Born in 1942 near Sirte, Libya, Gaddafi has been the despotic leader of Libya since 1969 and despite Gaddafi's recent international rehabilitation, the Libyan leader remains resistant to reform and is ruthless and intolerant of dissent.
His ultimate goal—preservation of power—remains unchanged. His earlier decision to abandon his weapons of mass destruction program was certainly not a moral change in his character but rather a calculated attempt to launder this image in order to earn him an exemption from European and U.S. efforts to democratize the Middle East.
Gaddafi speeches and actions reflect his ruthlessness. He has warned anyone who tried to organize politically in Libya that they would face repression. As he often says, “I could at any moment send them to the People’s Court … and the People’s Court will issue a sentence of death based on "the law", because execution is the fate of anyone who forms a political party,” Consequently there have been many public hangings and mutilations of political opponents. Dissidents living abroad have also been targeted by his under cover death squads.
There are no judicial checks and balances in the Libya of Gaddafi. The judiciary is ill-defined, allowing regime elites to use multiple security forces to harass ordinary Libyan citizens. Revolutionary committees run prisons with little or no documentation of the inmate population or of such basic data as crime and sentence. Revolutionary committees dispense justice, targeting, in particular, participants of the Basic Peoples’ Congresses who voice opposition to the state’s agenda. Dissent is illegal under Law 75 of 1973, which denies Libyans freedom of expression.
Gaddafi has used his "rapprochement" with western Europe and the United States to portray himself as anti-Islamist, but the reality is more complex. While Islamist groups have targeted Gaddafi, his consistent flirtation with Islamism suggests that he may not be adverse to a tactical alignment, perhaps by seeking to brand his own form of Islamism.
Gaddafi may have pledged to abandon terrorism, but his assurances have proven completely unreliable . In reality his actions and political statements suggest unrestrained megalomania. Given Gaddafi's stranglehold on the Libyan society, reform will not be possible without an internal revolution supported by Democratic forces outside the country.