[JURIST] Libya will begin the prosecution of senior officials who served under former leader Muammar Gaddafi [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive] in June, Prosecutor-General Abdul Azizi al-Hassadi told reporters on Thursday. The trials will begin with the prosecution of former spy chief Buzeid Dorda. The Prosecutor-General’s announcement comes after the Libyan government formally challenged [JURIST report] the right of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] to try Saif al-Islam Gaddafi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], Muammar Gaddafi’s son. Libya argued that under Article 17 of the Rome Statute [text], the ICC does not have jurisdiction when “[t]he case is being investigated or prosecuted by a State which has jurisdiction over it, unless the State is unwilling or unable genuinely to carry out the investigation or prosecution.” Since the Libyan national judiciary is actively investigating Saif al-Islam, Libya asserted that the ICC does not have jurisdiction. The trials of officials like Dorda are being considered by some as test cases [Reuters report] of Libya’s ability to try high-profile Gaddafi associates.
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 [official profile] 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]. Earlier that month Ocampo asked the ICC to report Libya to the UN Security Council [official website] for failing to turn over Saif al-Islam. Libya expressly denied [JURIST report] the ICC’s request for such action and stated that Saif al-Islam will face trial within the country. In February 2011 the UN Security Council voted unanimously to refer the matter in Libya to the ICC prosecutor [JURIST report]. The ICC claimed jurisdiction over Saif al-Islam despite its announcement in November that it may allow Libya to conduct the trial [JURIST report]