By Thomas Verfuss
The International Criminal Court (ICC) should drop the case against Saif al-Islam Gadaffi. The son of the former Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi has already been tried and sentenced to death at home. Putting him on trial again in The Hague would be a violation of the principle of “double jeopardy”.
Saif’s lawyer, Karim Khan, made the remarks during a press briefing in the Hilton Hotel in The Hague on Monday. The British lawyer, who was the lead defence counsel during the Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto’s trial before the ICC, is part of a newly appointed defence team in the Saif al-Islam case. It is the first defence team appointed by the suspect himself. Earlier defence teams were court-appointed.
Then ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo charged Saif al-Islam with the crimes against humanity of murder and persecution in 2011. His father, Muammar Gadaffi’s, regime brutally quashed an uprising against his rule during the Arab Spring. According to Moreno, Saif al-Islam acted as his father’s de facto prime minister. Police forces under his orders killed lots of demonstrators, the prosecution alleges.
Saif al-Islam has been in custody in Libya since 2011. He is not held by the new authorities in Tripoli, but by a local clan in the town of Zintan. Last year he was tried via video link and sentenced to death.
The death sentence has not been carried out, but is subject to an automatic appeal under Libyan law, Khan explained.
Furthermore there is an amnesty law in Libya meant to promote the national reconciliation process. Khan compared the North African country to Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom where he has his law firm. After a long bloody conflict between Catholics and Protestants, former terrorists are now part of the government, as a result of a peace and reconciliation process, Khan pointed out.
The principle of the complementarity of the ICC to national courts and of the prohibition of “double jeopardy” is an absolute one, Khan points out. This is why he hopes that Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda will support his request to the ICC judges to terminate the Saif al-Islam case. “His future is to be decided by the Libyans.” Read also: Gadaffi son picks ICC fixer Karim Khan as his lawyer