International Criminal Court rules on the Gaddafi case

10 March, 2020

The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has unanimously decided that the prosecution of Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, is admissible before the Court.

Gaddafi is accused of committing murder and persecution as crimes against humanity, contrary to the Rome Statute of the ICC. The charges arise out of his alleged role in the violent suppression of civilian demonstrations during the uprising that began in Libya in February 2011. The ICC ruled in 2013 that Gaddafi must be tried before it in the Hague, as Libya is “unwilling or unable” to try him, within the meaning of the Rome Statute. He was not, however, surrendered to the Court as required, but was instead tried and convicted in Libya, and released some nine months later.

Gaddafi argued that, in light of his trial in Libya, the ICC should now rule that its case against him is inadmissible, since he has already been tried and convicted by a national court for the same conduct. He argued, further, that the amnesty he received pursuant to a Libyan statute barred any further criminal proceedings against him in Libya.

Rejecting Gaddafi’s argument, the Appeals Chamber confirmed the Pre-Trial Chamber’s previous finding that the judgment against him by a Libyan court was not final and that the relevant statute, Law No. 6, did not apply to him. The Appeals Chamber noted that Gaddafi had not apologised, shown repentance for the crimes he committed, or taken any steps to reconcile with victims, as required under Law No. 6. Further, no reasoned decision had been issued granting the amnesty to Gaddafi. As such, his conviction in Libya is not final, and the ICC has retains jurisdiction over the case. The decision is a significant one in ensuring the effective prosecution of international crimes.

Alison Macdonald QC appeared for the joint interveners, Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL) and REDRESS, along with Florence Iveson of Matrix Chambers. For LFJL and REDRESS’s joint press release, see here.