New lawyers representing the son of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi announced Monday they will ask the International Criminal Court to quash the case against him as he has now been tried and convicted by a Libyan court.
Seif al-Islam, who has been in a five-and-half-year legal tug-of-war between the ICC and Tripoli, is wanted by the tribunal in The Hague to face charges of crimes against humanity relating to the bloody repression of the 2011 uprising that toppled his father.
Seif, 44, has been held in the northern hilltop stronghold of Zintan since his arrest in November 2011.
Last year, in a move heavily criticised by the UN, he was sentenced to death by a Libyan court for trying to put down the deadly revolt that saw Muammar Gaddafi’s 40-year rule end in his own murder.
Now he has appointed his own defence team for the first time, after his earlier lawyers were assigned by the ICC.
The new lawyers told journalists in The Hague that they will ask the ICC’s judges to scrap the case, basing their argument on the so-called principle of “double jeopardy”.
“The reality is that a trial has taken place. He has been tried and convicted in Libya. It’s a clear principle of law that one cannot be tried twice for the same offence,” veteran defence lawyer Karim Khan told a press conference.
“The court will receive a filing from us, the lawyers of Seif al-Islam in due course, seeking to declare the case inadmissible,” Khan said.
“The ICC should not be a substitute for local courts, but base itself on the principle of complementarity,” Libyan lawyer Khaled Zaidy added.
Zaidy last met with Seif in prison in late 2015 and said he is in regular contact and receiving instructions from him. “Healthwise he is rather good,” he said, but Seif had been thinking a lot about the situation in Libya.
Despite the death sentence, Seif may benefit from a proposed general amnesty law in Libya that his family had been assured “will be applicable to all Libyan nationals without exception,” Zaidy said.
Seif and eight others were sentenced to death by a Tripoli court in July last year. They included Gaddafi’s former intelligence chief Abdullah Senussi, who saw the ICC drop a similar case against him.
Seif was not in court during the Tripoli hearings, but was able to testify via videolink from Zintan.
His legal team also insisted he is being held a Libyan government jail run by the justice ministry and that rumours he was in the hands of Zintani militias were “totally groundless”. In the past the militias refused to hand him over to Tripoli and the ICC.
Asked whether he believed whether Seif received a fair hearing before being handed the death penalty, Khan said the outcome and questions over the Libyan process – which was criticised for not meeting international standards – were “legally irrelevant” to the case before the ICC.
“There’s been a trial, there’s been a process, there’s been a conviction and he is still in custody. How on earth is that not double jeopardy?” Khan asked.
The Western-backed overthrow of Gaddafi’s iron-fisted rule in 2011 plunged Libya into chaos, with rival rebel forces seizing as much territory as they could.
Now IS jihadist have taken advantage of the upheaval to establish a presence in the northern African country.