International Criminal Court judges ordered Libya on Thursday to hand over Abdullah Al Senussi and let him see his lawyer, raising the stakes in a long dispute.
The statement placed the Hague-based court on a collision course with Libya’s new rulers, who say Gaddafi-era leaders in their custody should face local justice.
The ICC judges said, “Libya remains under obligation to comply with the surrender request.”
They would decide later how to respond if the North African state continues to hold Senussi, the judges added. The court has the power to refer the matter to the U.N. Security Council.
“The ICC has ordered an immediate halt to Libya’s unseemly rush to drag Mr. Al-Senussi to the gallows before the law has taken its course,” said Ben Emmerson, Senussi’s lawyer before the ICC.
Judges also ordered Libya to grant Emmerson access to his client.
Libya has become a test case of the effectiveness of the 10-year-old court, which relies on the cooperation of member countries to arrest suspects and enforce its orders.
A court-appointed lawyer for Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam was detained in Libya for a month alongside three other court officials when she attempted to visit her jailed client. Since, court officials and defense lawyers have had no contact with either Saif al-Islam or Senussi.
Most recently, allegations have surfaced that Libya paid Mauritania $200 million to ignore the ICC arrest warrant last year, sending Senussi to Tripoli rather than to the ICC’s detention center in The Hague.
For the legal record – Libya Herald’s Version of the Story – ICC judges demand Senussi be handed over to them
The Libyan prosecutor-general’s office has described as “standard procedure” the ruling from the International Criminal Court that Abdullah Senussi, be handed over to it, to face charges of crimes against humanity.
Yet the ruling from the pre-trial chamber of the ICC in the Hague, made on Wednesday, but only published today, appears brutally clear. It read that the ICC “orders the Libyan authorities to proceed to the immediate surrender of Mr Senussi to the court.” It also said: “Libya remains under an obligation to comply with the surrender request.”
Taha Baara, a spokesman for the prosecutor-general, was reported by AFP to have described the court’s demand as “standard procedure”. He pointed out that Libya had filed a request on 23 January, that Senussi’s trial be held in Libya. “Therefore we have eight weeks from that date to complete the file and submit the necessary documentation”.
Baara also pointed out that even if the court refused to sanction a Libyan trial for Qaddafi’s brother-in-law and former intelligence chief, the decision could be appealed.
The British lawyer appointed by the ICC to defend Senussi, human rights campaigner Ben Emmerson QC, said after the ruling: “The ICC has ordered an immediate halt to Libya’s unseemly rush to drag Mr. Al-Senussi to the gallows before the law has taken its course.” The Hague judges also ordered Libya to give Emmerson access to his client, which has so far been denied.
Senussi was extradited from Mauritania last September in a deal which was widely rumoured to have involved the payment of $200 million by Libya. Ever since Senussi’s arrest on his return to Libya, the authorities here have insisted that he should face a Libyan court to answer charges of mass-killing and other gross violations of human rights.
Libya’s National Council for Public Liberties and Human Rights this evening said that it was its view that the country’s position on preventing the extradition of its citizens to the ICC is in accordance with the Libyan law.
If Libya is not successful in its appeal against the ICC’s ruling on Senussi, then the stage would seem to be set for a showdown between the ten-year old court and the Libyan government. If the former spy chief is not handed over, then the court can refer the matter to the UN Security Council.
If the UN body chooses to, and that it is a moot point whether agreement could be reached among permanent members with a veto, it has only two punitive measures open to it, according to London lawyer Robert Murfield, who is making a close study of the ICC. One would be sanctions and the other would be Chapter VII military intervention, neither of which seems in the least likely.
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