ZINTAN, Libya – Libya’s new leaders said Sunday they will try Moammar Gadhafi’s son at home and not hand him over to the International Criminal Court where he’s charged with crimes against humanity. The government also announced the capture of the toppled regime’s intelligence minister, who is also wanted by the court.
In one of several emerging complications, the former rebel faction that captured Seif al-Islam Gadhafi a day earlier is refusing to deliver him to national authorities in Tripoli, raising concern over whether he will get a proper trial and demonstrating the interim leaders’ weak hold over their fractured nation.
In the capital, Information Minister Mahmoud Shammam said ex-Intelligence Minister Abdullah al-Senoussi was captured alive on Sunday by revolutionary fighters from a southern region called Fazan, not far from where Gadhafi’s son was seized on Saturday while trying to flee to Niger.
Fighters tracking al-Senoussi for two days caught up with him at his sister’s house in Deerat al-Shati, about 40 miles south of the desert city of Sebha, said fighter Abdullah al-Sughayer.
Though they are wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, Libya will likely seek to try both men at home.
Speaking earlier in the day, before al-Senoussi’s capture, the information minister said Seif al-Islam, the ousted Libyan leader’s one-time heir apparent, must be tried in Libya even though the country’s new leaders have yet to establish a court system.
“It is only fair for the Libyan people that he is tried here. … Seif al-Islam committed crimes against the Libyan people,” Shammam said.
“The ICC is just a secondary court, and the people of Libya will not allow Seif al-Islam to be tried outside,” Shammam said.
The ICC indicted the two men along with Gadhafi in June for unleashing a campaign of murder and torture to suppress the uprising against the Gadhafi regime that broke out in mid-February.
Al-Senoussi, Gadhafi’s brother-in-law, was also one of six Libyans convicted in absentia and sentenced to life in prison in France for the 1989 bombing of a French passenger over Niger that killed all 170 people on board.
ICC spokesman Fadi El Abdallah said Sunday that Libya would have to convincingly lay out its arguments in what is called a “challenge of admissibility” if it wanted to try the two men at home instead of sending them to The Hague court.
“The issue is that there is already a case before the (ICC) court,” he said. “Now Libya has a legal obligation under international law to present a challenge to say: ‘We have this suspect and he will be dealt with under our national laws.’
“… They will need to show that they have a serious, genuine legal system capable of functioning fairly in this case,” he said.
Seif al-Islam was captured by fighters from the small western mountain town of Zintan who had tracked him to the desert in the south of the country.
Shammam played down suggestions that a power struggle was brewing over the high-value prisoner or that the position of local officials was undermining the authority of the national leadership.