[JURIST] Former Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi [BBC profile] has not been able to speak with a lawyer or told what charges he faces during his eight-month detention, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [text] Wednesday. HRW was permitted earlier this week to speak to al-Senussi, who had been a powerful figure and key ally to Muammar Gaddafi [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive] during his rule of Libya. According to al-Senussi he has not been subject to physical torture or abuse and he has found the conditions of his detention to be “reasonable.” According to Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at HRW:
Libya’s wish to put the people they hold responsible for gross human rights violations on trial is fully understandable. … But to achieve true justice, they need to give al-Sanussi the rights that the previous government denied Libyans for so long. To start, that means making sure he can consult a lawyer.
Justice Minister Salah Marghani, who is overseeing al-Senussi’s detention, claims al-Senussi is permitted a lawyer to defend him but that no lawyers have offered to represent him.
This news is the latest in the ongoing effort by Libya to try al-Senussi and Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi [BBC profile] rather than turn them over to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. In February the ICC ordered [JURIST report] Libyan officials to hand over al-Senussi to the ICC so that he could meet with a lawyer. In January the ICC asked Libya to address reports [JURIST report] that it planned to try Saif al-Islam and al-Senussi. Last October Libyan government lawyers urged the ICC [JURIST report] to allow the men to be tried in Libya and promised that the trial would be fair. Last August Saif al-Islam stated that he preferred to be tried by the ICC [JURIST report] out of fear that Libya would not try him fairly. Last June four ICC staff members who traveled to Libya to speak with Saif al-Islam were detained by Libyan security forces [JURIST report] and were in custody for nearly four weeks before being released. The ICC issued arrest warrants [Al Jazeera report] for both men in June 2011.