUR: Well, again, it gets back to where you are on the Islamic spectrum, so to speak. Are you secular? Are you liberal? Are you Islamic enough? You know, that the political wing of the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood has said that you just aren't. What role in your mind should Islam play in the new Libya?

JIBRIL: I am true Muslim, you know. But I have nothing to do with ideology, with their secularism, liberalism, political Islam. I believe in knowledge that builds societies. I'm a part and member of the world, the future society since 1987.

My obsession and my love is the futurology (ph). I believe that planning, knowledge, science is what builds societies. I think the cause of the Libyan people is development first. We have to take care of our education system, which has to be rebuilt again.

Our health services is totally a mess. We need to rebuild it again. Housing, unemployment, we have a vast amount of wealth. The questions of how to manage that vast amount of wealth to create an alternative economy (inaudible) economy, to the all (ph). I think these are the real challenge that can sustain life (inaudible).

AMANPOUR: And are you optimistic about that? Again, in the framework of what Libya has been, basically the fiefdom of one man, one family, a lot of corruption, a lot of unemployment that you have to deal with right now, and yet, yes, you're very, very rich country with a very small population.

Are you optimistic that you can get all these challenges under control and that Libya can be developed economically?

JIBRIL: What I have seen on 7th of July, yes, I am very much optimistic. I think in the 7th of July, the Libyan people have managed to prove one thing, that they are the real decision-maker, that the destiny of this country is not in the hands of any individual or of any political force or political party. It's only in their hands, you know. And this is very comforting for me, you know.

AMANPOUR: I think it was a huge surprise that the elections went off as well as they did, given all the violence and the chaos, actually, leading up to the election.

Can I ask you something? You were fundamentally vital to get the Libyan opposition, the rebels, if you like, recognized by the West, get them international approval. When you look across at Syria, what do you think has to happen there? Why haven't they been able to get that same kind of recognition and approval? They're struggling for the same things that you all struggle for.

JIBRIL: Well, I have talked to many members of the Syrian National Council, and I always tell them that the name of the game is unity. You have to be united. I think as long as they are not united, I think there is a problem there.

When they are united, they can have effectiveness. And when they have effectiveness, they can make the whole world listen to them, you know. But as long as there are divisions among them, I think the degree of effectiveness is still very much -- very low.

AMANPOUR: And what chances do you give? Or how do you see the future there? Do you think the forces of opposition will win? Or do you think the state will remain in power?

JIBRIL: Oh, yes, they will win. But too much sacrifice, as you know. I've been in the regime in the world and my opinion, the moment they spill just one drop of blood of their own citizens, they have lost legitimacy for good. Period. It's just a question of time. The more united you are, the shorter the time it's going to take. The more divisions there, the longer time it's going to take.

AMANPOUR: And, finally, about Saif al-Islam, Moammar Gadhafi's eldest son, who brought you in to do some economic reform but who now is going to face justice, as you know, the international courts would like to put him on trial. Can you see that ever happening, or do you insist that it happens inside Libya? And do you think he'll get a fair trial?

JIBRIL: Well, legally speaking, I think Libyan law has supremacy over international law. Two, we're not members to the ICC. Three, I think it's the natural right of the Libyan people to have whomever committed crimes against them to be tried on Libyan soil.

AMANPOUR: Mahmoud Jibril, thank you --


JIBRIL: Having said that, I think that -- the ICC can have international observers attend in this court, just to make sure that it's fair and it's carried out according to international standards.

AMANPOUR: An important distinction.

Mahmoud Jibril, thank you so much for joining me from Tripoli.

JIBRIL: Thanks for having me. Thank you.


AMANPOUR: The birth of any nation, especially one like Libya, (inaudible) dictatorship for the past half-century, won't come without trial and error. But even a long-established democracy like the United States has yet to overcome its prejudices and its divisive politics such as the death penalty.

In a moment, a look at how capital punishment is being challenged one deadly drop at a time. But first, take a look at this picture.

That's a newspaper stand in Tripoli, overflowing with choices. A year ago when Gadhafi was in power, there were only six newspapers in Libya, all of them government-controlled. How things have changed. We'll be right back.


AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. The United States is the only Western developed country where the death penalty is still legal. Now other Western countries are trying to change that. Great Britain, Italy, Denmark, all manufacturers of drugs that are used in lethal injections there are refusing to sell them to America's executioners.

The ban is forcing states here to change the way they execute prisoners. That opens a host of legal complications and throws sand in the gears of the execution process.

Deborah Denno is a professor at Fordham University Law School and an expert on death penalty law. And she joins me now here in the studio.

Thank you for being with me.


AMANPOUR: Tell me the significance of the latest, which is the British have said they are not going to send any longer a certain drug to the United States.

DENNO: Well, this is very significant because it means that Department of Corrections are going to be once again halted from their ability to execute unless they find another drug or get more of what they're looking -- they're using now.

AMANPOUR: So let's talk about what they've been using or they've been relying on. It's a cocktail of drugs.

DENNO: That's right. Three drugs. The first is a sedative that's supposed to make the inmate unconscious. The second has been a paralytic agent that literally paralyzes the inmate. The third is sort of the absolutely fast-killing drug that kills the inmate off.

AMANPOUR: And what's been denied?

DENNO: What's being denied are the second and the third drugs. What's happening is states have started simply to use one drug. They started doing this in 2009. They ended in 2009, and they're -- you -- we've started to see this shift, number one. Number two, they're just using the sedative, which as you were explaining, is very hard to get now.

AMANPOUR: So if you were a proponent of the death penalty, if you're in the corrections department, what's wrong with just using this one drug?

DENNO: Well, there, you know, several things. I mean, first of all, who's doing the execution? I mean, often these we have found they're using untrained people. No matter what drug you use, they don't know how to inject them or what -- quite what to do. This is a prison setting. It's not a hospital. It's a prison setting, which means that there aren't the availabilities of -- to ensure humane process, et cetera. There are a lot of problems.

AMANPOUR: But, again, why is it so specifically difficult with just one drug versus the cocktail?

DENNO: Well, the one drug would have affected the cocktail as well. The reason why the cocktail is no longer used is because the second and third drugs were also very problematic. The second drug was a paralytic agent.

It was creating a lot of death penalty challenges in this country because it was clear that there was very humane that in many executions that the inmate was aware and conscious, but simply paralyzed and couldn't scream out. So states are getting rid of those two drugs --


AMANPOUR: (Inaudible) very inhumane.

DENNO: Very inhumane. It was causing a lot of problems. It actually caused us a halt in execution methods for about eight months in this country in 2008.

AMANPOUR: What is behind the European countries that we listed not wanting to send these drugs?

DENNO: Well, European countries, these particular European countries don't have the death penalty. They don't want to be part of our execution process. And they don't want their drugs, which they have created for medical humane purposes to be used to kill people. That's not why they were created and that's not their purpose.

AMANPOUR: Is that decision not to send these drugs, will it affect the death penalty here, or rather the number of people who are executed here?

DENNO: Well, certainly had an effect on the number of people who were executed here. If you don't have the drug to execute people, you can't use them, and do the executions, number one. And number two, states have started scrambling, looking for other drugs.

When they do that, that creates legal challenges, because they end up using drugs that they shouldn't be using or getting them from places where they shouldn't be getting them.

AMANPOUR: And it is kind of weird to use the word humane about killing somebody. Nonetheless, that is a legal term and it's used in this regard.

What would be the most humane way of killing people on death row after the lethal injection method?

DENNO: Well, we have five methods of execution in this country. The one, ironically, that has been proven to be the most humane is the firing squad. There have been three firing squad executions in this country in modern times, and they've all gone off without a hitch. The irony is, of course, is that people think that's the most brutal method. They associate that --


AMANPOUR: I mean, I'm shocked to hear you say that.

DENNO: That's right. I mean, most people are, because you would associate that with the most brutal countries in the world. But nonetheless, at least in this country, that's been found to be the most humane.

AMANPOUR: Let's talk a little bit about the politics of all of this. It is, as we've said, a very schizophrenic debate over this. There are pro and con in this country.

I want to play you something that really encapsulated this division, which was one of the questions that was asked during the Republican primary debates.



BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Governor Perry, a question about Texas. Your state has executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times. Have you --


WILLIAMS: Have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent?

GOV. RICK PERRY, R-TEXAS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, sir, I've never struggled with that at all.


AMANPOUR: Well, you know, you remember his answer and the applause was quite controversial.

DENNO: That's right. (Inaudible).

AMANPOUR: But it does, in fact, show that a significant part of this country does support the death penalty.

DENNO: Absolutely.

AMANPOUR: Tell me about the politics. Give me a sense of the change in the way people are looking at it today.

DENNO: Well, until very recently, I mean, the majority of the country was for the death penalty. Indeed, in opinion polls more than 50 percent of Americans still are for the death penalty when they are asked. However, that percentage has been declining and it depends also in the way you ask the question.

Number one, and I think people view the death penalty very differently. If you give them the option of life without parole, for example, they will prefer that over the death penalty.

AMANPOUR: And as we've discussed whether these injections, the inability to make this cocktail is going to affect the death penalty and its frequency, let me just put up for everybody to see a list of the countries where execution is most common, and they are China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the United States.

Notwithstanding what you've just said about the level of popular support for it, should the United States today, 2012, be on that list of countries?

DENNO: I think it's an embarrassment for the United States to be on that list of countries. And I think it's slowly have an impact on how people view the death penalty in this country.

AMANPOUR: You know, those people who do support it say now to arguments such as yours that it's just really nitpicking. You haven't been able to get rid of the death penalty, so you're now nitpicking about process. Let me read you what somebody said.

"Death penalty opponents can't win on the substance of the death penalty and so they're being very nitpicky about procedures and are attacking it in any way they can," that claim by "The Washington Post."

Is that what's happening, or do you see a tidal change in this whole issue?

DENNO: Since 1999, there has been a steep decline in the number of executions in this country. This isn't nitpicking. This is talking about our rights and what we hold most deeply in this country, how people are executed, that they be executed humanely, that there not be racism, that execution's not the -- toward the lower income class, the innocent people, et cetera.

These are what we hold most dearly, values that we've always had. That's not nitpicky.

AMANPOUR: Several state governors had had an impact. They have -- whether it was the former governor or Illinois, who declared clemency in 2003 for death row inmates and other governors, have decided to take a stand. Given states' rights, rules so often in this country, is that going to make a -- sort of, again, a major shift, a tipping point?

DENNO: Absolutely. You haven't seen this many politicians speaking out that strongly against the death penalty in the past. That would have killed someone's chances.

There -- it's also demonstrating that there's a deep ambivalence toward the death penalty in this country. It's really just a few states who are actively engaged in it, for the most part, even the states who have the death penalty on the books are not executing people and they haven't been for a long time.

AMANPOUR: Deborah Denno, a conversation to be continued. Thank you very much (inaudible).

DENNO: Thank you. Thank you.

AMANPOUR: And when we come back, a spy story worthy of an Ian Fleming and John le Carre novel, complete with Nazis and nuns and a loaf of bread that goes kaboom. You won't want to miss it. We'll be right back.


AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world of daring spies, deadly encounters and narrow escapes. Nope. It is not the latest James Bond movie. It is the very real, remarkable life of Robert de la Rochefoucauld. As a boy of 15 on a school field trip, young Robert traveled to Austria, where Adolf Hitler gave him a pat on the cheek.

In 1940, two years later, Hitler's army invaded France. Robert barely escaped, adopted a pseudonym and made his way to England, where he joined the SOE, Winston Churchill's legendary network of spies and saboteurs. He parachuted back into France and used his new skills to sabotage the Nazi war machine, but he was caught and he was condemned to death.

But imagine this: he escaped by getting over the wall, stealing an idling Nazi limousine with the keys still in the ignition, smashing through a roadblock and driving away. He continued to hide underneath the Nazi's noses, blowing a German munitions plant by putting 40 kilos of explosives into a hollowed-out baguette.

Again, he was captured and again escaped, this time dressed in a nun's habit. Mon Dieu, they might say. Robert de la Rochefoucauld died at the age of 88, the last of a rare breed of heroes whose courage continues to amaze and inspire.

And that's it for tonight's program. Meantime, at our website, I give my take on what's next for Egypt and its new democracy. That's at Thank you and goodbye from New York.