Reports emerged this week that International Criminal Court (ICC) suspect Saif Gaddafi — son of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi — has been released under an amnesty law by the Zintan-based Abu Bakr al-Siddiq Battalion. Civil society and the ICC Prosecutor have called for his immediate arrest and surrender to The Hague.
"Helping a fugitive to escape justice must not be tolerated, and Mr Gaddafi must be surrendered to the custody of the Court," a statement from the Office of the Prosecutor read, calling for any information on Gaddafi's whereabouts to be transmitted to the ICC. "Accountability for Rome Statute crimes and the deterrent effect of the law are equally important components of achieving sustainable peace and stability in Libya."
An ICC arrest warrant for crimes against humanity was issued for Saif Gaddafi in June 2011 for his alleged role in the deadly repression of civilians during the Arab Spring uprising.
At the time, ICC arrest warrants were also issued for Muammar Gaddafi, director of military intelligence Abdullah Al-Senussi, and former head of the Libyan security agency Mohamed Khaled al-Tuhamy.
The warrant for al-Tuhamy also remains outstanding and was unsealed by the Court in mid-April 2017 in a bid to encourage the international community to cooperate with his arrest.
In 2014, Libyan authorities failed in their challenge to the admissibility of Saif Gaddafi’s case before the ICC, with ICC appeals judges confirming that Libya had not sufficiently proven that its national investigation covers the same case as the one before the ICC.
Libyan authorities, however, have failed to transfer Saif Gaddafi to ICC custody, with the Zintan militia detaining him refusing to hand him over to central government authorities. This matter was referred to the UN Security Council by ICC judges following a ruling that Libya had not complied with its obligations to cooperate under the terms of the Council’s referral of the Libya situation to the Court.
In 2015, a Libyan court in Tripoli sentenced Saif Gaddafi, fellow ICC suspect Abdullah al-Senussi and seven other former government officials to death. The trial and verdicts generated an international outcry over allegations of serious due process violations. The ICC prosecutor and civil society groups urged the surrender of Saif Gaddafi to the ICC and called on Libya to not proceed with the execution.
Amnesty International this week stated that previous failed attempts to bring Gaddafi to justice had contributed to his ill-advised release: "These serious violations and abuses by the Zintan and the Libyan authorities have thwarted justice in this case and undermined the rule of law in Libya.
"In any case, international law requires Libya to arrest and surrender him to the ICC, and no domestic amnesty can override this obligation."
Find out why Lawyers for Justice Libya are calling on the ICC to ramp up investigations in the country.