Font Size

- Aa +

Mon 31 Oct 2011 08:38 AM

Font Size

- Aa +

Handover of Gaddafi's fugitive son could spur Niger revolts

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi fled to neighbouring Niger in bid to avoid his father’s bloody fate

Handover of Gaddafi's fugitive son could spur Niger revolts
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi fled Libya after his fathers death at the hands of rebel fighters

The
likely flight of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi from Libya to neighbouring Niger leaves
the West African nation trying to balance its commitment to the International
Criminal Court with avoiding another rebellion by heavily armed Tuareg
tribesmen.

After
the killing of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya itself risks tribal violence, insurgency
and chaos unless Tripoli's new government disarms regional militias and eases
the grievances bottled up during 42 years of one-man rule.

Thought
to be on the run somewhere in the mountains on Libya's southern borders with
Algeria and Niger, Saif al-Islam, 39, is desperately seeking to avoid the fate
of his father, who was beaten, abused and shot as forces of Libya's National
Transitional Council (NTC) captured him on Oct 20 after the fall of his home
town Sirte.

Saif
al-Islam's surrender to the ICC would help restore the image of the NATO-backed
campaign to overthrow Gaddafi which was tarnished in the eyes of some in the
West by film of the former strongman humiliated, killed and put on public
display.

The ICC
wants to try Saif al-Islam for crimes against humanity and its prosecutor said
on Sunday he had "substantial evidence" that Saif al-Islam had helped
hire mercenaries to attack Libyan civilians protesting against his father's
rule.

"We
have a witness who explained how Saif was involved with the planning of the
attacks against civilians, including in particular the hiring of core
mercenaries from different countries and the transport of them, and also the
financial aspects he was covering," ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said
during a visit to Beijing.

"So
we have substantial evidence to prove the case, but of course Saif is still
[presumed] innocent, and [will] have to go to court and the judge will
decide," he said.

Moreno-Ocampo
said he would brief the UN Security Council on Wednesday about the court's work
in Libya.

A senior
member of Niger's coalition government told Reuters Saif al-Islam's whereabouts
remained unknown, but that surrender was his best option. Niger would cooperate
with the ICC to ensure he was handed over as safely as possible.

"It's
perhaps best that he goes of his own accord rather than to be hunted and caught
by Libyans who will end up lynching him as they did to his father," said
Habi Mahamadou Salissou, vice-president of the Nigerien Democratic Movement.

But
Tuareg nomads straddling the border region, many of them returning home with
their weapons after fighting for Gaddafi in Libya, still feel a sense of
loyalty to the late dictator who bankrolled their revolts in Niger.

"Gaddafi
backed virtually all the rebellions in Niger and then managed to find a
solution to them," said Salissou, a former foreign minister.

Now
Niger risks sparking a new Tuareg revolt if it mishandles any entry by Saif
al-Islam onto its soil, a leading human rights official there said.

Article continues on next
page…

"Niger
has the same border, is part of the same family as Libya and has lots of ties
with Libya and the Libyans of Gaddafi," said Moustapha Kadi, national
coordinator of Niger's human rights and democracy groups.

"Even
if the government takes the decision [to hand al-Islam over] national opinion
must be consulted to make sure that this does not create further tensions - that
is the last thing we need right now," he said in an interview.

Thanks
in part to talks hosted by Gaddafi, Niger and neighbouring Mali managed in 2009
to seal a shaky peace with Tuareg rebels after a two-year insurgency that was
just the latest bout of unrest in the north going back decades.

"If
he decides to seek asylum, the government is free to study that - without
ruling out the ICC's request. We should put Niger's interests first," said
Kadi. "We have just got shot of a rebellion. We don't want any more
conflict in the north."

The NTC
may try Saif al-Islam itself, but the fugitive Libyan has been in indirect
contact with the ICC over a possible surrender, though he may also harbour
hopes that mercenaries can spirit him to a friendly African country.

Algeria,
which took in Saif al-Islam's mother, sister, brother Hannibal and half-brother
Mohammed, is not a signatory to the treaty that set up the ICC. Nor is Sudan or
Zimbabwe.

The
Hague-based ICC has warned Saif al-Islam that it could order a mid-air
interception if he tried to flee by plane from his unidentified Sahara desert
hideout for a safe haven.

"We
received through an informal intermediary some questions from Saif apparently
about the legal system -- what happens to him if he appears before the judges,
can he be sent to Libya, what happens if he's convicted, what happens if he's acquitted,"
said Moreno-Ocampo.

"We
are not in any negotiations with Saif," he said, adding that the ICC would
not later force him to return to Libya provided another country is willing to
receive him after he is either acquitted or is convicted and has served his
sentence.

The
NTC's interim information minister, Mahmoud Shammam, said the council had not
discussed the indirect contacts between Saif al-Islam and the ICC. "We
don't have a formal position on the reports," he said in Tripoli.

Before a
popular uprising imperiled his father's grip on Libya, Saif al-Islam had cast
himself as an enlightened supporter of reform at home and across the Arab
world. But then he swore to crush opponents of his father's 42-year rule.

Asked
about Saif al-Islam's metamorphosis, Moreno-Ocampo said: "After all these
years, nothing surprises me

Adel 8 years ago

Guys we need to be realistic here - how is it goverments of the world support protesters with heavy weapons which they stole from the Army and later given by NATO? If u are protesting why attack military location to steal dangours weapon which even without experince is dangourus? This is clearly a different interest..there is no country in the world would allow anyone near military location no matter who you are ..dont belive me try it. u will be in jail for just using a camera near such location