Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Wednesday urged the Libyan government to find a way, amid security concerns, to grant access to a lawyer [press release] to Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of deceased former dictator Muammar Gaddafi [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive]. Fred Abrahams, a special adviser at HRW, visited with Saif al-Islam in Zintan, Libya, where he is currently being detained and reported that while he has no complaints regarding the physical conditions at his place of detention, he is concerned at being unable to access a lawyer to help with his case. He was arrested [JURIST report] in November on charges of committing crimes against humanity. While Abdelaziz al-Hasadi, Libya's general prosecutor, has assured HRW that Saif al-Islam will have the opportunity to meet with a lawyer, that assurance is conditioned upon the government first providing a secure detention center where he will be safe from attack. According to HRW, in spite of the validity of the security concerns, the new government should make every effort to provide him with access to a lawyer in order to preserve its goal of respecting detainee rights. In addition to denial of a lawyer, Saif al-Islam has also not been able to visit with any friends or family during his detention.
Last month, International Criminal Court [official website] Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] said that the ICC would allow Libya to conduct the trial [JURIST report] of Saif al-Islam. Despite concern from human rights groups, including HRW about whether he can receive a fair trial [HRW report] in Libya, Ocampo said he trusts the new Libyan government will be able to try him fairly [AP report] and maintained that the ICC will not intervene as long as it does not stray from ICC standards. The ICC issued a statement [text] clarifying that, "[s]hould the Libyan authorities wish to conduct national prosecutions against the suspect, they shall submit a challenge to the admissibility of the case before Pre-Trial Chamber I. ... Any decision on the admissibility of a case is under the sole competence of the Judges of the ICC." Ocampo's statement regarding the location of the trial came after his visit to Libya [JURIST report], during which he discussed the country's plans for the trial. Earlier in the month, Libyan Prime Minister Abdurrahim al-Keib pledged [JURIST report] that Saif al-Islam would receive a fair trial there.