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War crimes court wants Gadhafi son for trial

Wednesday - 5/21/2014, 2:47pm  ET

In this image made from video provided by the Libyan national army via AP Television, vehicles with heavy artillery of the Tripoli joint security forces move closer to the parliament building after troops of Gen. Khalifa Hifter targeted Islamist lawmakers and officials at the parliament in Tripoli, Libya, Sunday, May 18, 2014. Forces loyal to a rogue Libyan general attacked the country's parliament Sunday, expanding his eastern offensive against Islamists into the heart of the country's capital. (AP Photo/Libyan national army)

MIKE CORDER
Associated Press

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) -- Appeals judges reaffirmed Wednesday that a case against the son of the country's former dictator, Moammar Gadhafi, for alleged crimes against humanity can proceed at the International Criminal Court.

In a majority decision, a five-judge panel at the international court rejected Libya's appeal against a 2013 decision that Seif al-Islam Gadhafi should be handed over for trial in The Hague.

Whether he will ever face justice at the court remains unclear. Even if the embattled government in Tripoli wanted to cooperate with the Hague court, Seif al-Islam is being held by a militia in the western town of Zintan that refuses to surrender him. Libya already has begun its own trial in which he and 36 other defendants face a variety of charges linked to the violent suppression of the 2011 rebellion.

Seif al-Islam has appeared at hearings in the Tripoli case via video link from Zintan.

"What we are saying is we have proceedings, they were trying to stop it and we are continuing with it," ICC spokesman Fadi El Abdallah said of Wednesday's decision. "For the purpose of continuing with the proceedings, we request the surrender of the suspect."

The international court in June 2011 charged Gadhafi with murder and persecution. Both crimes were allegedly carried out by security forces under his control during the brutal crackdown on a popular uprising that ultimately toppled his father's regime that year.

Libya argued that its courts should be given precedence, because the ICC is a court of last resort that takes cases only when countries are unable or unwilling to pursue them. But the judges ruled that the Libyan charges were significantly different to those levied at The Hague.

The appeals judges did not explicitly urge Libyan authorities to hand him over in their 96-page judgment. Human rights activists did.

Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch's International Justice Program, said the decision "reinforces Libya's long overdue obligation to surrender Seif Gadhafi to The Hague for fair trial."

Dicker said the United Nations Security Council should tell Tripoli to "abide by the court's rulings."


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