Colonel Gaddafi’s son has appeared in court in Libya’s Zintan, while on the same day he was expected at a pre-trial session in Tripoli - all amid ICC calls to hand the man over to the Hague.
Wanted by three courts, Muammar Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam appeared on Thursday at a hearing in Zintan, west of the capital Tripoli, where he is being kept in custody, facing charges of trying to escape from the prison and insulting the Libyan flag.
The Zintan trial was eventually adjourned until December.
By the end of the day, reports emerged that the militia-run
prison in Zintan failed to handover Saif al-Islam to a court
hearing in Tripoli. The court in Tripoli is seeking explanation
from the prison authorities for this, according to AP. Officials
in the capital believe privately that the Zintan militia
wants to hold onto Gaddafi's son as leverage to extract political
concessions from the central government.
On the other hand, former rebel commanders in Zintan claim that if they send Saif al-Islam to Tripoli “remnants” of the Gaddafi regime may try and find him innocent.
Meanwhile, Saif himself told the court in the north western Libya that he has no wish to be tried in Tripoli.
“Zintan is part of Libya and I don't have the desire to move to anywhere else,” he declared as quoted by Reuters, although some suspected he may have said this under duress.
The proceedings in the capital were going to be held behind
closed doors and were rather "an investigation phase - not a
court session," according to Prosecutor General Abdel-Qader
The Tripoli court charges Gaddafi’s son with crimes allegedly
committed during Libya's 2011 uprising. Saif al-Islam is to face
trial together with more than 30 former regime officials,
including Abdulla al-Senussi, the ex-chief of the country’s
Senussi appeared in court in Tripoli Thursday for a pre-trial
hearing amid heavy security including armored cars and trucks
equiped with anti-aircraft guns.
Tripoli’s right to try Gaddafi and Senussi has been questioned by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which in July ruled that both should be extradited to the Hague because of fears they might not get a fair trial at home. However, Libya has repeatedly defied the ruling.
The country’s officials cite the will of the Libyan people as the
reason behind their not wanting any international interference in
“Saif Gaddafi, he is a Libyan. All the crimes and charges against him are committed in Libya,” Aleddin Al-Mgariaf, a member of the Libyan General National Congress told RT. “Every Libyan believes that he should be tried in Libya. None of the crimes he’s been charged with were committed outside Libya, so there’s no reason whatsoever to try him outside Libya and that’s the demand of all Libyans.”
The country’s authorities insist the trial will be fair, but
human rights groups as well as many in the international
community fear that settling old scores with the Gaddafi family
is inevitable in a domestic trial.
Amnesty International said on Wednesday that even though it
understood the Libyan authorities’ desire to have a trial of its
own, it still urged those in power in Tripoli to “immediately”
hand the two major suspects over to The Hague.
“Libya’s justice system is in desperate need of an overhaul.
There are serious concerns about the authorities’ ability to
ensure fair trials compounded by the precarious security
situation in the country,” says an official statement by
Hassiba Hadj Sahrahoui, the group’s Deputy Director for the
Middle East and North Africa.
Before they came to power, the Libyan rebels themselves were
calling for the UN to order the ICC to investigate the alleged
crimes by the Gaddafi family and put them on trial in The Hague.
Once in power, they however backed down on their own initiative.
The ICC might now file a complaint to the UN Security Council, if
Libya continues to ignore the Court’s request.
“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 Court’s
Public Affairs Unit told RT.
Saif al-Islam's lawyer in the ICC, John Jones believes the Lybian
trial will most likely end in his defendant being executed.
“If he is delivered to The Hague, to the ICC he may well stand a good chance of being acquitted and being freed because you can have a fair trial before an international court. You can’t have a fair trial in the circumstances when there’s an anti-Gaddafi witch hunt on in the country,” Jones told RT’s Worlds Apart host Oksana Boyko.
The ICC actually issued an arrest warrant for Saif al-Islam
simultaneously with the one for his farther, while the latter was
still alive back in 2011. The Court cited evidence of crimes
against humanity, committed against political opponents.
The war in Libya ended with the brutal death of Muammar Gaddafi
at the hands of rebels in October 2011. A year later, Human
Rights Watch called for an investigation and prosecution of those responsible
for the execution. However, no investigation or trial into that
killing has been carried out.
The ICC then started informal talks with Saif Al-Islam in October
2011, urging him to surrender himself to The Hague amid fears he
would share the fate of his father. However, Saif was detained by
fighters from Zintan on the southern Libyan desert while
trying to leave the country, in November.
Shortly afterwards the government announced he would go on trial
for war crimes, in Tripoli, rejecting the ICC's calls for his
handover, saying it had no jurisdiction.
In June 2012, four delegates from the Court were detained in
Libya for a month after attempting to get documents to Saif
Al-Islam. They were accused of "conspiring against the
In May this year, Libya sought the ICC's approval for its domestic trial of Gaddaffi's son, but had its request rejected.