By Carolyn Abdenour
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
TRIPOLI, Libya – Human Rights Watch (“HRW”) has reported that former Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s second-oldest son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi has not met with a lawyer since his arrest by anti-Gaddafi forces on 19 November. HRW’s Fred Abrahams said although Saif al-Islam has not complained of mistreatment, he should see a lawyer provided by Libyan authorities immediately. A suspect in detention requires access to a lawyer promptly, usually within 48 hours, under international and Libyan law.
Saif al-Islam is the greatest high-profile detainee from his father’s regime. The 39-year-old was the heir apparent to his father’s dictatorship in Libya. Saif al-Islam aided the fight against Libyan rebels for months.
Mr. Abrahams spent thirty minutes alone with Saif al-Islam in Zintan, where the rebel militia is holding Saif al-Islam. His overall physical condition is good, and the rebels are not torturing him. Saif al-Islam stated he remains isolated from seeing anyone he chooses, and he only has seen officials visiting him.
Nick Kaufman, a Gaddafi family lawyer, attempted to contact Saif al-Islam, but he lacked a contact person with the National Transitional Council (“NTC”). The International Criminal Court (“ICC”) directed Mr. Kaufman to the Red Cross, which refused to help him.
Rebels captured Saif al-Islam after he sought medical care for a hand injury he sustained from a NATO airstrike. While detained, Saif al-Islam received sufficient medical care and an operation for two fingers and his thumb on his right hand three weeks ago.
Once the Libyan authorities transfer Saif al-Islam to a secure facility in Tripoli, Libya’s chief prosecutor Abdelaziz al-Hasadi said Saif al-Islam will have access to a lawyer. However, Abrahams commented, “The world is watching how Libya handles this case, and Libya should prove that it will grant Gaddafi all the rights that were too often denied in the past.”
Al-Hasadi will try Saif al-Islam on charges of corruption before the war and crimes that occurred during the rebel uprising. Libyan Prime Minister Abdurrahim al-Keib stated Saif al-Islam would receive a fair trial following the terms of the NTC. Furthermore, the ICC indicted Saif al-Islam with two counts of crimes against humanity in June. Since Libya and the ICC want to try Saif al-Islam with the same charges, Libya must challenge the ICC’s jurisdiction and demonstrate a genuine ability and willingness to prosecute Saif al-Islam in a credible and fair trial.
From his meeting with Saif al-Islam, Mr. Abrahams received the impression that he “doesn’t fully understand that he is no longer one of the most powerful people in the county.”
For further information, please see:
The Telegraph – Libya’s Government ‘Broke International Justice Standards’ over Saif Gaddafi – 30 Dec 2011
ABC News – Gadhafi’s Son: Get Me A Lawyer – 21 Dec 2011
BBC – Libya’s Captured Saif al-Islam Gaddafi ‘Has Not Seen A Lawyer’ – 21 Dec 2011
San Francisco Chronicle – Rights Group: Jailed Gadhafi Son Has No Lawyer – 21 Dec 2011
The New York Times – Qaddafi Son Being Held by Rebels, Rights Group Says – 21 Dec 2011