FIDH condemns Libyan Court’s decision to sentence nine Gaddafi-era officials to death

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FIDH strongly condemns the death sentences handed down today in Tripoli against nine members of the former Muammar Gaddafi regime.

FIDH opposes the death penalty for all crimes and in all circumstances, and urges the Libyan Supreme Court to conduct a full review of the trial in light of allegations of serious violations of due process, and overturn the death sentences. FIDH also urges Libya to comply with its obligation to immediately transfer Saif al-Islam Gaddafi to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Those sentenced to death include Gaddafi’s son Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi, and two former prime ministers, Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi and Abuzaid Dorda. The sentences are related to crimes committed during the repression of the popular uprising in Libya in 2011.

“Libyan victims demand justice for the grave crimes and human rights violations committed under the Gaddafi regime—not only during the 2011 uprising, but since the beginning of Gaddafi’s rule,” stated Karim Lahidji, FIDH President. “But the victims also want justice be done fairly and transparently, which was not the case in this most recent trial,” Lahidji added. “The fact that nine people may face a firing squad in Libya while victims of both previous regimes and on-going violence have little access to justice or protection is appalling.”

The year-long trial against 37 defendants concluded in May 2015. Today’s verdict included nine death sentences, twenty-three prison sentences, four acquittals, and one referral to a medical institution. Gaddafi also faces charges at the ICC, but has not been transferred to The Hague despite orders for Libya to surrender him to the Court. Senussi’s case was declared inadmissible at the ICC despite his previous arrest warrant, due to these ongoing domestic proceedings.

The trial was plagued with serious allegations that it did not meet international fair trial standards. Gaddafi himself was tried in absentia, as he continues to be held in Zintan by militia opposed to the Tripoli authorities. This fact underscored major concerns raised about Libya’s ability to hold credible national legal proceedings, particularly amidst a worsening political and military crisis. Such issues cast severe doubts on the legitimacy of the trial’s outcome.

“The Gaddafi case is a prime example of the dangerous consequences of non-cooperation with the ICC. Not only do some suspects avoid arrest, but in this case, an arrested suspect may be put to death without the guarantees of a fair trial and outside the appropriate forum,” stated Shawan Jabarin, FIDH Vice-President.“The UN Security Council, which referred Libya to the ICC, must support the transfer of Gaddafi to The Hague, and Libya must comply with its outstanding cooperation obligations,” concluded Jabarin.

In addition, considering continued allegations of lack of fair trial standards, FIDH urges the Prosecutor to request a review of the admissibility of the Senussi case. The former intelligence chief’s case was declared inadmissible by the Appeals Chamber of the ICC in 2014 because of the ongoing domestic proceedings.

Background – ICC involvement

The situation in Libya, which is not party to the ICC, was referred to the Court by the UN Security Council on 26 February 2011, which granted the Court jurisdiction of crimes committed from the 15 February 2011 forward. The ICC then issued arrest warrants on 27 June 2011 for Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi and Abdullah Al-Senussi, both accused of crimes against humanity committed under the Muammar Gaddafi regime.

Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi was captured in November 2011, but was never surrendered to the ICC, despite Libya’s obligations to do so. The ICC found Libya to be in non-compliance and referred the situation to the Security Council in December 2014, requesting the Security Council’s assistance in eliminating the impediments to cooperation.

Proceedings at the ICC against Abdullah Al-Senussi came to an end on 24 July 2014 when the Appeals Chamber confirmed the case was inadmissible at the ICC due to the ongoing domestic proceedings. The controversial decision argued that Libyan authorities were both willing and able to carry out a genuine investigation and prosecution against Al-Senussi, in spite of allegations of lack of due process. Considering continued allegations of lack of fair trial standards, FIDH urges the Prosecutor to request a review of the case’s admissibility.