Libya applies to war crimes court to keep Gaddafi's son

The Libyan government has formally challenged the International Criminal Court's right to try the son of the late Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, for war crimes, arguing he should be tried in Libya.

The Hague-based court is authorised by the United Nations to try war crimes committed last year as rebels fought the Gaddafi regime. It has issued an arrest warrant for his son, Saif al-Islam, on charges of killing and persecuting civilians during the uprising.

The court said yesterday it had received a formal submission from Libya's new leadership arguing Saif, 39, and Gaddafi's former military intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senussi, 62, should be tried on Libyan soil. Saif was captured by rebels last year and is being held in the western town of Zintan, while al-Senussi was arrested last month in Mauritania. Libya is seeking his extradition.

The conflict between the court and country boils down to the question of whether Libya is capable of conducting a fair trial for the pair.

Under international law, a country has both the right and the duty to prosecute suspected war criminals. However, International Criminal Court spokeswoman, Sonia Robla, explained that once the court has issued an arrest warrant for a suspect, it cannot retract it unless judges believe suspects will be tried for the same crimes they were indicted for, and that they will receive a fair trial.

Libya's filing says it seeks to do that, but human rights groups have expressed concern Saif will not get a fair trial in Libya, especially given the central government's lack of control over some areas in the aftermath of the civil war.

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