ICC Relinquishes Jurisdition to Libya


On right. Muammar Gaddafi’s right hand man Abdullah al-Senussi


The International Criminal Court (ICC) ruled that Moammar Gadhafi’s intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senoussi’s should face a war crimes trial in Libya. This decision confused and angered many with the ICC finding that the Libya was competent to try al-Senoussi finding them “willing and able” removing jurisdiction from ICC, which is a court of last resort.


The ICC charged al-Senoussi with crimes against humanity for his alleged involvement in fatally oppressing opponents of the deceased former dictator in 2011. The court found that Libya did not express any unwillingness to try al-Senoussi and that the system was functional enough to support this trial.


Under international law, each country has the first right and the obligation to try its suspected war criminals. With Libya expressing its interest to persecute al-Senoussi for his alleged atrocities the court evaluate numerous factors determining Libya’s validity as a venue. Libya already has al-Senoussi in custody, which satisfies the state’s ability to detain the accused. Libya has also sufficient evidence that has satisfied the court’s Admissibility Challenge demonstrating the ability “to collect the necessary evidence and testimony.”


The ICC also evaluated whether the turmoil in Libya would make it an unstable environment to hold a trial. The court found the ongoing security concerns could play a factor but it would not effect the trial per se based on the vast amount and the nature of the evidence Libyan officials amounted in its investigation. Submitting that delays in finding counsel are understandable based on the nature of al-Senoussi’s crimes the Ministry of Justice detailed steps that are being implemented to assist in finding an attorney. Regardless of that fact the court held that “these challenges, however, are far from insurmountable and do not amount to inability or unwillingness on the part of the Government to carry out genuine proceedings.”

Do you think that the ICC made the right call in removing the trial of former Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senoussi? Do you believe that Libya will be able to hold an effective trial?




  1. I find Libya’s statement in Paragraph 33 to be particularly interesting. It states, “[c]onsistent with the principle of complementarity, and bearing in mind the overall criminality under consideration, a domestic prosecutor may legitimately hold genuine differences of opinion with the ICC Prosecutor regarding the appropriate contours of a particular case and the overall interests of justice….” Well thats the point. On both sides of the coin, there is an extreme bias. Libya may want to erase any aspect of its past either by eliminating al-sSnoussi or clearing him of the charges. Either way, Libya can move on and there is no justice.
    In no way do I believe Libya can hold an effective trial at this point. The country is still on shaky ground, and a better choice would be the ICC. While I understand the preference of national courts under the principle of complementarity, I think it is an extreme mistake in this instance.

  2. I strongly believe the ICC made a mistake to rule the case inadmissible. What does “unable or unwilling” to prosecute actually mean? The ICC most likely took a broad interpretation of these two terms and just did not want to deal with it. I know the ICC is currently dealing with their own issues involving the African Union and the political leaders in Kenya. Also, maybe they felt this case could get complicated in regards to witnesses and, therefore, do not want to get involved. Regardless, the ICC would most definitely do a better job than Libya. If this case gets messed up, the ICC should reevaluate their definitions of “unable or unwilling”.

    I think this decision should get looked at one more time. Hopefully someone will appeal this decision and bring forth evidence to prove that Libya is “unable or unwilling” to prosecute.

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