Al-Senussi: a Libyan case recently abandoned by the ICC

15 April 2014 by Christopher Stephen, Tripoli (Libya)

Last October, a panel of three International Criminal Court (ICC) judges decided Libya was both able and willing to try its former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi, and therefore there was no need for The Hague to do so. It was a decision that conforms with the purpose of the ICC, which is to complement, rather than supersede, national courts. 

The ICC charged al-Senussi with war crimes and crimes against humanity along with Muammar Gaddafi and his son Saif al-Islam in June 2011, with Libya's civil war still raging. Gaddafi was killed by rebels in his home town, Sirte, in October that year and both Saif al-Islam and al-Senussi fled. Saif al-Islam was caught by a militia in the Sahara in November, and al-Senussi captured in Mauritania in 2012 and transferred to Libya. 

ICC orders for Libya to transfer both men to The Hague were ignored, Tripoli repeating it was capable of giving both men a fair trial. A visit by an ICC-appointed defence lawyer and three court officials to Saif al-Islam in 2012 ended in a farce, with the Zintan militia detaining them, and accusing the lawyers of passing him secret documents. No ICC official has been allowed to visit him since. In February last year the ICC ruled Libya was not willing or able to try Saif al-Islam. 

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