International court: Libya can try Gadhafi's son

Associated Press
In this image taken from video made available Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011, Moammar Gadhafi's son Seif al-Islam, below right, is surrounded by Libyan revolutionary captors shortly after his capture on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011, at a safe house in the town of Zintan, Libya. The video shows Seif al-Islam arguing with his captors and admonishing them, saying that Libya's regions that were united in revolution will turn against each other in the near future and rip the country apart. (AP Photo/APTN) TV OUT
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TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — The International Criminal Court's prosecutor said Tuesday that Libya can put Moammar Gadhafi's son and one-time heir apparent on trial at home, but that The Hague court's judges must be involved in the case.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo was in Tripoli on Tuesday for talks with Libya's new leaders about their plans for Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, who was captured Saturday in southern Libya and is being held by fighters in the mountain town of Zintan, southwest of the capital.

"Seif is captured so we are here to ensure cooperation," Moreno-Ocampo told reporters after arriving in Libya. "If they (Libyans) prosecute the case, we will discuss with them how to inform the judges, and they can do it, but our judges have to be involved."

Libya's interim prime minister, meanwhile, announced the formation of a transitional government that will lead the oil-rich country until parliamentary elections are held by the end of June.

After toppling Gadhafi's regime in August, Libya's new leaders are still struggling to solidify their control over the fractured nation and to begin building state institutions that were nonexistent or weak under Gadhafi.

Among the most important is establishing a court system, which the International Criminal Court wants to be certain will be capable of putting on a fair trial for Seif al-Islam.

The ICC has charged him with crimes against humanity. Libya's new leaders have said they will try Seif al-Islam at home even though they have yet to set up a court system.

The International Committee of the Red Cross visited Gadhafi's son in Zintan on Tuesday and said he appeared to be in good health. Steven Anderson, a spokesman for the Geneva-based body, said the visit "took place in accordance with the ICRC's customary working procedures" and all further findings would remain confidential.

The ICC, which is based in The Hague, Netherlands, has also charged Gadhafi's former intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senoussi, with crimes against humanity. Libyan officials have said al-Senoussi was captured over the weekend and is being held in the southern city of Sabha, although Libya's interim prime minister could not confirm the report.

Rights groups have called on Libya to hand both men over for trial in The Hague, and Moreno-Ocampo stressed that even if Libyans want to try the two men in Libya they must still cooperate with the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal.

Libya is obliged by a Security Council resolution to work with the court, but that does not necessarily preclude a trial in Libya. If the National Transitional Council can convince judges in The Hague that the country has a functioning legal system that will give Seif al-Islam and al-Senoussi a fair trial on substantially the same charges as Moreno-Ocampo filed, then the ICC could declare Moreno-Ocampo's case inadmissible and turn it over to Libya.

"The International Criminal Court acts when the national system cannot do it," Moreno-Ocampo said. "That's why we are here, to understand what they are doing."

In a statement before his arrival, Moreno-Ocampo called the arrest of Seif al-Islam and al-Senoussi "a crucial step in bringing to justice those most responsible for crimes committed in Libya."

Libya's new leaders have not yet established a functioning judicial system, and had struggled to put together a new transitional government since Gadhafi's fall.

Interim Prime Minister Abdurrahim el-Keib's announcement of his Cabinet at a news conference in Tripoli showed Libya's new leaders were so far sticking to a timeline for their nation's transition that they set out after declaring liberation on Oct. 23.

The formation of the Cabinet clears the way for the next key step on that timeline: the election of a 200-member national congress by the end of June.

Seif al-Islam, who was once the face of reform in Libya and who led his father's drive to emerge from pariah status over the last decade, was captured Saturday by fighters from the small western mountain town of Zintan who had tracked him to the desert in the south of the country. He was then flown to Zintan, 85 miles (150 kilometers) southwest of Tripoli, where he remains in a secret location.

In new video footage taken the day of his capture and obtained by The Associated Press, Seif al-Islam warns his captors that Libya's regions, which united to oust Gadhafi, will turn against one another "in a couple of months or maximum one year," suggesting the country will descend into infighting.

There have been signs in recent months of growing tensions among Libya's powerful regions, and even after Gadhafi's fall in August and after his capture and killing in October, the country's numerous and sometimes competing revolutionary factions have refused to disarm, raising fears of new violence and instability. The regions, backed by bands of armed fighters, are able to act autonomously, even on issues of the highest national interest.

In the video, revolutionary fighters stand around Seif al-Islam, who is seated in a green chair. Three of his fingers are heavily bandaged, and he occasionally winces from the pain.

In another video briefly posted by his captors on YouTube, he said the injury to his hand — which raised speculation he might have been abused — was from a NATO airstrike a month ago. But it was impossible to know if he was speaking truthfully or under duress.

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