Qaddafi Son Faces Criminal Trial in The Hague — if He Can Be Found

Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi on trial in Zintan, Libya, in 2014. Credit Reuters

GENEVA — Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, the son of Libya’s ousted dictator, should be turned over to the International Criminal Court to be tried on war crimes charges, the United Nations said on Tuesday, adding that he did not get a fair trial in Libya.

But the question is, who will hand him over?

A court in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, convicted Mr. Qaddafi in July 2015 and condemned him to death, but he was not in the court’s custody. Mr. Qaddafi had been detained by a militia in the northwestern city of Zintan, and took part in the proceedings only by video link; the militia refused to hand him over to the Tripoli authorities, citing security issues.

A year after the verdict, the commander of the militia announced that Mr. Qaddafi had been released under an amnesty decree issued by the Libyan government. Mr. Qaddafi has not been seen in public since, the United Nations said, and his status is unclear; he may still be held by the militia.

In the Tripoli trial, Mr. Qaddafi and 36 other defendants were charged with indiscriminate attacks on civilians and other crimes committed during the 2011 revolution that toppled Mr. Qaddafi’s father, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. Nine of the defendants were sentenced to death, including Mr. Qaddafi and Abdullah al-Senussi, his father’s intelligence chief.

Though the trial was the first significant effort to bring members of the former government to justice, United Nations human rights officials said in their report on Tuesday, the proceedings fell far short of international standards.

The convictions in Tripoli and sentences are being reviewed by an appeals court in Libya, a process that United Nations officials said could take years. Those proceedings put Libya in conflict with the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Mr. Senussi’s lawyer, Rodney Dixon, said on Tuesday that “many qualified people have criticized these trials” conducted by the Libyan courts, including advocacy groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. “Hopefully, this U.N. report may now make a difference,” Mr. Dixon said, “and at the very least, the death sentences should be suspended.”

The purpose of the court is to try cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity when national courts are unwilling or unable to do so. Libya, a member of the court, has insisted on trying the cases itself, before the international court gets involved. But the United Nations Security Council referred the matter to the court in 2011, and the court issued warrants for Mr. Qaddafi later that year.

Mr. Senussi was also indicted by the international court, but the court’s judges decided that he could be tried in Libya, while maintaining that Mr. Qaddafi should be tried in The Hague.

The United Nations said on Tuesday that Libya needed to hand Mr. Qaddafi over to comply with its international obligations.

United Nations officials last saw Mr. Qaddafi in person in June 2014 in Zintan, where he was held in a cage for a hearing in a makeshift courtroom, Claudio Cordone of the United Nations human rights office told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday.

The international court’s prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, told the Security Council in November that the Libyan authorities disputed the reports of Mr. Qaddafi’s release, saying he was still being held by the Zintan militia.

Ms. Bensouda said that Libya and the events surrounding the 2011 revolution would be a priority for her office in 2017.

Source: NYTimes