[JURIST] Saif al-Islam Gaddafi [JURIST news archive], the son of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive], appeared via videolink at a court in Tripoli on Sunday. Saif al-Islam and 36 other defendants are facing a variety of charges including corruption and war crimes from their alleged role in suppressing the 2011 uprising [JURIST backgrounder]. At the trial, the defense team demanded access to all the evidence against Saif al-Islam and the other defendants. This case is the largest in Libya’s history and has more than 200 witnesses and 40,000 pages of evidence. Saif al-Islam is being held in a prison cell in Zintan, a town 170 km southwest of Tripoli, where he has been imprisoned by a militia since 2011. Libya’s ex-intelligence chief Abdullah Senussi also appeared in court on Sunday, in his first appearance with legal representation. Saif al-Islam and Sensussi are both wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Questions about the rule of law in Libya have arisen in the wake of the the 2011 uprising and subsequent civil war that deposed Muammar Gaddafi. In March Saadi Gaddafi was extradited [JURIST report] from Niger back to Libya to stand trial for crimes allegedly committed during his father’s rule. In February a spokesperson for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] warned against [JURIST report] recent amendments to Libya’s penal code. Law No. 5 of 2014 imposes prison sentences on any individual “undermining the February 17 revolution” and for “publicly insulting one of the legislative, executive or judicial authorities.” Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi have also faced charges of crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court (ICC). In October the ICC ruled [decision, PDF] that the case against al-Senussi is inadmissible before the ICC [press release] and can only be heard by domestic courts in Libya, but noted that the decision did not affect the issue with regards to the charges against Gaddafi. Back in 2011 Saadi Gaddafi was implicated [JURIST report] in a plot to flee to Mexico by the Secretary of the Interior.