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29 Jul, 2013 09:02

Gaddafi son facing ‘show trial’, ICC & Libya at loggerheads

Almost two years after Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown and killed, his son is to stand trial for alleged crimes against humanity. Saif al-Islam is set for a hearing in Libya; his lawyer says he faces an “entirely unfair” show trial.

If the proceedings continue in Libya, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi will most likely be executed. Once seen as the most likely successor to his father, he has been indicted by the ICC on war crimes charges relating to the 2011 uprising. He faces charges of harming state security and insulting Libya's new flag. On top of this, Saif al-Islam is wanted by the ICC for the murder and persecution of protestors during the 2011 uprising.

He was captured by local militia in the town of Ubari in November 2011, allegedly trying to flee the country.

“He’s facing a show trial, clearly, an entirely unfair trial; trial in which he’s not able to get any defense witnesses to testify on his behalf because they’ll be too terrified to testify. And at the end of that he’s going to be executed,”
his lawyer John Jones told RT, adding that  Gaddafi has been held in “appalling conditions, regarding his mental state.”

Earlier this month the International Criminal Court (ICC) has ruled that Libya must extradite Gaddafi to The Hague. Libya is defying the ICC ruling by refusing to hand him over and insisting on trial at home. The ICC judges fear he won't receive a fair trial there. He has already made two appearances in a Libyan court. 

The Court has reiterated its request to Libya to surrender Mr Saif-Al-Islam Gaddafi because the country “had not been sufficiently demonstrated that the domestic investigation cover the same case that is before the Court,” RT has found out from the ICC Public Affairs Unit. 

“Since the ICC doesn’t have its own police force, it relies on States to enforce requests for arrest and surrender of ICC suspects. Libya has a legal obligation to surrender Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi to the ICC pursuant to UNSC resolution 1970 (2011) which referred the situation in Libya to the ICC,” the reply to RT read.

Furthermore Hague argues that that it “was not convinced by the reasons provided as to why the surrender of Mr Gaddafi to the Court would create, for the Libyan authorities, an irreversible situation or one that would be very difficult to correct."

The court argues that the international court does “not replace national criminal justice systems; rather, it complements them. It can investigate and, where warranted, prosecute and try individuals only if the State concerned does not, cannot or is unwilling genuinely to do so.”

Furthermore, the court “cannot presume what a national Judge would impose as sentence and what the process would be,” but if an international trial is held “If the accused is found guilty, Judges may impose a sentence of imprisonment for a specified number of years not exceeding a maximum of thirty years or life imprisonment.”

Former Gaddafi family lawyer Nick Kaufman believes that Saif needs to be handed to the ICC on the basis of the UN Security Council decision.

“The Security Council gave the ICC the mandate to investigate crimes which were committed in Libya after the revolution. The ICC carrying out the will and the wish of the international community investigated the matter and issued two warrants to arrests, one for Saif al-Islam and one for Abdullah Al Senussi. Now, if the Libyans wish to try these two people, that is their right but they have to request permission to do so from the ICC.”

Saif al-Islam is seen after his capture, in the custody of revolutionary fighters in Obari, Libya November 19, 2011. (Reuters)

RT’s Paula Slier, who's been following the story, says the Libyan government has challenged the right of the ICC to try safe. It argues that Hague-based court has no jurisdiction because it only intervenes if the local justice system is not functioning. Meanwhile, those in Libya say that their justice system is operating well.

Professor Yehudit Ronen, an expert on Libya, disagrees. She says the country is in a state of collapse.

“I’m not sure that it will be right to assume that there is a government in Libya today. There is no army, no police. Armed militias are in control. Even if they give Saif a trial - the Libyans always surprise us - so I can't really say how the trial will go. I’m not even sure if it will begin and how just and objective it will be,” Ronen told RT.

Gaddafi is being held in the town of Zintan, where he is facing separate charges, accused of obtaining documents that threaten national security.

When the Libyan rebels were fighting against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi they proclaimed loudly that he and his family should be court-martialed, Paula Slier, who was in the country at the time, recalls.

Prior to the NATO-backed uprising in early 2011, the London-educated Saif al-Islam Gaddafi was seen as a crucial figure in building relations between Libya and the West.

The ICC would go on to issue an arrest warrant for him, his father and his uncle, alleging they committed crimes against humanity by suppressing the revolt of the Libyan people. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was brutally murdered by the rebels following the capture of his hometown of Sirte.

The Chief ICC prosecutor confirmed informal talks about the surrender of Saif Gaddafi, who was then captured by the rebels and had to have parts of his fingers amputated. Libyan authorities called for a trial in Tripoli, but the ICC demanded he be handed over to The Hague. Four delegates from the Court were detained in Libya for a month after attempting to get documents to Gaddafi.