No negotiations yet with Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, ICC prosecutor tells Al Arabiya

Luis Moreno Ocampo, prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), told Al Arabiya that both Saif al-Islam and Abdullah al-Senussi have been charged with crimes against humanity. (Al Arabiya)

Luis Moreno Ocampo, prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), told Al Arabiya how the court is assessing the case of Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, the fugitive son of Libya’s toppled late leader, Muammar Qaddafi, and what will happen if he is arrested.

The court, based in The Hague, Netherlands, said last week it made informal contact with Saif and is seeking to arrest him and bring him to trial on charges stemming from Libya’s civil war.

Both Saif and Libya’s former intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senussi, have been charged with crimes against humanity for the bombing and shooting of civilian protesters in February during Libya’s mass anti-government uprising.

This is the first part of Al Arabiya’s interview with Ocampo, which has been edited.

Talal Al-Haj, Al Arabiya New York/ United Nations Bureau Chief:

Welcome to Al Arabiya Mr. Ocampo. You have declared that there have been indirect talks with Saif al Islam al Qaddafi; what is the message to you from him, and where are these negotiations now?

Luis Moreno Ocampo, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court:

There are no negotiations. Someone close to Saif approached someone related with Saif and he was asking a few questions about the possible surrender of Saif to the ICC including questions about what happened if he is convicted, what happens if he is acquitted, where he is going, so we clarified this issue, but we have nothing to negotiate. We are prosecuting him; we have evidence, the judges issued an arrest warrant so our job is to try to ensure that he appears before the judges.

Talal:

Can you explain to our viewers what your answers were to the middlemen?

Ocampo:

We explained to him the law, the law is very clear; if he is convicted or if he is acquitted after that he can make a claim to the judges, explain that he cannot go back to his own country – in this case Libya – and he can request the judges to send him to a different place, as soon as the other state accepts him. So that is the legal system.

Talal:

What if there is an arrest warrant for him in Libya and Libya asks for him to be surrendered?

Ocampo:

We cannot promise him, we cannot give any guarantees, he has to convince the judges that he will be mistreated or unfairly treated in Libya, and then if he is acquitted or after the conviction he should be sent to a different place. We cannot guarantee him that, so, but we explain to him the legal system.

Talal:

There are sources telling us there is a German gentleman who actually mediated in the Shalit deal, he is the one now talking to ICC, is there any truth in that?

Ocampo:

We never met directly with the person coming from Saif, so in fact I don’t know the identity of this person.

Talal:

How do you know it’s genuine if there are two people in the middle?

Ocampo:

We trust our person ¬– the person talking to them – and the person talking to them believes this person is genuinely representing Saif.

Talal:

If you reach an agreement and he surrenders, who would help you to transfer him; NATO forces, airplanes, Holland – the Netherlands maybe?

Ocampo:

In fact, this is an area fpr the other part of the court, the registry, she, the registrar, is in charge of this, but depending on the case we can have, Interpol is helping us a lot, the UN could provide neutral transport for instance.

Talal:

Are you concerned about him staying in the Tuareg area of Libya, which is a no-go zone really?

Ocampo:

We are doing big cases so it’s normal for us to arrest people. But I think they are more concerned than me. Because imagine, they have to manage a big amount of money, cash, so it is not safe going to this area with so much money because then at the same time – yes some people can use your money to protect you, but some people can target you if you have the money.

Talal:

Are you open to a deal? Suppose he comes to you with a deal and says he will plead guilty providing he gets a fair trial, a lesser sentence and guarantees for his safety once he serves his sentence?

Ocampo:

No, I can make no deal; the judges will decide his future, not me.

Talal:

So you are not open to any deals whatsoever?

Ocampo:

No. We have strong evidence, that's why the judges decided to issue an arrest warrant, but since the judges issued the arrest warrant we have collected more evidence so we are trying to be trial-ready. My people are now going to Libya, so we have much more evidence.

We have a first mission in Libya to explore security and visit some areas. We are not interviewing witnesses yet, but we are opening the door to do interviews. Also, we intend to collect documents and other information. Interestingly, there are many committees who are doing investigations in different cities and we have a lot of very interesting information collected in a very impartial way, so we are delighted about how much we have worked together with the Libyan authorities. That's why for us the fact there is a new government is very important.

Talal:

Do you expect the Libyan authorities to issue indictments against Saif al Islam?

Ocampo:

I think the Libyans now have many conflicts, have many issues to solve, just as important, so I think they understand they are trying to develop a comprehensive strategy for all the cases including, for instance, people arrested coming from Mali or Chad as mercenaries and they sent them back without prosecuting them, so I think it’s a time for the new authorities to develop a common strategy and we are trying to see how we can help them if we can.

For us, we have a case against two individuals, because Muammar Qaddafi is dead, and we are doing the rape investigation, we are confirming the existence of rapes, we are trying to find who is the most responsible for these crimes.

We don’t have Saif involved in these crimes, but we have Senussi apparently, so we will see. We are a new name there but it’s still premature, we are working on that, so after that we will see what the Libyans are doing, because you have to remember, the concept is that the ICC intervenes when there are no national proceedings. As soon as the Libyans conduct their own proceedings we respect them.

Talal:

I have spoken to many Libyans; many think they should try Saif al Islam and Senussi in Libya.

Ocampo:

It’s okay if the Libyan authorities conduct general proceedings; they can challenge the admission of the case in the court and the court will decide, so it is no problem.

Talal:

Is there a middle solution for those who want to try Qaddafi in Libya and those who want the ICC to conduct the work? Can the ICC hold the trial in Libya?

Ocampo:

Yes, we can do it. Eventually the judges will decide the question as to whether to hold the case in Libya or not, but the problem is not where the trial is; look what happened in Kenya. Everyone in Kenya was following the TV and the radio about the cases in The Hague so sometimes you are in The Hague but with TV, with people like you, you see the transparency direct. It not where the cases go. The issue now is to arrest him. That is the first, the top priority.

Talal:

I would like to move on to Senussi now. Is he involved in these negotiations, is he one of the people who would like to surrender himself like Saif al Islam?

Ocampo:

No one mentioned Senussi in these conversations. He could do it, but the person who was talking to our intermediary was talking in the name of Saif.

Talal:

You know that Senussi is wanted by France and he has a life sentence for downing a French plane in 1989 over the Sahara. Suppose Senussi wants to deliver himself to The Hague? Do the French have first take on him, or do you as the ICC have the first take on him?

Ocampo:

It is early again, let us arrest Senussi and then we discuss. I don’t know this French case well. In the case of Senussi there are so many allegations against him in Libya itself, I am sure there would be a request also to send him to Libya because the Abu Salim massacre was allegedly committed by him, then you have also the massacre of some students, so there will be many allegations against him.

Talal:

You spoke to the Security Council in your report, saying that the security forces in Libya played a large part in attacking the civilian population taking part in demonstrations against the Qaddafi regime. Will there be arrest warrants against the leaders of these security forces?

Ocampo:

We found that Saif and Muammar Qaddafi were the two leaders of this security force activity, and then they found al Senussi was the most responsible for those who had operational capacity, so I believe we selected well the three individuals.

Talal:

I would like to move onto Qaddafi’s death itself: It was a very undemocratic way of starting a democratic process in Libya, no?

Ocampo:

First we, the registry of the court, are in the process of requesting a formal document establishing the death of Mr. Qaddafi and that will be the end of the process against him. Then, regarding the investigation into how he was killed, how he died, is a matter first for the Libyan authorities to define; after that we decide.

Talal:

I am sure many officials already told you that he was killed in crossfire. They have been telling other world leaders the same story. Do you believe this?

Ocampo:

I believe in the evidence. So let’s see what the national Libyan authorities are doing and then we discuss.

Talal:

There will be a national enquiry – does the ICC cooperate with the enquiry?

Ocampo:

In our conversation with the national authorities, they say they were trying to build a comprehensive strategy, and I think that is something that will absolutely help and assist them on that, so Qaddafi’s death will be one aspect of this comprehensive strategy.

Talal:

If you are not happy with the results, if you don’t think it is transparent, and if you don’t think it is truthful, are you willing to do your own enquiry into this?

Ocampo:

I have duties, I will do my duties, I always do it, but lets see what they are doing first.

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