Al-Senussi admissibility ruling sparks mixed reaction from civil society

Former Libyan spy chief Abdullah Al-Senussi sits in a Libyan courtroom. © AFP Photo/Mahmud Turkia

Former Libyan spy chief Abdullah Al-Senussi sits in a Libyan courtroom. © AFP Photo/Mahmud Turkia

An ICC ruling clearing the way for Libya to try former spy chief Abdullah Al-Senussi has  provoked mixed reaction among civil society.

Last week, the ICC Appeals Chamber unanimously confirmed an earlier ruling that the case against Al-Senussi was inadmissible before the ICC because the same case is the subject of domestic proceedings being conducted by Libyan authorities, and that Libya is neither unable nor unwilling to genuinely carry out the proceedings against him.

The Chamber’s decision does not affect the case against Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi. On 21 May, the Chamber confirmed the admissibility of the Gaddafi case and reminded Libya of its obligation to immediately surrender him to the ICC.

Some Coalition members criticized the Appeals Chamber ruling and voiced concern over the Libyan government’s ability to conduct fair legal proceedings against Al-Senussi.

Richard Dicker, director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch:

“The Sanussi decision comes out at a time when the challenges facing Libya’s justice system continue to mount at an alarming pace. Libya has done little to provide Sanussi with basic due process rights, like thousands of others detained across the country who remain without any meaningful access to a lawyer.”

Amnesty International condemned the decision as “deeply alarming,” and said that the Appeals Chamber had effectively sanctioned unfair domestic proceedings against Al-Senussi.

Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch cited concerns over mounting insecurity in Libya amid increasingly violent fighting between militias. ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda spoke out about the violence on Friday, reminding all parties in Libya that she has the authority to prosecute atrocity crimes in the country.

However, some members of civil society welcomed the decision.

Alison Smith, legal counsel for No Peace Without Justice:

“This decision confirms that the local judicial authorities are not only willing but are also able to take up prosecutions of crimes under international law committed on its territory by its citizens. This ruling is a positive answer to Libyans’ aspirations to see the alleged perpetrators of crimes against them face justice where those crimes were committed.”

Al-Senussi is suspected off alleged crimes against humanity committed in Libya from 15 February until at least 28 February 2011. He is at present under the custody of Libyan authorities in Tripoli.

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