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At Hague, Libya Insists It Should Try Qaddafi Son

Libya is preparing to bring a wide range of charges against a son of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, and to begin his trial by next February, lawyers for Libya told the International Criminal Court at The Hague on Wednesday. They appeared at a hearing dealing with the question of whether Libya or the international court has the right to try the younger Mr. Qaddafi as well as a powerful intelligence chief in his father's regime.

Libyan authorities insist that the two men, Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, and the former intelligence chief, Abdullah el-Senussi, must be tried in their own country by Libyan judges.

A team of 12 investigators is collecting evidence against Mr. Qaddafi, including crimes like murder, torture, indiscriminant violence against demonstrators and recruiting mercenaries from Pakistan, lawyers for Libya told the panel of judges. They said he might be tried jointly with Mr. Senussi.

Judges at the International Criminal Court indicted the two men and signed their arrest warrants last year after the United Nations Security Council sent a request to the court to investigate reports of Libyan atrocities.

Both men are imprisoned in Libya. Mr. Qaddafi was captured last year while fleeing toward Niger. Mr. Senussi was handed over last month by the government of Mauritania, in exchange for an unspecified amount of money. Several news reports from the region put the amount as high as $200 million, but a Libyan official said that the country had agreed only ''to increase its investments'' in Mauritania.

Experts agree that little can be done to stop Libya from trying the two men. But if it wants to abide by rules of the international court and the will of the Security Council, it must first convince the judges that Libya is willing and able to hold fair trials. Only then could they be expected to suspend their indictments.

For many months, documents have gone back and forth between The Hague and officials in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, but little progress has been made because Libya still lacks a central government and its legal system is almost nonexistent after four decades of dictatorship.

The growing distrust between the international court and Tripoli intensified this past summer when the Libyan authorities arrested four of the court's officers during an approved visit to Mr. Qaddafi and held them for 26 days on vague charges of spying.

On Wednesday, after listening to Libya's lengthy but rather unspecific presentations, Judge Hans-Peter Kaul, visibly irritated, asked from the bench if the Libyan authorities were ''really aware'' that they must provide the court with ''concrete, tangible and pertinent evidence that proper and concrete investigations are going on?''

Yes, a lawyer for Libya replied, ''the authorities are acutely aware.''

Melinda Taylor, a court-appointed defense lawyer who was among those arrested in Libya, warned that judges would risk the court's reputation if they ceded jurisdiction to a Libyan court system that was being organized to convict rather than to pursue justice. She said the two men had been mistreated and had not seen a judge or their lawyer.

The tug-of-war over the men will be an important first test for the court, which has never been faced with the choice of allowing a domestic court to take over a case from its own docket. Lawyers say that the Libyan case may well create considerable discomfort for the new institution.

If the judges want the two men in The Hague, Libya is not expected to hand them over, and the court will look powerless. If they decide that Libya is fit to handle the trials, they risk endorsing a legal system that is at best highly inexperienced but that has the power to hand down a death sentence. Some Libyan officials have said that there is no question that Mr. Qaddafi will face the gallows.

During the hearings, the most surprising comment came from the prosecution in The Hague. Sara Criscitelli, a prosecutor, told the court that the case against Mr. Qaddafi ''appears to be on track,'' adding, ''We think it is appropriate to give Libya additional time to sort itself out.''

[Source: By Marlise Simons, The New York Times, Paris, 11Oct12]

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small logoThis document has been published on 15Oct12 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.