On April 4th, the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) ordered Libyan authorities to surrender Moammar Gadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi after the Libyan transitional government requested a second postponement in surrendering him. Libyan rebel fighters arrested Seif al-Islam Gadhafi in November 2011 when he was attempting to flee to Niger and the country means to try him in their own court system first. In its ruling, the ICC requested that Libya “proceed immediately with the surrender,” but Libyan authorities intend to challenge the jurisdiction of the court.
The Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC issued an arrest warrant against Mr. Gadhafi for crimes against humanity on June 27, 2011. The Libyan National Transitional Council confirmed the arrest of Mr. Gadhafi in November 2011, but requested a postponement of the Surrender Request until they could complete national proceedings regarding crimes charged against Mr. Gadhafi. In March, the Pre-Trial Chamber dismissed the postponement request. Later in the month, Libya filed another postponement request. The Court rejected this postponement request as well, holding that it had jurisdiction over Libya and needed to “start making arrangements in preparation for the surrender of Mr. Gadhafi to the Court without further ado.”
Libyan authorities are currently building a special prison in Tripoli where Gadhafi will be held while the militia is holding him in the western town of Zintan. Once the prison is complete and Gadhafi has been moved, his trial will begin. However, many people fear that Gadhafi will not receive a fair and safe trial in Libya. In addition to the anger felt by Libyan citizens against Gadhafi, a Libyan court could sentence Gadhafi to death for persecuting and killing protestors during the uprising, while an ICC conviction could only result in a prison term.
While Libyans want to see justice in their own country for their citizens, Liz Evenson, senior counsel with Human Rights Watch’s International Justice Program has stated that it is “imperative that Libyan authorities start preparing to surrender Seif al-Islam … This is what cooperation with the court means.” If Libyan authorities do not hand Gadhafi over to the ICC, it is possible that the matter will be brought before the Security Council, as a Security Council Resolution has ordered Libya to cooperate with the ICC.