By Libya Herald reporters.
Tripoli/Tunis, 28 July 2015:
The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) as well as Amnesty International and Human . . .[restrict]Rights Watch have condemned both the conduct of the trial of Saif Al-Islam, Abdullah Senussi and 35 other Qaddafi regime figures and today’s death sentences as unacceptable.
In separate scathing and detailed attacks on the trial issued within hours of the verdicts being announced, they criticised the proceedings as having been flawed and neither fair nor transparent.
“The trial did not meet international standards of fair trial in a number of ways,” said Claudio Cordone, UNSMIL’s Director of the Human Rights, Transitional Justice and Rule of Law.
All three bodies listed a catalogue of what they regarded as faults and injustices.
They said that defence lawyers had been threatened, had on many occasions been denied access to their clients or had not been able to see them in private, and not had full access to case files; that the accused on several occasions had been denied the right to legal counsel or had been interrogated without a lawyer present, had been allowed only two witnesses each (and that many of these had been too frightened to appear), had not been allowed to challenge the evidence brought against them, and were not always present at their trial; that those making allegations against the accused had not been called to court or cross-examined despite defence lawyers requests.
“The ongoing political crisis in Libya together with the general deterioration in security conditions also puts in question the trial judges’ ability to adjudicate the case independently and impartially,” said Human Rights Watch, demanding that the death sentences be overturned by a higher court. At the appeal proceedings there had to be a genuine and thorough review of the cases and the way they were handled.
Amnesty International also said that appeals must not be based purely on whether due legal process had been followed.
“The rights to a fair trial of those found guilty today require a full, independent and impartial review of the procedures and evidence used against them and the Supreme Court must address the serious allegations of fair trial and human rights violations in this case when it hears the appeal,” it insisted.
Human Rights Watch also pointed out that Libya is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which limits the circumstances in which a country can impose the death sentence. In this case, it said, the rules had been breeched. When death sentences were being handed down, it stated, “scrupulous respect of the guarantees of fair trial is particularly important”. That had not been so in the trial of the 37.
UNSMIL said the same: “International standards require that death sentences may only be imposed after proceedings that meet the highest level of respect for fair trial standards – which had not been the case.
Human Rights Watch’s deputy Middle East and North Africa director, Joe Stork, also questioned whether the judges had been genuinely impartial. “There are serious questions about whether judges and prosecutors can be truly independent where utter lawlessness prevails and certain groups are unashamedly shielded from justice,” he said. “This trial was held in the midst of an armed conflict and a country divided by war where impunity has become the norm.”
There had to be trials but they had to be done properly. “The victims of the serious crimes committed during the 2011 uprising deserve justice,” it said, “but that can only be delivered through fair and transparent proceedings”. In the court proceedings against the Qaddafi regime officials, it declared, Libya had “missed an important opportunity to deliver justice in the post-Qaddafi era”. [/restrict]