Since his capture six days ago, nearly every politician of repute, as well as so-called “political experts” on middle east affairs, have waded in with an opinion on where Saif Al Islam Gaddafi should stand trial.
Those calling for Saif to stand trial in the International Criminal Court (ICC), in the Hague, point to the fairness of a ICC trial, the appropriateness of the ICC to hold war crimes trials, the current inadequate court system in Libya and the nonrecognition of the death penalty, as key decision factors.
On the other hand, there are those, including the Libyan authorities, who want Saif to stand trial in Libya, under Libyan law, for his alleged crimes against humanity among others.
Whichever way we choose to look at it, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that Libya recognises the death penalty. The ICC doesn’t.
According to the Associated Press, the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who met with Libyan authorities on Tuesday 22 November, “conceded the Libyans have the authority to try him at home but he wants judges from the Netherlands-based court to be involved.”
But then a more cautious Reuters report quotes Mr. Moreno-Ocampo as saying: “The issue of where the trials will be held has to be resolved through consultations with the court. In the end, the ICC judges will decide. There are legal standards which will have to be adhered to.”
So far, an official decision on where to try Saif Gaddafi has not been reached and it’s anyone’s guess how long the legal wranglings between the ICC and the Libyan authorities will continue for. What is, however, plausible is that the longer it takes for both sides to agree modalities, the more precarious Saif’s safety in captivity will become.
Strangely enough, I don’t particularly remember there being so much drama over where to try Saddam Hussein following his own capture in 2003, even though he was accused of far more heinous crimes against humanity than Saif ever will. It was almost as if the West clamored for an Iraq-based trial for Saddam to exterminate him once and for all. Where was the ICC then? Taking a power nap….possibly?