Saif refusing to accept defence lawyer

2012-05-17 07:58
New York – Muammar Gaddafi’s son is refusing to name a defence lawyer, a top Libyan diplomat said on Wednesday amid growing questions over the conditions in which Saif al-Islam is being held.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) must decide in coming months whether to agree to Libya's request to put Islam on trial in a domestic court.

The dictator's son is being held by a Libyan militia in the town of Zintan and international rights groups have raised concerns because Saif has not had access to a defence team.

Ibrahim Dabbashi, Libya's deputy UN ambassador, told the Security Council that Saif could have a lawyer if he wanted and that Libyan law dictates that he could not be tried without an attorney.

"This matter is mainly because of Saif al-Islam who till now refuses to appoint an attorney to defend himself," Dabbashi said.

"The matter is not in the hands of the Libyan authorities but the defendant himself. There are no obstacles towards hiring an attorney to defend him," the envoy added.

The ICC has appointed a lawyer to represent Islam in The Hague but the attorney has not had contact with Gaddafi’ son who was detained after his dictator father was killed in October last year.

The lawyer, Xavier-Jean Keita, has called on the ICC to disqualify chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Campo from the case, alleging possible bias.

Moreno-Ocampo, whose term ends in June, told the council that his office will give its views to the international tribunal on 04 June on whether Libya should be allowed to try Islam. The judges could then ask for more evidence from Libya or other parties.

Serious concerns

"We are reviewing the conditions," Moreno-Ocampo told reporters when asked about the Islam case.

Moreno-Ocampo said Saif has asked to be tried in Libya and does not want to go before the ICC. He said Saif had asked authorities to let his family find a lawyer he can trust and that the International Committee of the Red Cross had been able to visit Islam.

The Human Rights Watch group has "serious concerns" about the conditions in which Islam might be tried in Libya, said the group's justice director Richard Dicker.

Moreno-Ocampo also said he has asked Nato for more information about five incidents in which civilians were killed during air-strikes last year as part of the campaign which helped bring down Gaddafi.

A UN commission of inquiry found that about 60 civilians were killed in the Nato airstrikes.

Security Council members Russia, China, India and South Africa have said the Western nations went beyond the mandate given by the council in conducting the strikes. The United States, Britain and France all say the strikes were legal.

Moreno-Ocampo said he could not investigate Nato's mandate. "But we are still collecting information about these five incidents," the chief prosecutor said. Nato was among those asked to provide information.

Libya's government has strongly defended Nato's action.

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