Saif al Islam Gadhafi must be arrested and surrendered to the International Criminal Court

Following reports that Saif al Islam Gadhafi has been released from prison in Libya, the ICJ today called for him to be promptly arrested and surrendered to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Saif al Islam Gadhafi was convicted by the Tripoli Criminal Court in July 2015 and sentenced, along with eight other former officials of the Moammar Gadhafi regime, to the death penalty.

At the time, the ICJ expressed its concern that the trial had not been fair, expressed its opposition to the death penalty, and called on the Libyan authorities to surrender Saif al Islam Gadhafi to the ICC.

In 2011, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Gadhafi, who faces two counts of Crimes against Humanity including murder and persecution of civilians, allegedly conducted as part of an orchestrated campaign against demonstrators during the uprising in Libya in 2011.

Gadhafi was reportedly released from a prison in Zintan in April 2016, following instructions from the Minister of Justice to the city’s chief prosecutor. The instructions were reportedly based on a general amnesty law that was promulgated by the Libyan House of Representatives in August 2015.[1]

“Granting amnesty for crimes such as those for which Saif al Islam Gadhafi was allegedly responsible is totally incompatible with the rule of law, the right of victims to justice, and Libya’s international human rights obligations”, said Said Benarbia, Director of the MENA programme at the International Commission of Jurists.

“Instead of shielding him from accountability, the Libyan authorities should ensure that all those responsible for past and ongoing gross violations of international human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law are brought to justice in fair and effective criminal trials. A first step in this direction would be for the Libyan authorities to arrest Saif al Islam Gadhafi and surrender him to the ICC as a matter of urgency.”

The ICJ believes that impunity for gross human rights violations and war crimes, including impunity resulting from amnesties, is not conducive to peace, political stability and national reconciliation in Libya.

Indeed, such impunity may be perceived by those who continue to systematically violate rights and freedoms as a signal that they may never be criminally held to account.

At the same time, the ICJ absolutely opposes the death penalty, which it considers inherently to violate the right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.

Gadhafi would not face the death penalty in any ICC trial.

Saif al Islam Gadhafi’s lawyer has reportedly indicated that he will argue to the ICC that it should drop its proceedings, on the basis of article 20 of the Statute of the ICC, which addresses the circumstances in which a person who has already been tried for certain conduct by another court, may subsequently be tried by the ICC.

The ICJ stresses that any hearing to consider such arguments should not in any way suspend Libya’s obligation immediately to implement the ICC arrest warrant and to surrender Saif al Islam Gadhafi to the ICC.

“Libya should comply with its obligations under international law and dismantle the structural impunity that continues to prevail in the country, including by putting an end to politicized judicial proceedings and ensuring that prosecutors carry out their functions independently, impartially, and in defence of human rights,” added Benarbia.

[1] Law No. 6 of 2015


Doireann Ansbro, Associate Legal Adviser, ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, t: +216 71 841 701, e: doireann.ansbro(a)

Libya-Saif al Islam Gadhafi-News-Press Releases-2016-ARA (full press release in Arabic, PDF)

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