In the International Criminal Court’s long-running dispute with Libya on where two senior Gaddafi-era figures should go on trial, the next move will be a decision from the Hague court on whether the national judiciary is capable of trying them.
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the late Muammar Gaddafi, and former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi are both in custody in Libya, which has so far refused to hand them over to the ICC.
A principle underpinning the ICC and known as “complementarity” requires national court systems to be given the chance to handle cases themselves as long as they are willing and able to do so.
The jury is out on whether that is the case in Libya, a country still in flux as central government attempts to establish nationwide control. The forthcoming ICC decision on Saif al-Islam and Senussi will thus also be a judgement on the Libyan judiciary’s current capacity.
Whatever happens in the case of these two high-level figures, there are plenty more who will come before Libyan courts. But is the system in any shape to conduct the complex investigations and prosecutions required to deal with crimes on such a massive scale?
Tripoli has been keen to show that it is able to prosecute Gaddafi’s officials for crimes that took place during the 2011 revolution, and a number of senior figures are under investigation.
Despite the ICC’s extradition request, Saif al-Islam is due to go on trial in May, although it is unclear what offences he will be accused of (see below).