Libya must immediately surrender Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi to the ICC

The Libyan authorities must immediately surrender Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to face trial on charges of crimes against humanity, Amnesty International said, following the Court’s decision to proceed with his prosecution.

A majority of the ICC Appeals Chamber today rejected all four grounds of appeal brought by the Libyan government and upheld an earlier decision of the Pre Trial Chamber that Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi should be tried by the ICC. The reasons for the refusal include the government’s failure to demonstrate that he was facing substantially the same case nationally as he would face at the ICC.

“The ICC Appeals Chamber’s decision marks a crucial step towards delivering justice to the victims of crimes against humanity during the Libyan uprising in 2011 and the ensuing armed conflict. The Libyan authorities must now immediately surrender Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi to the ICC so his trial can finally get under way,” said Solomon Sacco, Senior Legal Adviser at Amnesty International. 

“Libya has so far refused to hand him over to the ICC. If it continues to do so, the international community – especially the UN Security Council, which referred the situation in Libya to the ICC Prosecutor – must demand that Libya comply with its legal obligations to do so.”

Amnesty International is calling on the Libyan authorities to cooperate fully with the ICC to ensure that its trials are broadcast to the Libyan people and that victims can exercise their rights to participate in the proceedings and seek reparation. 

The Libyan authorities should take all steps within their power to rebuild an effective national justice system that respects and ensures the rights of all suspects to a fair trial and should abolish the death penalty. In light of the deteriorating security situation, Amnesty International is calling on the international community to increase its support to the Libyan authorities in establishing the rule of law. 

Stephanie Barbour, head of the Amnesty International Centre for International Justice, attended the ruling and is available for comment (in The Hague) – as are Tawanda Hondora (in Johannesburg), Solomon Sacco (in London), and Jonathan O’Donohue (in Australia).


Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi is charged by the ICC with committing crimes against humanity in 2011, during attempts to quell the uprising against the government of his father, Colonel Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi, between 15 February and at least 28 February 2011. 

In Libya he faces a string of charges related to his alleged incitement to or ordering of crimes committed during civil unrest, which started on 15 February 2011, and the ensuing armed conflict. Charges include but are not limited to indiscriminate shelling, opening fire at demonstrators and engaging in acts of vandalism, looting and killing. Some of the charges carry the death penalty under Libyan law – a punishment Amnesty International opposes under all circumstances and believes to be cruel, inhuman and degrading. In addition, the organization considers that Libya is not capable of ensuring that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi be brought to justice through a fair trial and therefore believes that he should face a trial at the ICC.

Amnesty International is concerned that the serious security situation in the country threatens to undermine the operation of the justice system. Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi has been held by the Abu Baker al-Siddiq Brigade in the town of Zintan since November 2011 and his rights have not been respected during this period. This militia has refused to hand him over to government custody. He has been held in isolation and was held without access to a lawyer for the first 21 months of his detention. He was interrogated without a lawyer in violation of the Libyan Code of Criminal Procedure, and was not brought to any of the sessions of the Indictment Chamber in the pre-trial stage of the proceedings between 19 September and 24 October 2013. He currently does not have access to a lawyer in his ongoing trial in Tripoli. 

On 14 November 2013, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi’s detention in Zintan was arbitrary, and requested that the Libyan government takes steps to “discontinue both the domestic proceedings against Mr. Gaddafi and his detention under those proceedings”. The African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights has also called on Libya to ensure that he has access to a lawyer of his choice and to refrain from judicial proceedings that could cause irreparable harm to him. 

Amnesty International’s concerns are exacerbated by recent changes to the domestic law to allow the use of modern means of communication to connect a defendant to the courtroom whenever there is concern for his or her safety or fear that they may escape. On 14 April, a Tripoli court ordered that Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi be tried via video-link along with other defendants in the case. Amnesty International believes that Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi’s appearance via video-link not only undermines his right to be present at his own trial but also impedes the judge’s ability to assess his treatment in detention and points to the court’s inability to enforce its authority over him.