News / Africa

ICC Judges to Consider Libyan Request to Try Gadhafi Son

Saif al-Islam Gadhafi (file photo)Saif al-Islam Gadhafi (file photo)
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Saif al-Islam Gadhafi (file photo)
Saif al-Islam Gadhafi (file photo)
Margaret Besheer
UNITED NATIONS - The International Criminal Court, or ICC, next month will consider whether to grant Libya’s request to try the son of former dictator Moammar Gadhafi in a domestic court.  The international court has issued an arrest warrant for Saif al-Islam Gadhafi to be tried at The Hague.  He is being held by a Libyan militia outside the capital, Tripoli.

Libya's deputy U.N. ambassador, Ibrahim Dabbashi, told the U.N. Security Council that Libya is not a party to the ICC and therefore requested to try Saif al-Islam in Libya because the primary responsibility for trying major crimes remains the responsibility of the domestic judiciary.

"Such a request only affirms that Libyan judicial authorities are adamant on carrying out the trials in Libya.  The trial documents as well as the statements by defendants and witnesses are part of Libya’s history.  Therefore, all Libyans are keen on them taking place there, in Libya," Dabbashi said.

Chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told reporters that he will present his views to the judges at The Hague on June 4.  The judges could then ask for more evidence from Libya or other parties before deciding whether to grant the Libyan request.

Ocampo said the capacity of the Libyan judicial system would not be a factor in the court's decision.  Instead, the ICC would consider whether the Libyan court is trying the same individual for the same crimes as the international court's prosecutor is seeking to do.  Also weighing into their decision would be whether a Libyan court could be independent and impartial.

The prosecutor reported to the Security Council on Wednesday that Libyan authorities say Saif al-Islam is being kept in "adequate" conditions of detention.

"Libyan authorities also say that Saif al-Islam has been kept in adequate conditions of detention, provided with sufficient and good quality food, given access to ICC and the option of retaining a domestic lawyer of his choosing.  Saif also received visits from the ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross], NGOs [non-governmental organizations] and family members.  He has been provided with proper medical and dental care, and not been subject to physical abuse," Ocampo said.

Human rights groups have raised concerns about the conditions of Saif al-Islam's detention, because he is being held by former rebels in the mountain town of Zintan and has not seen a lawyer.  

Libyan envoy Dabbashi said national laws require that criminal cases cannot be tried without legal representation and that it is Saif al-Islam who has refused to appoint a defense attorney.

Richard Dicker, who heads the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch in New York, says he is concerned that Saif al-Islam might not get a fair trial that meets international standards if it is held in Libya.

"So we have real concerns about the situation and conditions in Libya and whether that will lead to a fair and impartial trial.  I think it would be a loss for the Libyan people, first and foremost, to have a kind of rerun of the proceedings meted out for Saddam Hussein in Iraq, where no accountability is fairly established," Dicker said.

Last June, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Saif al-Islam charging him with two counts of crimes against humanity - murder and persecution.

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