A human rights lawyer says Libyan authorities are obligated to turn Seif al-Islam, the son of slain Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi over to the International Criminal Court for prosecution.
The ICC wants to try Seif al-Islam in The Hague for crimes against humanity for his role in the uprising that toppled his father last year.
But Libyan authorities want to try him at home.
The request to turn Seif al-Islam over to the ICC followed allegations by an ICC lawyer that he had been attacked in prison, and that he had been denied access to family members.
Richard Dicker, director of the international justice program at the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, said Libyan authorities risk breaching a U.N. Security Council resolution if they fail to turn Seif al-Islam over to the ICC.
“The Libyans are obligated by the unanimous Security Council resolution adopted on February 26, 2011 to cooperate with the ICC, including surrendering for trial to the court ICC suspects,” he said.
Dicker said refusing to surrender Seif al-Islam to the ICC would not be a farsighted thing to do by the Libyan authorities.
Libya had previously said it wanted to try Seif al-Islam at home.
“The authorities have said publicly as soon as a new detention facility is completed they will transfer him there, and begin a trial against him,” Dicker said.
Libya can appeal the ICC order, said Dicker. “They have the right to go to the judges and say we want to try him here, and we are willing and able to do so. At the end of the day, that’s a decision the judges at the ICC make based on the evidence and information the Libyan authorities have provided.”
But he said there are concerns that the former leader’s son would not receive a fair trial in Tripoli.
For one thing, Dicker said, Seif al-Islam has not even been formally charged in Libya. He remains in the custody of the Zintan militia.
Furthermore, Dicker said the prisoner has so far “been held incommunicado without access to attorneys.”
He continued, “It is hardly reasonable to expect a defendant to be able to defend himself vigorously if he hasn’t had the benefit of an attorney to represent him and prepare his case.”