x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Libya challenges International Criminal Court's right to put Qaddafi son in the dock

ICC says it had received a formal submission from Libya's new leadership arguing that Seif Al Islam, along with Qaddafi's former military intelligence chief, Abdullah Al Senoussi, should be tried on Libyan soil.

AMSTERDAM // The Libyan government has formally challenged the International Criminal Court's right to try Muammar Qaddafi's son for war crimes, arguing that he should be tried in Libya despite concerns he may not receive a fair trial there.

Based in the Hague, Netherlands, court is authorised by the UN to try war crimes committed last year as rebels fought the Qaddafi regime. It has issued an arrest warrant for the late dictator's son, Seif Al Islam, on charges of killing and persecuting civilians during the uprising.

The court said yesterday it had received a formal submission from Libya's new leadership arguing that Seif Al Islam, along with Qaddafi's former military intelligence chief, Abdullah Al Senoussi, should be tried on Libyan soil.

Seif Al Islam was captured by rebels last year and is being held in Zintan, while Mr Al Senoussi was arrested last month in Mauritania. Libya is seeking his extradition.

The conflict between the court and country boils down to the question of whether Libya is capable of conducting a fair trial for the pair.

Under international law, a country has both the right and the duty to prosecute suspected war criminals. However, court spokeswoman Sonia Robla explained yesterday that once the court has issued an arrest warrant for a suspect, it cannot retract it unless judges believe suspects will be tried for substantially the same crimes they were indicted for, and that they will receive a fair trial.

Libya's filing says it seeks to do exactly that.

"Libya respectfully submits that ... its [own] national judicial system is actively investigating Mr Qaddafi and Mr Al Senoussi for their alleged criminal responsibility for multiple acts of murder and persecution ... amounting to crimes against humanity," states the application released yesterday.

Human-rights groups have expressed concern that Seif Al Islam will not get a fair trial in Libya, especially given the central government's lack of control over some areas - including Zintan - in the aftermath of the civil war.

Muammar Qaddafi also was indicted by the ICC, but he was killed by rebels who captured him last year and his case has since been dropped.

The court had set yesterday as the deadline for a Libyan challenge to its jurisdiction, rejecting the government's requests for more time.

Libya insisted that its desire to try the pair "reflects a genuine willingness and ability to bring the persons concerned to justice".

The application to the Hague court adds: "To deny the Libyan people this historic opportunity to eradicate the long-standing culture of impunity would be manifestly inconsistent with the object and purpose" of the international court.

The international criminal court's prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, has said he has evidence linking Seif Al Islam to supervising and planning recruitment of mercenaries to fight in last year's uprising.

Mr Moreno-Ocampo is co-operating with Libyan authorities. He says the court's judges must ultimately decide whether or not to remand the case to a Libyan court.