x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Qaddafi’s son could face trial in Libya

Libyan rebels say they have not yet decided whether to tun over Muammar Qaddafi's son, Saif Al Islam, for prosecution of crimes against humanity.

The Hague // Libya's rebel movement has not yet agreed to hand over Saif Al Islam Qaddafi, the captured son of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The delay came yesterday as calls were growing louder to refer Syria's regime to the ICC as well for crimes against humanity.

The ICC issued arrest warrants in June against Muammar Qaddafi, his son Saif Al Islam and against Libya's head of intelligence, Abdullah Al Senussi, for crimes against humanity involving the "murder and persecution" of civilians in anti-government demonstrations.

Saif Al Islam was captured on Sunday night, during the rebels' rapid advance into the capital, Tripoli. The whereabouts of his father and Mr Senussi are not yet known.

The ICC initially said that it was seeking the extradition of Mr Qaddafi's son. But, after holding talks yesterday, the office of the court's prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, issued a statement saying that "further conversations will define the precise way to move forward, including the possibility to apprehend and surrender to the Court the three individuals alleged to have committed crimes after 17 of February 2011."

The case of Libya is the only one of the Arab uprisings that the ICC, which was formed to deal with crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, has so far looked into. It was referred to the court by a unanimous decision of the United Nations Security Council in February.

Such a course of action looks much less likely in the case of Syria, which was discussed yesterday at the UN's Human Rights Council in Geneva. The United States, the European Union and Arab nations want to investigate whether the regime of President Bashar Al Assad should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity as well.

But, in the case of Syria, it is far from certain yet that a referral to the ICC would pass in the Security Council. Russia and China have so far been reluctant to allow firm steps at the UN against Damascus.

The apparent imminent fall of the Libyan regime and the possible extradition of its main figures to The Hague could possibly be a cautionary tale for Syria. Mr Moreno-Ocampo said in an interview with TheNational in May that, "if this case is working well in Libya, people around the world will be careful not to commit these crimes."

The representative in Paris of Libya's National Transitional Council, the rebels' umbrella organisation, said yesterday that it was not decided yet whether Saif Al Islam Qaddafi would be handed over to the ICC or whether he would be tried inside Libya.

Libyan human-rights activist Ali Zeidan who is based in Germany, said that a trial inside Libya was preferable but doubted that the country was ready. "It takes time, while the ICC is ready from today to start the procedures. Otherwise he has to stay arrested for a while until we stabilise the situation and establish courts in the country," said Mr Zeidan, who is a member of the Libyan League for Human Rights.

In The Hague, ICC official Fadi El Abdallah said that a trial in a Libyan court was still possible, even after a suspect is transferred to the ICC. "If there are proceedings ongoing that are genuine and if there is a challenge to the admissibility and the ICC judges are convinced of the capacities and the will of the national authorities to prosecute the suspects, that might be a possibility.

As for the Libyan leader himself, Mr Zeidan said that he was not convinced that Muammar Qaddafi would ever surrender to the rebels. "I do not think he is going to give himself up. He does not accept anything in this direction. He would prefer to be in The Hague than in the hands of Libyans because he does not respect the Libyan people."

foreign.desk@thenational.ae