TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya appealed on Tuesday against an order to hand over Muammar Gaddafi’s former spy chief to an international tribunal, saying it is capable of trying Gaddafi-era officials at home.
Judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) based in The Hague have said Libya must extradite Abdullah al-Senussi over his alleged role in orchestrating reprisals against protesters in the 2011 uprising that overthrew Gaddafi.
They would decide later how to respond if the North African state continues to hold Senussi, the judges added. The court has the power to refer the matter to the U.N. Security Council.
Ahmed al-Jehani, the Libyan lawyer who liaises between the Libyan government and the ICC, said Libya would continue to push for its right to judge Senussi.
“Today we completed the appeal to the ICC after the order to hand him over,” Jehani told Reuters, flipping through the papers of the appeal.
“Libya continues in this appeal process to prove that it wants to be part of the international community. The old Libya would not have bothered.”
Last week, ICC judges ordered Libya to hand over Senussi and let him see his lawyer, raising the stakes in a dispute over who has the right to try the deposed strongman’s top lieutenants.
Libya has become a test case of the effectiveness of the 10-year-old court, which relies on the cooperation of member countries to arrest suspects and enforce its orders.
Jehani said Senussi has requested to be tried by the ICC and has not yet had access to his British lawyer, Ben Emmerson.
Senussi was arrested early last year after arriving with a false Malian passport on a flight to the Mauritanian capital, Nouakchott, from Morocco.
Most recently, allegations have surfaced that Libya paid Mauritania $200 million to ignore the ICC arrest warrant last year, sending Senussi to Tripoli rather than to the ICC’s detention center in The Hague.
Senussi has been linked to the 1988 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland of a U.S. passenger plane that killed 270 people. Diplomatic sources have said the United States was keen to question him about that.
Libya’s new rulers, who aim to draw up a democratic constitution this year, are keen to try Gaddafi’s family members and loyalists at home to show the country’s citizens those who helped Gaddafi stay in power for 42 years are being punished.
Human rights activists worry a weak central government and a relative lack of rule of law mean legal proceedings - both for Senussi and for Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam - will not meet international standards.
Jehani said no date had been set for Senussi or Saif al-Islam to come to trial because the prosecutor general has yet to decide on a proposal to try high-level Gaddafi government ex-leaders in one proceeding.
“He is still studying this option with the minister of justice and others so we don’t know when it will be held.”
Senussi’s daughter al-Unood, who also is in custody in a Libyan prison, was granted a visit to see her father on Tuesday Justice Minister Salah al-Marghani told Reuters.
Al-Unood al-Senussi, 20, also a niece of Gaddafi’s wife Safiah, was detained by the military police in October, accused of entering Libya illegally.
“Upon her request, she visited her father,” he said, but added that he did not have details of the meeting.
Additional reporting by Ali Shuaib; Editing by Michael Roddy