ICC orders Libya to hand over Gadhafi's former spy chief

Head of Libyan intelligence, Abdullah al-Senussi, 62, is pictured in Tripoli on June 22, 2011.

Story highlights

  • Lawyers for ex-spy chief Abdullah al-Senussi welcome the ICC's order to hand him over
  • Al-Senussi was indicted alongside Moammar Gadhafi and the dictator's son for war crimes
  • The former spy chief was arrested in Mauritania in March last year
  • Libya wants to try al-Senussi and Saif al-Islam Gadhafi itself

The International Criminal Court has called on Libya to immediately hand over former Gadhafi intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi for trial.

The late Moammar Gadhafi, his son Saif al-Islam Gadhafi and his spy chief were all indicted by the ICC for war crimes during the civil war that led to the fall of the Gadhafi regime in 2011. Moammar Gadhafi was killed when he was captured after the war ended.

The ICC and Libya have been engaged in a protracted dispute about where to try Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, who has been in Libyan custody for more than a year.

Read more: Libya granted more time on Gadhafi question

A similar situation appears to have developed in the case of al-Senussi, who was arrested in Mauritania in March last year.

The Libyan government has insisted it wants to prosecute the cases itself, as it "regards the trial of Saif al-Islam and Abdullah al-Senussi as a matter of the highest national importance, not only in bringing justice for the Libyan people but also in demonstrating that the new Libyan justice system is capable of conducting fair trials (that meet all applicable international standards) in complex cases."

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    According to court documents published Thursday, the ICC has repeatedly called on the Libyan authorities to meet their obligation to comply with its request for the surrender of al-Senussi.

    The papers indicate the Libyan authorities only confirmed to the ICC last month that the spy chief was in their custody and that judicial proceedings were under way in Libya.

    Libya has called for the ICC to suspend the order to hand over al-Senussi, but the court in The Hague has rejected its argument.

    Defense lawyers appointed to al-Senussi welcomed the ICC's order for Libya to surrender their client.

    "This morning's ruling in the al-Senussi case shows that the ICC has finally run out of patience with Libya's chaotic and disingenuous attempts to avoid complying with its international legal obligations," said lawyer Ben Emmerson in a statement.

    "The ICC has ordered an immediate halt to Libya's unseemly rush to drag Mr. Al-Senussi to the gallows before the law has taken its course."

    If Libya's transitional authorities want the country to be accepted as a part of the international community, "then they now need to understand that international law applies to Libya just as much as it applies to every other state," he said.

    "The international community cannot continue to tolerate Libya's flagrant lawlessness and disregard of the decisions of the U.N. Security Council."

    The defense team has called for Libya and Mauritania to be referred to the U.N. Security Council over their failure to cooperate with the ICC.

    "The time has now come for Britain and the U.S. to make good on their promises to put pressure on Libya to obey the orders of the ICC," Emmerson added.

    "True friends sometimes have to give unwelcome advice. Unless Libya moves swiftly to obey this morning's order of the ICC to halt the domestic prosecution of Mr. Al-Senussi, and hand him over to the ICC immediately, Libya will before long become a pariah state, subject to U.N. sanctions."

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