Hague prosecutor seeks fair trial for Gaddafi son

2011-11-23 08:39

The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor has held talks with Libyan authorities on ensuring a fair trial for Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam, who is being held by revolutionary fighters.

The prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, conceded yesterday that the Libyans have the authority to try Saif at home but he wants judges from the Netherlands-based court to be involved.

Saif, once the face of reform in Libya and the leader of his father’s effort to shake off pariah status, is charged with crimes against humanity by the ICC for the crackdown on an uprising that began in February and grew into a civil war.

“Saif is captured so we are here to ensure cooperation,” Moreno-Ocampo told reporters after arriving in Libya. “If they (Libyans) prosecute the case, we will discuss with them how to inform the judges, and they can do it, but our judges have to be involved.”

Libya’s interim prime minister, meanwhile, announced the formation of a transitional government that will lead the oil-rich country until parliamentary elections are held by the end of June.

Prime Minister Abdurrahim el-Keib told a news conference in Tripoli that his focus was on forming a government that would represent all of Libya.

“Our country went through tough times, so my first priority is to provide a dignified life to our Libyan people,” he said. “And my second – and just as important – is security.”

After toppling Gaddafi’s regime in August, Libya’s new leaders are still struggling to solidify their control over the fractured nation and to begin building state institutions that were nonexistent or weak under Gaddafi’s 42-year rule.

Among the most important steps is establishing a court system, which the International Criminal Court wants to be certain will be capable of putting on a fair trial for Saif.

Gaddafi’s son was captured Saturday in southern Libya and is being held by fighters in the mountain town of Zintan, southwest of the capital.

The International Committee of the Red Cross visited Saif there yesterday and said he appeared to be in good health. Steven Anderson, a spokesperson for the Geneva-based body, said the visit “took place in accordance with the Red Cross’s customary working procedures” and all further findings would remain confidential.

Libya’s new leaders have said they will try Saif at home even though they have yet to set up a strong court system. The ICC, which is based in The Hague, Netherlands, has also charged Gaddafi’s former intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senoussi, with crimes against humanity.

Libyan officials have said al-Senoussi, who is also Gaddafi’s brother-in-law, was captured over the weekend and is being held in a secret location in the southern city of Sabha, although Libya’s interim prime minister could not confirm the report.

Rights groups have called on Libya to hand both men over for trial in The Hague, and Moreno-Ocampo stressed that even if Libyans want to try the two men in Libya they must still cooperate with the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal.

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