28 Oct 2011

Saif Gaddafi ‘in contact’ with war crimes court

The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor says he has had “informal contact” with Libyan fugitive Saif Gaddafi over his surrender to the war crimes court.

The ICC charged the late Colonel Gaddafi, his former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi and his son Saif with crimes against humanity. Saif is accused of organising the recruitment of mercenaries to pick off Libyan protesters.

Saif has scarcely been seen since the ICC erroneously corroborated the National Transitional Council’s (NTC) claim in August that he had been captured and detained, only for him greet foreign journalists the following day in a Tripoli hotel.

His whereabouts are completely unknown, with separate reports suggesting he is on Libya’s north western border with Tunisia, the western border with Algeria, a southern town near Niger. There is also a suggestion that he is being sheltered, along with Senussi, by nomadic Tuareg tribes in the south of Libya who were loyal to his father.

If he surrenders to the ICC, he has the right to be heard in court, he is innocent until proven guilty. ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo

Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in a statement: “Through intermediaries, we have informal contact with Saif. The office of the prosecutor has made it clear that if he surrenders to the ICC, he has the right to be heard in court, he is innocent until proven guilty. The judges will decide.

“Additionally, we have learnt through informal channels that there is a group of mercenaries who are offering to move Saif to an African (country) not party to the Rome statute of the ICC.

“The office of the prosecutor is also exploring the possibility to intercept any plane within the air space of a state party in order to make an arrest,” he said.

Countries which are not party to the Rome Statute – around half of Africa’s nations – are not obliged to hand over suspects.

War crimes

The statement added: “This is a legal process and if the judges decide that Saif is innocent, or has served his sentence, he can request the judges to send him to a different country as long as that country accepts him.”

Back in March, leading international lawyer and Director of the International Bar Association, Mark Ellis, studied several videos sent to him by Channel 4 News thought to have been shot in Libya, including one of what appeared to be the scene of a mass execution, with dozens of protesters lying face down on the ground, their limbs tied and with blood pouring from their heads.

He concluded that the video “shows without a doubt violations of the international rules of war,” adding it represented “prima facie evidence in which unknown people have been executed. It does not matter if the perpetrators were militia or civilians: the videos are clear examples of war crimes.”

Friends in the south

If Saif is, in fact, in the desert in the south of the country or in Niger, he will certainly find friends there.

“We are ready to hide him wherever needed,” Mouddour Barka, a resident of Agadez in northern Niger, told Reuters.

“We are telling the international community to stay out of this business and our own authorities not to hand him over, otherwise we are ready to go out onto the streets and they will have us to deal with,” he added.

“I am ready to welcome him in. For me his case is quite simply a humanitarian one,” said Mohamed Anako, president of the council of Agadez region, a barren stretch of land almost the same size of France.

“Libya and Niger are brother countries and cousins. You find the same communities in Libya as you do in northern Niger, so we will welcome him in,” said Anako.