Knowing He Faces Execution, ICC Grants Libya Permission to Try Abdullah Al Senussi

Muammar Gaddafi's former spy chief Abdullah al-Senussi (C) is seen in custody in Tripoli in this undated handout picture. REUTERS/Libyan National Guard/Handout

Judges at the International Criminal Court ruled on Friday that Libya was free to try Abdullah al-Senussi, the former Libyan spy chief who was a pivotal figure under former ruler Muammar Gaddafi – a decision his lawyers said was “shocking”.

Judges said that since Libya was able and willing to give Senussi a fair trial on charges that were similar to the ICC’s, there was no need to transfer him to the court’s custody. Senussi’s lawyers said they would appeal.

Senussi and Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam are in detention in Libya while the ICC and Libya wrangle over who has the right to try them.

Senussi’s lawyer echoed many legal scholars in questioning whether Libya, whose prime minister was briefly seized by gunmen on Thursday, is in a position to administer a fair trial just two years after the fall of the legitimate government that has left the country lawless.

“The country is sliding into wide-scale lawlessness where the law of the gun rules and armed militas do as they please,” said Ben Emmerson, who is representing Senussi before the ICC.

“The effect of this decision is to condemn Mr. al-Senussi to face mob justice…in which the inevitable outcome is the death penalty,” he added.

Friday’s ruling does not affect the case against Saif al-Islam, who is in custody in the western mountain city of Zintan, where Tripoli’s rule is weak.

Lawyers for both suspects have been trying to have them transferred to The Hague, where they would not face the death penalty.