David Blackburn

From the archives: the perils of bringing Gaddafi to trial

From the archives: the perils of bringing Gaddafi to trial
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Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the leader of the National Transitional Council, has indicated his hope that Colonel Gaddafi will be tried in Libya. But the far reaching tentacles of the International Criminal Court may claim Gaddafi from the Libyan people. Judge Richard Goldstone, former chief prosecutor at The Hague, told the BBC World Service earlier this afternoon that those who capture Gaddafi “will be under an obligation to put him on an airplane and send him to The Hague.” Meanwhile, the internationally renowned human rights lawyer Philippe Sands was less certain. He told the World Service: “It shouldn't be assumed that anyone is automatically going to The Hague…There are still a range of different possibilities.”

It is unclear what those different possibilities are, but perhaps one option is to try Gaddafi in Libya. The prospect of trial and retribution at The Hague usually hardens a dictator’s resolve to fight to the bitter end, as Gaddafi is now doing. Christina Lamb warned that it would be so when the ICC declared its intention to arrest Gaddafi at the end of May. Far better, she argued, that dictators, be allowed to retire and spare innocent life from slaughter. The whole piece is worth reading, but here is the key extract:         

‘Once, dictators could just step down, and go off to enjoy their ill-gotten wealth in villas in the South of France. But for nine years now, the International Criminal Court has been scouring the planet for people to prosecute. It was intended to deter those in power from committing atrocities, but many argue that it has actually made it harder to end wars by removing a tyrant. For despots who already have blood on their hands — Gaddafi was indicted by the court last week — the threat of prosecution is a reason to fight until the bitter end.’

Of course, a vicious megalomaniac like Gaddafi probably sees a court in Tripoli and a court at The Hague as one and the same.

PS: The picture accompanying this blog shows a sign made of pre-Gaddafi Libyan flag lapel pins. They've been stuck to the front door of the Gaddafi family's house in Hampstead.