Libya war crimes trials - ‘form of judicial terrorism’

© Zohra Bensemra
The trial of Muammar Gaddafi’s son and other alleged Libyan war criminals, who have been mistreated and tortured while detained, will unlikely be recognized internationally and may be regarded as flawed , John Jones, lawyer for Saif Gaddafi told RT.

Saif Gaddafi, the son of ousted and killed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is on trial for alleged war crimes. The court is expected to deliver its final verdict on Tuesday. Saif Gaddafi was considered to be the second most-influential figure in Libya even though he held no official position. Many former Libyan officials like the former head of the intelligence service, Abuzed Omar Dorda, are also facing trial.

RT: Have the judicial procedures in Libya changed since the 2011 intervention? Are the courts regulated well enough?

John Jones: I can’t speak for particular detainees. There are 38 detainees facing all sorts of charges. My client is Saif Al Islam Gaddafi- he and the others are broadly charged with war crimes, killings and that sort of thing. But as for the charge itself, it’s been a show trial... It’s difficult to dignify it with any description of a proper procedure involving charges and indictments and counts, because the whole thing has been, as I say, a show trial from start to finish.

RT: Years after the intervention, Libya is still gripped by violence and unrest. What impact does it have on your job as a lawyer? What difficulties do you face in Libya nowadays? Are there resources available to lawyers to effectively protect their clients?

JJ: The process is completely unfair. To put in context, this trial is taking place in the Al-Hadba detention facility. That detention facility is run by a militia, essentially terrorists. The Libyan minister of justice himself has said that the trials are completely illegal, that the people are illegally detained and no proper verdict is be it acquittal or a death sentence can come out of it. The trials are taking place in Tripoli in conditions of complete insecurity where there are killings every day, where there is an atmosphere of intimidation hanging over the whole proceedings. So lawyers are intimidated, the judges are intimidated; lawyers have had to leave the case- they come and go. It seems with each hearing that lawyers are representing more than one defendant, which is improper.

Officials of Muammar Gaddafi's government sit behind bars during a hearing at a courtroom in Tripoli November 16, 2014. © Ismail Zitouny

My client Saif Gaddafi has not even appeared for the last 13 hearings by video link - he had 3 hearings by video links, but then has not appeared at all. He is not represented by lawyer in the hearings. The prosecution isn’t calling any witnesses who can be cross-examined. They are relying on interrogations which are often tainted by torture, as the UN rapporteur on tortures said. And the defense is only allowed two witnesses, and there are no protective measures for witnesses. So you can imagine this atmosphere of insecurity, intimidation, defense witnesses are not willing to come forward.

Abuzed Dorda [former Jamahiriya diplomat and now one the thousands of political prisoners detained with no trial in informal Libyan prisons] ... complained to the court about having been tortured, which obviously took a lot of bravery to mention at an open court given the risk to him of reprisals. Nothing was done about that, it wasn’t looked into. And another detainee General Mustafa Kharroubi, an elderly man, died recently due to inadequate medical treatment in the facility. And again he was never brought before a judge, he wasn’t charged. So the whole thing is completely tainted by illegality and terrorism. It’s a form of judicial terrorism.

RT: Do you think these kinds of trial will be recognized internationally?

JJ: I don’t think they’ll be recognized internationally at all given that even within Libya, Libya’s own minister of justice doesn’t recognize it. For my client Saif Gaddafi, I’m not participating in any way in a trial on his behalf or any of the defendant’s behalf, and I wouldn’t do that because it is so tainted. Saif Gaddafi, as you may well know, should have been delivered to the International criminal court two years ago. The International Criminal Court had said that he should be delivered to The Hague, and Libya has failed to deliver him. He remains in incommunicado detention. I think for this trial whatever the outcome; it will be regarded properly as an illegal trial, illegal detention, and totally flawed verdict. …Even the UN monitoring mission in Libya has called for the detainees to be released; has not been able to monitor the trials which you need for any decent trial process- independent trial monitoring- none of that has happened. So I think it’ll be universally regarded as entirely flawed.

RT: Do you think there is still possibility of fair trials in Libya?

JJ: We hope so. The minister of justice said that it is possible in Libya to have trials, but not in Tripoli because of the state of insecurity there, the militia is running the place. One would hope that for the defendants there might be a possibility of having a fair trial elsewhere. But again one has to consider that these people have spent years in detention, subject of torture, ill treatment, and the rest of it. It becomes impossible after that even to consider a future fair trial, when they have been so mistreated in these proceedings which means that actually by conducting these trials the rights of victims to proper reparations has been denied… as well as the defendants have been denied their fair trial rights.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.