Libya challenges ICC, plans own war crimes trials | News | DW | 01.05.2012
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Libya challenges ICC, plans own war crimes trials

Libya and the International Criminal Court are in a tug-of-war over who should try Gadhafi regime members. Libya claims it has the ability to try war crimes suspects; the ICC says certain conditions must be met.

The Libyan transitional government on Tuesday formally challenged the International Criminal Court's (ICC) jurisdiction to try former members of the Gadhafi regime for war crimes, claiming that Libya was willing and able to prosecute the suspects in local courts.

In this image taken from new video which has become available Tuesday Nov. 22, 2011, showing of Moammar Gadhafi's son Seif al-Islam examines his injured hand, in video taken shortly after his capture on Saturday Nov. 19, 2011, at a safe house in the town of Zintan, Libya.

Seif is currently being held by Libyan authorities

The ICC had issued three arrest warrants for war crimes in June 2011 against Col. Moammar Gadhafi, his son Seif al-Islam and military intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senoussi. The international war crimes court, located in The Hague, received its mandate from the UN Security Council in 2011 as the Gadhafi regime sought to violently suppress Libya's uprising.

But since Libyan rebels ousted Gadhafi under NATO air cover last fall, the north African country's new government has said it has the jurisdiction to try former regime members in national courts. The ICC subsequently lifted its indictment against Gadhafi, who was shot dead by rebels in October 2011.

'Willing and able'

Seif was arrested by Libyan authorities in November 2011 and is currently being held in the western town of Zintan. The ICC indictment charges Seif with killing and persecuting civilians during Libya's uprising. Al-Senoussi, meanwhile, was arrested in Mauritania in April. Tripoli is currently seeking his extradition.

The Libyan government's legal team argued that its desire to try the two suspects "reflects a genuine willingness and ability to bring the persons concerned to justice."

Tripoli went on to argue in its formal submission that denying "the Libyan people this historic opportunity to eradicate the long-standing culture of impunity would be manifestly inconsistent with the object and purpose" of the international court.

The Arab League, which played a critical diplomatic role in galvanizing the international community to intervene militarily in Libya last year, said on Monday that Seif should be tried by Tripoli.

"The Arab League supports the Libyan position to hold the trial of Seif al-Islam Gadhafi in front of a Libyan justice tribunal," the pan-Arab organization said in a release.

"The Libyan government has repeatedly assured that all conditions ... would be met to organize a fair and impartial trial on its territory," it added.

Concerns about fairness

But human rights groups have expressed concern about whether or not Seif and al-Senoussi will receive fair trials in Libya, which remains plagued by disorder and lawlessness in certain parts of the country.

In this Sunday, Aug. 21, 2011 file photo taken on a government-organized tour, Abdullah al-Senoussi, head of Libyan intelligence, speaks to the press as gunfire erupts all around the Rixos hotel in Tripoli, Libya.

Tripoli is seeking al-Senoussi's extradition from Mauritania

"They hired foreign lawyers to work on the case but that's not enough, they need a justice system that works," the head of the international justice team at Amnesty International, Marek Marczynski, told the news agency Reuters.

Under the ICC's founding treaty, the court acts as a complementary tribunal which tries suspects only if local courts are unable or unwilling to do the job.

ICC spokeswoman Sonia Robla said on Tuesday that the international court can only retract its arrest warrants under particular circumstances. The tribunal's judges have to be confident that the suspects will face substantially the same charges as the ICC indicted them for and that they will receive a fair trial, Robla said.

slk/ipj /(AP, AFP)