ICC looks to reel in Saif al-Islam

The prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) said on Sunday he has “substantial evidence” that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, now on the run, had helped hire mercenaries to attack Libyan civilians protesting against his father’s rule.

Saif al-Islam may be heading for Niger, which could upset Libya’s new rulers and its own pro-Gaddafi Tuareg nomads if it hands him over to the ICC in line with its treaty obligations.

“We have a witness who explained how Saif was involved with the planning of the attacks against civilians, including in particular the hiring of core mercenaries from different countries and the transport of them, and also the financial aspects he was covering,” ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told Reuters during a visit to Beijing.

Saif al-Islam (39) is desperately seeking to avoid the fate of his father, Muammar Gaddafi, who was beaten, abused and shot after forces of Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) captured him on October 20 after the fall of his home town Sirte.

The NTC is likely to want to try Saif al-Islam itself, but the fugitive Libyan has been in indirect contact with the ICC over a possible surrender, though he may also harbour hopes that mercenaries can spirit him to a friendly African country.


Neighbouring Niger has vowed to honour its ICC commitments, but knows that handing over Saif al-Islam could spark unrest in Saharan areas where his father, feted by many desert-dwellers as a hero, nurtured past Tuareg revolts against the capital.

Moreno-Campo said the ICC had witnesses to testify against Saif al-Islam, whom he said he had met a few years ago — when Saif had backed ICC efforts to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir over alleged genocide and other crimes in Darfur.

“So we have substantial evidence to prove the case, but of course Saif is still [presumed] innocent, and [will] have to go to court and the judge will decide,” he said.

Moreno-Ocampo said he would brief the UN Security Council on Wednesday about the court’s work in Libya.

The Hague-based court has warned Saif al-Islam that it could order a mid-air interception if he tried to flee by plane from his unidentified Sahara desert hideout for a safe haven.

“We received through an informal intermediary some questions from Saif apparently about the legal system — what happens to him if he appears before the judges, can he be sent to Libya, what happens if he’s convicted, what happens if he’s acquitted,” said Moreno-Ocampo.

No negotiations
“We are not in any negotiations with Saif,” he said, adding that the ICC would not later force him to return to Libya provided another country is willing to receive him after he is either acquitted or is convicted and has served his sentence.

Before a popular uprising imperiled his father’s grip on Libya, Saif al-Islam had cast himself as an enlightened supporter of reform at home and across the Arab world. But then he swore to crush opponents of his father’s 42-year rule.

Asked about Saif al-Islam’s metamorphosis, Moreno-Ocampo said: “After all these years, nothing surprises me.”

Niger has not commented on statements by local northern leaders that Saif al-Islam was probably on its side of the mountains straddling its porous border with Algeria and Mali.

An official for the remote northern Agadez region, through which another fugitive Gaddafi son, Saadi, has passed, said on Saturday it had hosted security talks with US officials.

The official, who requested anonymity, spoke of escape plans by Saif al-Islam and former Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi, both wanted by the ICC for war crimes.

“Senussi is being extricated from Mali toward a country that is a non-signatory to the (ICC) convention. I am certain that they will both [Senussi and Saif al-Islam] be extricated by plane, one from Mali, the other from Niger,” he said.

A member of Parliament from northern Mali, Ibrahim Assaleh Ag Mohamed, denied Senussi was in his country and said neither he nor Saif al-Islam would be accepted if they tried to enter.

Niger, like Mali, has signed the ICC’s statute, but handing over Saif al-Islam would annoy northerners who feel remote from the capital Niamey and have long espoused Gaddafi’s vision of a cross-border Saharan people.

“We are ready to hide him wherever needed,” Mouddour Barka, a resident of Agadez town, told Reuters, adding that if Niger authorities handed him over: “We are ready to go out on to the streets and they will have us to deal with”.

The Gaddafis befriended desert tribes in Niger, Mali and other poor former French colonies in West Africa. Gaddafi, a self-styled “king of kings”, lavished funds on other African nations.

The ICC accuses Saif al-Islam of hiring mercenaries to carry out a plan, worked out with his father and Senussi, to kill unarmed protesters inspired by Arab uprisings elsewhere.

Algeria, which took in Saif al-Islam’s mother, sister, brother Hannibal and half-brother Mohammed, is not a signatory to the treaty that set up the ICC. Nor is Sudan or Zimbabwe. – Reuters

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Mark John
Mark John works from United States. Social thinker, author, filmmaker focused on arts, sciences and cutting-edge technology. https://t.co/6z79v0Mrkz Mark John has over 2237 followers on Twitter.

Related stories

Japanese firms shut China plants, US urges calm

Japanese firms have shut factories in China and urged expatriate workers to stay indoors in the wake of angry protests over a territorial dispute.

Libya’s tug-of-war over Saif al-Islam

Libya wants the ICC to abandon its legal action against Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and the former intelligence chief so they can be tried in Tripoli.

Lockerbie bomber hospitalised in critical condition

The Libyan convicted for the 1988 Lockerbie plane bombing, which killed 270 people, has been hospitalised unconscious and in a critical condition.

UK offers Libyan dissident £1m over Gaddafi rendition

Abdel Hakim Belhaj was offered £1-million over the alleged UK involvement in his rendition by slain Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's regime.

SA refuses to indulge UN’s mercenary probe

The United Nations wants to know what SA mercenaries were doing helping Gaddafi during the civil war in Libya, but our government isn't saying a word.

Libya struggles to contain tribal conflicts

Rivalries, divided communities and plentiful weapons are convulsing Libya as the interim government struggles to impose its authority.
Advertising

New education policy on gender violence released

Universities and other higher education institutions have to develop ways of preventing or dealing with rape and other damaging behaviour

Cambridge Food Jozini: Pandemic or not, the price-gouging continues

The Competition Commission has fined Cambridge Food Jozini for hiking the price of its maize meal during April

Sekhukhune’s five-year battle for water back in court

The residents of five villages are calling for the district municipal manager to be arrested

Vaccine trial results due in December

If successful, it will then have to be manufactured and distributed
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday