Tripoli, March 18: The Libyan Attorney-General, Abdulaziz Al-Hasadi, has formally requested Mauritania to hand over Abdullah Senussi to Libya according to staff . . .[restrict]in his office. Libyan government spokesman Nasser al-Mana has confirmed the request, stating that it had been sent through Interpol.
It was announced by the Mauritanian state news agency on Saturday that Senussi, 62, had been arrested early that morning at Nouakchott airport while in transit between Casablanca and Mali. According to Al-Mana, he was accompanied by a younger man, possibly his son.
Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court, which issued an arrest warrant for Senussi last June to face charges of crimes against humanity, has said that Senussi should be handed to it and has sent an extradition request to Nouakshoot. So has France, which in 1999 found Senussi guilty in absentia of involvement in the 1979 downing of UTA Flight 772 over Niger in which 171 people died.
Welcoming the arrest, President Nicolas Sarkozy said that Senussi should be transferred to French hands.
The different claims threaten an international tug of wills over who gets hold of Qaddafi’s feared intelligence chief.
Welcoming the arrest of Senussi, British Foreign Secretary William Hague came out in strong support on Saturday of handing him over to the ICC.
“I congratulate the Mauritanian authorities for detaining him and encourage all involved to co-operate fully with the ICC (International Criminal Court) under UN Security Council Resolution 1970,” he said.
Amnesty International has also said that Senussi should be placed in the ICC’s hands because of the lack adequate judicial system in Libya.
Calling on Mauritania to surrender Senussi to the ICC rather than Libya, Human Rights Watch made the same point. “At this point, we doubt that Libya can provide a fair trial for Abdullah Sanussi,” its international justice director Richard Dicker said. “For justice, and for Libyans to understand the tragedies of their past, Mauritania should hand him to the ICC.”
However, Justice minister, Ali Humaida Ashur said that Libya would be able to try Senussi “according to international standards”.
He told AFP: “We expect diplomats and government officials to convince all parties of the need to try Senussi in Libya.”
Earlier this month in an interview with Libya Herald, he said that his ministry was preparing special courtrooms to try top Qaddafi regime figures.
Support for Libya’s insistence that it, rather than the ICC, try Senussi has come from Rome-based NGO No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ).
“We take this opportunity to recall the wishes of the victims, and of the people of Libya,” it said in a statement on Saturday, “that both Saif Al-Islam Qaddafi and Senussi be tried in Libya, to face justice in the same place in which they allegedly waged their brutal attacks”.
It pointed out that the ICC had jurisdiction over Senussi only if the Libyan authorities were unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute the crimes of which he has been accused.
“Libya is certainly willing, as they have proved by requesting Mauritania to transfer Senussi to face charges before the Libyan courts. If they are unable for whatever reason, we urge the international community to provide urgent assistance to Libya to become able, not just for the trials of Saif al-Islam Qaddafi and Senussi, but for the alleged perpetrators of the many other crimes in Libya over the previous 12 months and 42 years,” the NPWJ statement read.
It added that if Mauritania were to transfer Senussi to the ICC, then the latter should try him in Libya rather than The Hague.
In November, the ICC’s chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo was reported saying that Libya ‘had the right’ to try Saif Al-Islam for war crimes and that his court would not compete for him.
Meanwhile, it is being reported in Tripoli that, contrary to Saturday’s reports that the Mauritanian authorities arrested Senussi that morning, he was in fact arrested four days earlier and the news announced only on Saturday. It is also being suggested by some Libyan officials that French intelligence was involved in helping bring about the arrest. There has been no confirmation of either story. [/restrict]