A Libyan military court on Monday sentenced a group of 24 men from the former Soviet Union to prison terms after finding them guilty of serving as mercenaries for former Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive]. The military trial, which is the first trial to hold mercenaries accountable since the conflict ended, is seen an attempt by the country to prove its judicial system is strong enough to try Gaddafi supporters [AFP report]. The men, including Russians, Belarussians and Ukrainians, were arrested in August and subsequently charged with preparing missiles for Gaddafi supporters to use against NATO [official website] forces. Ukrainian ambassador Mykola Nahornyi stated that the men were present in Libya to work but were forced to stay when the fighting began. Western security officials reported that both the rebel forces and Gaddafi supporters hired private contractors to help fight in the conflict.
Libyan courts are set to try more high-profile cases concerning Gaddafi supporters. Prosecutor-General Abdul Azizi al-Hassadi told reporters last week that Libya will begin the prosecution of senior officials [JURIST report] who served under Gaddafi in June. The Prosecutor-General's announcement came after the Libyan government formally challenged [JURIST report] the right of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to try Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, Muammar Gaddafi's son. The issue of which court is going to try Saif al-Islam has been in dispute since he was captured [JURIST report] by Libyan rebel forces in November. In April ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo stated that the maximum penalty for Saif al-Islam in the ICC would be life in prison, but if convicted in a national court he could face the death penalty [JURIST report].