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The Importance of a Fair Trial for Seif Quaddafi


Seif Quaddafi, the surviving son of Libyan dictator Muammar Quaddafi, has a lot to say of global interest – if he doesn’t “accidentally” die while in custody of a revolutionary militia in Zintan. This week the US lobbied for his trial to take place in Libya, instead of the Hague, on the controversial grounds that the new Libya has achieved “minimum standards” of justice. Now the Libyan ruling circle is detaining a lawyer for Seif Quaddafi, Melinda Taylor, sent from the Hague to interview him. The Hague indicted Seif Quaddafi last fall, before the fall of his father’s regime.

So unstable is Libya, however, that the Tripoli-led government has been unable so far to secure his handover from a tribal militia in Zintan who wants to try him there. Eight thousand Libyans are held in military detention without charges. Entire populations, many of them descendants of African slavery, have been abducted and displaced. The US consulate and a Libyan courthouse, both in Benghazi, have been recently bombed. According to the LA Times, “retribution is the new law of the land in Libya,” including summary executions, torture and indefinite detentions, “while the judicial system remains in a state of paralysis.” (Los Angeles Times, June 7, 2012)

There seems no possibility of a fair trial for Quaddafi in Libya. But the important question for the world is whether Quaddafi will ever be permitted to testify openly. He was much more than a key participant in blocking the uprising against his family. If tried for issues of corruption and abuse of public funds, he should be able to open a window on the Quaddafis’ secret relations with the US, UK and Europe. Seif Quaddafi was seen as a reformer with connections to Hillary Clinton, a student at the London School of Economics, a key negotiator of the handover of the regime’s weapons of mass destruction and its historic “opening” to the West. He will know of secret cooperation, if any, between Western intelligence agencies and Libya’s dungeons. As a reputed reformer and modernizer, he may shed light on whether there was an alternative to the US-NATO bombing raids that crushed the regime and resulted in near civil war.

In short, there may be more reasons to silence Seif Quaddafi than let him speak. Certainly he would be more secure, and more open for public questioning and testimony, at the International Criminal Court in the Hague than somewhere in seething and unstable Libya. That could be why the US prefers his trial in Tripoli.

Human rights, Congressional, and media supporters of the Libyan War should be insisting on a fair trial in this case. Otherwise suppression of importance evidence is inevitable.  

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