THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A lawyer for the son and one-time heir-apparent of late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi warned the International Criminal Court on Wednesday that its reputation will be damaged if it allows Libya to put him on trial.
Melinda Taylor, one of Seif al-Islam Gadhafi's court-funded defense lawyers, told judges that any trial in Libya will be "not motivated by a desire for justice but a desire for revenge and there is no right for revenge under international law."
Taylor was speaking at a hearing that will ultimately decide whether Gadhafi is tried in his homeland — where he could face the death penalty — or at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where the maximum sentence is life imprisonment.
Gadhafi was indicted last year by ICC prosecutors on charges of murdering and persecuting protesters in the early days of the popular uprising that ultimately toppled his father's regime. He is being detained by an armed militia in the Libyan town of Zintan, and Libya's new rulers say they want to move him to Tripoli and put him on trial.
The 10-year-old Hague-based tribunal is a court of last resort, meaning it only takes on cases from countries where authorities are unwilling or unable to prosecute defendants.
The Gadhafi case is a test of that principle. Judges have to weigh the desire of Libya's new rulers to prosecute him against their ability to do so in a nation still in post-conflict turmoil where the rule of law is being slowly rebuilt after more than four decades of neglect under the Gadhafi regime.
Taylor went a step further, saying the courts would likely be rigged to find Gadhafi guilty and warning judges in The Hague they should play no role in facilitating such a process.
"How can the ICC achieve lasting respect for international law," Taylor asked "... if it cedes jurisdiction to a domestic court which has been organized to convict rather than to achieve justice?"
Ahmed al-Jehani, a lawyer representing Libya, insisted on Tuesday that Gadhafi would get a fair trial at home, and called the process of holding the son of the former dictator accountable "a unique opportunity for national reconciliation for a community that wishes to have justice done at home in Libya."
But Taylor, who was jailed for more than three weeks in June by Libyan authorities who accused her of passing confidential documents to her client, rejected that argument.
"It is abundantly clear that proceedings against Mr. Gadhafi lack both independence and impartiality," she said.
Judges are expected to take weeks or months to weigh their decision.