Tripoli, 11 October:
In the first hearing at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on where Saif al-Islam Qaddafi should be tried for . . .[restrict]crimes against humanity, his defence lawyer said that if tried in Libya, he would receive a death sentence without a fair trial.
“Although the Libyan government has danced around the issue, let’s be very clear” said Melinda Taylor, “ if convicted Mr. Qaddafi will be hanged.”
The Libyan authorities are determined that Qaddafi should stand trial here. They have been working on establishing clear judicial procedures for the case, in an effort to convince the ICC and the international community that they are ready and able to hold a fair trial. A special court room was completed three months ago.
Lawyer Ahmed Al-Jehani, representing Libya, told the two-day pre-trial hearing, which ended yesterday, that putting Qaddafi on trial inside the country would provide a “unique opportunity for national reconciliation.” He also called for patience and said that the Libyan authorities “needed time” to organise a fair trial.
Taylor, however, argued that Saif was not a “guinea pig” for Libya’s new judicial systems. “He is a person with rights. He should not be languishing in prison while Libya tries to build a judicial system,” she said.
Taylor also insisted that the motives for holding the trial in Libya were suspect. “This trial is not motivated by a desire for justice but a desire for revenge, and there is no right to revenge under international law,” she said.
The British barrister representing Libya, Philippe Sands, argued: “There is a wide range of evidence that will constitute an indictment the same as that presented by the ICC’s prosecutor.” The ICC prosecutor’s office actually said that Libya’s investigation covered more allegations than the ICC, according to Reuters.
This hearing is part of the ICC’s investigation into human rights abuses by the Qaddafi regime during the revolution. The UN Security Council restricted the ICC’s jurisdiction to events after 15 February 2011, meaning that any crimes against humanity Saif Qaddafi may have committed previously will not be taken into account. If tried by the ICC in the Netherlands, the maximum sentence Saif could face is life imprisonment.
Saif continues to be held in the mountain town of Zintan by militiamen who have consistently refused to hand him over to the Libyan authorities. Whatever the ICC decides, the Zintanis are unlikely to release their prisoner.
According to ICC documentation, Saif has voiced concerns about receiving a fair trial in his home country, saying evidence for the prosecution might have been extracted under torture. “I am not afraid to die but if you execute me after such a trial you should just call it murder and be done with it,” he told his lawyers.
Australian Melinda Taylor, along with three other members of her ICC team, was detained for 26 days by Zintan militiamen after she visited her client in the town on 7 June this year. Taylor was accused of spying.
She was only set free after ICC president Sang-Hyun Song travelled to Zintan and issued a carefully-phrased apology, saying:
“I wish to apologise for the difficulties which arose due to this series of events. In carrying out its duties (the ICC) has no intention to compromise the national security of Libya.
The ICC judges are expected to take some weeks before delivering their findings. [/restrict]