Libya, ICC consider Gaddafi trial venue
Libya has enough evidence to charge Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam with crimes against humanity, lawyers told the International Criminal Court on Tuesday amid a dispute over where he should face justice.
While the ICC wants Saif, the only son of the slain Libyan leader in custody, to be tried in The Hague, Libya’s post-revolutionary authorities insist he should stand trial in his home country.
A probe “has already produced considerable results”, Libya lawyer Philippe Sands told a two-day hearing on Saif’s fate. “There is a wide range of evidence that will constitute an indictment the same as that presented by the ICC’s prosecutor.”
The ICC issued an arrest warrant for Saif, 40, and Gaddafi’s former spymaster Abdullah Senussi, 63, in June last year for crimes against humanity allegedly committed while trying to crush the popular revolt against the veteran leader’s iron-fisted rule.
ICC defence lawyers are expected to argue that Saif would not get a fair trial in Libya, where he could face the death penalty, but the ICC prosecutor’s office said Libya’s prosecution of Saif and Senussi appeared to be on course.
“We see that the case being presented appears to be on track,” prosecutor Sara Criscitelli told the ICC’s three-judge bench.
“We believe that Libya is interested in prosecuting this offender... we are confident that Libya needs a bit more time to sort itself out,” she said.
One of Saif’s ICC appointed international lawyers, Australian Melinda Taylor, who was herself detained by rebels for a month in Libya after visiting Saif in June was expected to address the court later on Tuesday.
Evidence against Saif includes how he allegedly told Libyan security forces during a television broadcast to use violence shortly after the outbreak of the uprising in mid-February last year, Libya’s lawyer Sands said.
Tripoli also alleges that Saif ordered the use of live rounds against civilian demonstrators and that he recruited Pakistani mercenaries to put down the revolt.
Saif has been in custody in the northwestern Libyan hill town of Zintan since his arrest last November in the wake of the uprising that toppled his father after more than 40 years in power.
Senussi was extradited to Libya last month from Mauritania, where he was arrested in March as he tried to enter the country from Morocco using a Malian passport under a different name.
Tripoli and the ICC have been at loggerheads since his capture over where Saif al-Islam should be tried, with Libya’s new leaders saying they want him in the dock before one of their courts.
“The government of Libya is committed to carrying out a fair trial for any ex-Gaddafi government official,” Tripoli’s lawyer Ahmed al-Jehani told the ICC.
“We will create a judicial system that is fair and this will prove our commitment to the rule of law,” Jehani said of his country’s burgeoning post-revolutionary administration.
But, Jehani said, this was a “complicated process and Libya needed more time” to put Saif and other Gaddafi loyalists on trial, something that would contribute to reconciliation in the North African nation.
“Swift justice does not allow for due process – and it is not desirable,” Jehani said.
Libyan officials had asked in May for the court to quash a surrender request and throw out the case, saying they had the means to put Saif on trial – but until now had not managed to do so.
A warrant for the late Libyan strongman was scrapped after Gaddafi was killed by rebel forces on October 20 last year.
In a sign of the challenges facing the new Libyan order, premier Mustafa Abu Shagur was dismissed on Sunday after failing to form a government, including naming a justice minister.
Under Libya’s transition plan, a new government will be in power for about a year only, until fresh elections on the basis of a new constitution are held.