BBC News

Libya: Gaddafi son Saif al-Islam in contact with ICC

image captionSaif al-Islam has not been seen in public since late August

International prosecutors have had "informal contact" with the son of slain ex-Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) said it had held talks - through intermediaries - with Saif al-Islam about his possible surrender.

Prosecutors stressed that Gaddafi's son, who is wanted for crimes against humanity, would get a fair trial.

Saif al-Islam, who was once the presumed successor to his father, has been in hiding for months.

Recent reports claimed he was in a convoy heading toward Libya's desert border with Niger, where other Gaddafi allies have fled.

But those reports have not been confirmed, and the ICC said it did not know where he was.


ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo said in a statement that the ICC wanted him to face trial.

"Through intermediaries, we have informal contact with Saif al-Islam. 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. The judges will decide," the statement said.

The ICC later denied that any kind of deal was being arranged with Saif al-Islam, stressing that the goal of the talks was to ensure an arrest warrant was carried out.

An ICC arrest warrant issued for Saif al-Islam in June accuses him of murder and persecution.

The document claims that he played an essential part in systematic attacks on civilians in various Libyan cities carried out by Gaddafi's security forces in February.

Mr Moreno Ocampo said the ICC had learnt "through informal channels" that mercenaries were offering to move Saif al-Islam to a country that has not signed up to the ICC's Rome statute.

Reports say Zimbabwe is a likely final destination for Saif al-Islam if he chooses to flee from the ICC.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe was a long-time ally of Muammar Gaddafi.

Mr Moreno Ocampo's statement added: "The office of the prosecutor is also exploring the possibility to intercept any plane within the airspace of a state party in order to make an arrest."

ICC difficulties

The ICC has no police force of its own, but member countries are legally bound to enforce its warrants.

media captionSir Geoffrey Nice QC: "What happens to him should be according to the law and it shouldn't really be subject to behind-the-scenes deals"

However, the credibility of the court has been called into question in recent years in Africa.

Many of the continent's governments have argued that the ICC disproportionately focuses on crimes in their countries.

Those claims have led the African Union to advise its members that they should no longer feel bound by the ICC's rules.

Member countries including Malawi, Chad and Kenya have all defied the court by failing to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who has a long-standing arrest warrant against him.

The warrant issued against Saif al-Islam came alongside warrants for intelligence chief Abdullah al-Sanussi, who is still believed to be on the run, and Muammar Gaddafi.

The former Libyan leader, who was deposed in August after six months of civil conflict, died from gunshot wounds last week after fierce fighting in the city of Sirte.

The National Transitional Council (NTC) is now overseeing political reform intended to lead to national elections within eight months.