Said al-Islam Gaddafi was the likely successor to his father Muammar el-Gaddafi before the Libyan uprising. Since November, the former playboy has been held in what was formerly a living room in a compound in Zintan, a mountain town about 100 miles southeast of Libya’s capital of Tripoli, after being captured in the southern Libyan desert. Under United Nations rules, Libya is obliged to hand him over to the International Criminal Court, which has indicted him on charges of crimes against humanity for his participating in the torture, murder, rape and bombardment of the Libyan rebels with his father.
But Libya appears to be defying the UN and the ICC by planning to hold its own trial of Saif Gaddafi in Libya. 39-year-old Gaddafi will probably be transferred this week to a specially built fortress-prison in Tripoli. According to the Guardian, Tripoli had told the ICC that it would begin a formal process to try Gaddafi on home soil on April 30. But Mustafa Abdul Jalil, Libya’s leader, has separately said that Gaddafi’s trial will begin on April 13.
According to court documents, Xavier-Jean Keita, principal counsel for the Hague’s defense office, has only been allowed to visit Gaddafi once. Keita was told that Gaddafi has not been charged with any international crimes but for “alleged failure to have licences for two camels, and cleaning of fish farms.” Wrote Keita in documents filed with the court:
“It is clear that the ICC will not be in a position to render its decision on the admissibility of the case until after Mr Gaddafi has been tried, and potentially sentenced and executed. The postponement of Mr Gaddafi’s surrender could therefore be at the cost of his life.”
As the Guardian says, Libya’s apparent refusal to co-operate with the ICC “raises questions about the new regime’s commitment to the rule of law.” Libya has also not yet announced what charges Gaddafi might face and, as some noted at the time of his capture, Gaddafi’s case could become a human rights issue, despite the brutalities that he himself has been accused of.
Libya has also been accused by human rights groups of allowing suspects to be tortured in detention centers. Amnesty International’s Marek Marczynski says that the “justice system in Libya continues to be virtually paralyzed,” with the government still not having created a functioning court system. Gaddafi has also not yet been granted “access to a lawyer, family visits or even, court documents show, a dentist to deal with chronic toothache.”
Should Gaddafi be released to the ICC, a number of international investigators will wish to question him, about his role in brokering a deal allowing convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi to be freed in 2009 and whether oil contracts to BP were part of this, and whether he arranged to have Libyan funds sent to the election campaign of president Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007.
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Photo of Martyrs' Square in Tripoli by Foreign and Commonwealth Office