THE HAGUE, (AP) — Libya insisted Tuesday that it should be allowed to prosecute one of former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s sons, telling international judges that trying him at home will be “a unique opportunity for national reconciliation.”
Libyan lawyer Ahmed al-Jehani, was speaking at the start of a two-day hearing at the International Criminal Court that will go a long way to deciding where Seif al-Islam Gadhafi will be put on trial for crimes against humanity — in Libya or The Hague.
Seif al-Islam is charged by the international court with crimes against humanity for his alleged involvement in the deadly crackdown on dissent against his father’s rule.
However Libyan authorities who captured him last year insist that the international tribunal’s own rules allow them to try Seif al-Islam.
Under the Hague-based court’s founding statute, it can only step in if a country where crimes were committed is unable or unwilling to prosecute, a legal principle called complementarity.
Court-appointed defense lawyers for Seif al-Islam have cast doubt on whether the fledgling legal system set up in the aftermath of the collapse of Gadhafi’s four-decade dictatorship can give Gadhafi’s son a fair trial.
In a written filing, they say Seif al-Islam wants to be tried in The Hague rather than facing a court in Libya.
“I am not afraid to die but if you execute me after such a trial you should just call it murder,” he was quoted as saying.
Gadhafi’s son would face a maximum life sentence if convicted in The Hague. If a Libyan court finds him guilty he could face the death penalty.
Libya remains in turmoil months after Gadhafi’s ouster and rival armed militias still pose a serious threat to security in the country. Seif al-Islam is being held by a militia in the town of Zintan.
But al-Jehani said prosecuting former Gadhafi regime officials in trials “that meet international standards of fairness will be a unique opportunity for national reconciliation for a community that wishes to have justice done at home in Libya.”
Al-Jehani said that a “rush to judgment” by the ICC would “render the principle of complementarity meaningless.”
Seif was originally charged alongside his father and the Gadhafi regime’s former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senoussi in June 2011 with attacking civilian protesters in the early days of the popular uprising against Gadhafi’s rule. The United Nations Security Council had asked the court to launch an investigation amid widespread reports of human rights abuses by the Gadhafi regime as it fought to cling to power.
Judges dropped the case against Moammar Gadhafi in November 2011 after he was captured and killed by rebel fighters. Al-Senoussi fled the country, but was later captured in Mauritania and extradited to Libya.
No ruling is expected this week on where Gadhafi will be tried.