Laurent Thomet, AFP
Last updated: 28 October, 2011

NATO declares October 31 end to Libya mission

The International Criminal Court said Friday it was in contact with slain Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi’s son Seif al-Islam over his surrender, as NATO decided to end its mission in Libya.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo warned however the ICC learnt that a group of mercenaries have offered to move Seif to an African country which was a non-party to the ICC’s founding document, the Rome Statute.

“Through intermediaries, we have informal contact with Seif,” the prosecutor said in a statement issued at the court’s headquarters in The Hague.

“The Office of the Prosecutor has made it clear that if he surrenders to the ICC, he has the right to be heard in court, he is innocent until proven guilty,” Moreno-Ocampo said. “The judges will decide.”

He said after learning that a group of mercenaries offered to move Seif to an African state not bound to hand him over to the ICC, his office was “exploring the possibility to intercept any plane within the airspace of a state party in order to make an arrest.”

Seif, 39, and Kadhafi’s security chief and brother-in-law Abdullah al-Senussi, 62, are the most wanted fugitives from the slain despot’s ousted circle.

They are wanted by the ICC on charges of crimes against humanity, committed after the start of the uprising against Kadhafi’s regime in mid-February. The ICC issued arrest warrants against Kadhafi, Seif and Senussi on June 27.

Interpol issued “red notices” for their arrest on September 9.

In Tripoli, interim justice and human rights minister Mohammed al-Allagi said Seif would be tried in Libya if he were caught there.

“If he were caught in Libya, Libyan law states that he would have to be tried here. But he would be entitled to a fair trial,” Allagi responded to a journalist’s question.

But the international justice director at New York-based Human Rights Watch said a fair trial in Libya could not be guaranteed.

A Libyan trial “on these complex crimes in a highly charged environment is not likely to render justice in an independent way”, Richard Dicker told AFP.

He added that Kadhafi’s “gruesome” death last week highlighted Libya’s volatility, adding that “Seif al-Islam’s appearance before the ICC will best ensure that justice is done.

Whether Seif decides to surrender or not, he and Senussi must be allowed to do so safely and their rights “guaranteed”, another rights group Amnesty International urged.

“The National Transitional Council and neighbouring governments must ensure their safe detention and prompt transfer to The Hague for investigation, whether they surrender voluntarily or are arrested and transferred,” said spokesman Marek Marczynski in a statement.

Long the heir apparent to Kadhafi’s regime, Seif was also referred to as his father’s “de facto prime minister”, controlling the regime’s finances and logistics, while Senussi controlled its security organs.

But the exact whereabouts of the two remain unknown.

Seif was Tuesday poised to cross into Niger along with Senussi, a Tuareg official was quoted as saying.

Senussi has passed from Niger into Mali, security sources from both countries said Thursday, with sources claiming he was under Tuareg protection.

It was not known whether Seif was travelling with his group.

Meanwhile, NATO decided Friday to end its mission in Libya in three days, on October 31, declaring it has fulfilled its “historic mandate” to protect civilians and urging the new regime to build a democractic Libya.

“We have fully complied with the historic mandate of the United Nations to protect the people of Libya, to enforce the no-fly zone and the arms embargo,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in a statement.

“Operation Unified Protector is one of the most successful in NATO history,” he said after NATO ambassadors formally agreed to end it.

Alliance warplanes will wind up the mission on Monday after flying more than 26,000 sorties and bombing almost 6,000 targets in a seven-month operation that helped a ragtag rebel force oust Kadhafi.

The conflict ended in controversial fashion when Kadhafi was shot dead on October 20, a killing that was criticised even by Western allies of the interim NTC regime.

Facing global criticism over Kadhafi’s death, the NTC vowed on Thursday to bring Kadhafi’s killers to justice in a sharp break with their previous insistence he was caught in the crossfire with his own loyalists.

While NATO has steadfastly denied targeting Kadhafi during the campaign, it was an alliance air strike that hit his convoy as it fled Sirte, leading to his capture and killing.