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Saif to the Hague? Get ready for a long wait

The International Criminal Court reports today that it has made indirect contact with Saif al-Islam al-Qaddafi, and is attempting to negotiate his transfer to the Hague:  An NTC source said on Thursday that Saif al-Islam wanted an aircraft, possibly arranged by a neighbouring country, to take him out of Libya’s southern desert and into ICC ...

MICHAEL KOOREN/AFP/Getty Images
MICHAEL KOOREN/AFP/Getty Images

The International Criminal Court reports today that it has made indirect contact with Saif al-Islam al-Qaddafi, and is attempting to negotiate his transfer to the Hague: 

An NTC source said on Thursday that Saif al-Islam wanted an aircraft, possibly arranged by a neighbouring country, to take him out of Libya’s southern desert and into ICC custody.

Under such a deal, Saif al-Islam would be taken to The Hague where the ICC shares a detention unit with the UN Yugoslavia war crimes tribunal and the special court for Sierra Leone, where the former Liberian president Charles Taylor is on trial.

Given his father’s grisly fate, it certainly makes sense that Saif would prefer the relative comfort of the Hague’s jail, particularly given the glacial pace at which the institution moves.

Also this week, the court’s president told the U.N. General Assembly that the ICC is busier than ever, with a whopping seven cases on its plate: 

On 26 October 2011, the President of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Judge Sang-Hyun Song presented the ICC’s seventh annual report to the United Nations General Assembly. “With two new investigations and several new cases, the Court is busier than ever”, he told the Assembly, adding that international support for the ICC had continued to grow as the Court’s membership reached 119. Stressing the common goals of the ICC and the United Nations, President Song appealed to all UN member states to “stand united behind the international efforts to suppress the gravest crimes known to humanity”.

President Song informed the Assembly that the ICC’s first trial concluded in August and the judgement in the case against Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, charged with the use of child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was expected before the end of the year. Two other trials are underway, and preparations for a fourth trial have begun.

Lubanga, the first person ever arrested under an ICC warrant, has been on trial since 2006. So anyone hoping for swift justice for Saif may be disappointed. If anything, Saif’s trial may take longer to work through — the extent of his operational role in the killing of Libyan protesters is a lot more ambiguous than Lubanga’s well-documented crimes

In a piece for FP last week, University of Chicago legal scholar and international law skeptic Eric Posner wrote, "It must have been obvious to Libyans that an endless international trial [for Muammar al-Qaddafi] in a faraway country — the Netherlands — would not serve their immediate political needs, to say nothing of their sense of justice, which required death."

I’d still much rather see Saif al-Islam brought to trial than gunned down in a ditch, but it’s safe to say that Libya’s new rulers might not be satisfied with the idea of him spending the next decade playing board games with Ratko Mladic.

 Twitter: @joshuakeating

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