, THE HAGUE, Oct 11 – The International Criminal Court ruled Friday that Libya can try slain dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s former spy chief, the first time it has deferred a case to a national judiciary.
The move can be appealed but could mark the end of a lengthy legal tug-of-war between the embattled ICC and authorities in Libya, which many consider lawless since Gaddafi’s bloody overthrow in 2011.
Because Abdallah al-Senussi, 63, is being tried in Libya, ICC judges “concluded that the case is inadmissible before the court, in accordance with the principle of complementarity”, the court said.
The ICC stressed that the Senussi decision had no bearing on the case against Gaddafi’s son Seif al-Islam, who is still wanted in The Hague.
Countries including Kenya and Ivory Coast have asked to try their nationals in their own courts after they were charged by the ICC, but this is the first that the court has approved such a request.
Senussi’s lawyer slammed the “shocking” decision, saying it condemned his client to “mob justice” and an “inevitable death penalty”.
Gaddafi’s former heir apparent and others including Senussi are accused of crimes during the revolt against Gaddafi two years ago.
Judges ruled that “the case against Senussi is currently subject to domestic proceedings conducted by the Libyan competent authorities and that Libya is willing and able genuinely to carry out such investigation”.
The ICC’s founding document, the Rome Statute, says that the ICC cannot carry out proceedings against a suspect if they are receiving a fair trial on similar charges in a domestic court.
The court said the decision could be appealed, which Senussi’s lawyer Ben Emmerson said he would do.
“This is a shocking decision which we will immediately appeal,” he wrote in an email to AFP.
“There was overwhelming evidence before the Court that the Libyan justice system is close to collapse and that it is incapable of conducting fair trials of any Gaddafi-era officials,” he wrote.
Libyan prisons are rife with systematic torture, abduction and assassination, Emmerson said, citing international monitors.
He cited the kidnapping on Wednesday by former rebels in Tripoli of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, who was held for several hours before being released.