The trial of former Libyan officials, including Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, risks descending into a farce after the court ordered today that he and six other defendants be tried via video link, said Amnesty International.
On 23 March, a day before the last hearing in this case, two amendments were made to Libya’s Code of Criminal Procedure to allow hearings via video link. Such trials will infringe all the seven defendants’ rights to a fair trial, said Amnesty.
The impact on Saif al-Islam’s case is of particular concern as he remains held in a secret location in Zintan by a militia that has repeatedly refused to hand him over to state custody in Tripoli. The other six defendants are held in Misratah in prisons under the control of the Ministries of Justice and Defence.
Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi remains held in a secret location without any regular contact with the outside world and his appearance by video link at court hearings undermine his right to be present at his own trial. Furthermore it would at best offer a glimpse into his detention and is not indicative of his overall treatment in detention and during his transfer to and from the court. A trial under such circumstances could also impede his communication with his lawyer and affect his ability to prepare and present an effective defence.
Saif al-Islam is on trial along with 36 other former Libyan officials, including the former Chief of Military Intelligence Abdallah al-Senussi. They are facing a string of charges related to crimes committed during the 2011 uprising and armed conflict. Saif al-Islam is also wanted by the International Criminal Court on two counts of crimes against humanity, murder and persecution.
The trial was adjourned to 27 April to allow enough time to make the necessary technical arrangements.
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said:
“Allowing Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi to appear by videoconference seriously undermines his right to a fair trial.
“How can the Libyan authorities claim that Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi will receive a fair trial when they cannot even ensure that he is physically present to face such serious accusations that may result in the death penalty?
“Saif al-Islam is not in state custody and changes to the Code of Criminal Procedure and today’s court decision are simply about giving a gloss of legality to the stand-off between militias and the central authorities.
“The bottom line is that Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, like hundreds of other detainees, remains held in an unofficial place of detention.”