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UN says trial of Gadhafi son 'breached Libyan law,' should go to ICC

United Nations officials have found "serious violations" of due process in the trial of Seif Gadhafi and three dozen leaders of the former Libyan regime. They pressed Libya to reform its justice system.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi Libyen (dapd)

Saif al-Islam Gadhafi was sentenced to death by a Tripolis court in June 2015

The trial of 37 former regime officials in Libya, including the former dictator's son Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, failed to uphold international rights norms, according to a United Nations report published on Tuesday.

"This trial was a missed opportunity for justice," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said. "Holding perpetrators responsible for violations is vitally important but accountability should be the result of due process and a fair trial."

The UN human rights office and U.N. Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) asked Tripoli to reform its criminal justice system, arguing that the trial had highlighted "major flaws".

Nine defendants sentenced to death

Al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmudi Vorführung Gefängnis (Reuters)

Former Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi is among the nine former officials who received the death penalty

The dozen former high-ranking officials had been put on trial for crimes committed under the Gadhafi regime, including human rights violations, such as torture and murder. Nine of the defendants were sentenced to death by firing squad, among them Saif Gadhafi, former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senoussi and former Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi.

The U.N. report detailed "serious violations" of due process, saying that trial proceedings "fell short of international norms and standards for fair trial and also breached Libyan law in some respects."

Abdullah al Senussi (dapd)

Former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senoussi was sentenced to death by firing squad

According to the 60-page paper, defendants were forced to spend long periods without any contact with other people, including their families and lawyers. Allegations of torture against the defendants were reportedly also never properly investigated and the prosecution called no witnesses to testify during the trial, undermining the defense's capacity to challenge evidence. The defendants' lawyers also told the UN that there no full official trial record was kept.

Outstanding ICC warrant against Gadhafi

The authors of the UN paper also urged the Libyan government to transfer Gadhafi junior to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC has an outstanding warrant against the dictator's son, charging him with crimes against humanity, including torture and murder. Unlike the Libyan justice system, the ICC does not allow the death penalty.

The young Gadhafi was tried in absentia and sentenced to death in July 2015 by a Tripoli court for war crimes, including killing protesters during the revolution.

He is currently believed to be held by non-government militia in Zintan, a mountainous region southwest of Tripoli, where he was captured in November 2011, shortly after "Arab Spring" protests and NATO-backed rebel troops ousted his father. During the later years of his father's regime, Seif had been one of the key political operatives in Libya and was considered a possible successor to his father.

mb/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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