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Daughter of former Gaddafi spy chief calls for him to be transferred to ICC

The 17-year-old daughter of Abdullah Senussi has denounced her father's death sentence and called for him to be tried outside Libya
Abdullah Senussi appears in a Tripoli court where has been tried for crimes including murder (AFP)
Rori Donaghy

The daughter of Abdullah Senussi, who served as intelligence chief in Libya under Muammar Gaddafi, has pleaded for her father to be transferred to the International Criminal Court, in an interview with Middle East Eye.

Senussi was sentenced to death by a court in Tripoli on Tuesday along with eight other figures from the former Gaddafi regime, including the slain leader’s son Saif al-Islam.

Thirty-seven defendants were accused of crimes including murder and complicity in incitement to rape during the 2011 revolution that ousted Gaddafi.

The sentences can be appealed to the Supreme Court but the former intelligence chief’s youngest daughter called for him to be tried outside Libya.

“I’m sure my father is innocent,” 17-year-old Salma Senussi told MEE by phone from London. “I just want law and justice – is that too much to ask?”

“I want my father to be taken outside Libya and have justice served in a real court.”

Salma is currently resident in London. She was with her father when he was arrested in Mauritania in September 2012. On Tuesday she called for him to be transferred to the ICC, which indicted him for war crimes and crimes against humanity in 2011.

Senussi served as Gaddafi’s head of internal security throughout the 1980s and was later made overall intelligence chief – he is believed to have been one of the former leader’s closest aides.

In 1999, France sentenced Senussi in absentia to life in prison for his role in the bombing of a French plane over Niger in which 170 people were killed. He has been accused of far-reaching human rights abuses in Libya, including his alleged involvement in the 1996 massacre of over 1,000 inmates at the Abu Salim prison in Tripoli.

In 2013, the ICC ruled that Libyan courts were competent to try Senussi, despite having called for Saif al-Islam to be transferred to The Hague to stand trial.

Senussi is believed to be detained in Tripoli by authorities linked to Libya Dawn, who took control of the capital in September 2014 and revived the defunct General National Congress government.

Saif al-Islam is being held in the north-west town of Zintan by militiamen who are loyal to the House of Representatives government based in the east of the country. He has only appeared in court via video link and has made no appearances at all since May last year.

It is unlikely Zintan would handover Saif al-Islam to Tripoli authorities, who they are in conflict with, meaning that the death sentence will probably not be carried out against Gaddafi’s son.

However, with Senussi in Tripoli, his daughter Salma said she is frightened he may be killed imminently.

“Every day I’m afraid I will wake up to hear my father has been killed,” she said. “But today, knowing he has been sentenced to death, this is the worst day of my life.”

The court on Tuesday did not give an indication when the executions by firing squad will be carried out.

Senussi’s legal team condemned the trial in a statement as an “outrage” and called on the United Nations to intervene in the case.

“The trial has been conducted in an atmosphere of extreme fear, insecurity and intimidation in which judicial officers and defence lawyers have been threatened and physically attacked,” said the statement sent to Middle East Eye by email, which was attributed to Ben Emmerson QC. “As his international lawyers we have been repeatedly denied access to him - this is an outrage and reveals the true depravity of the Libyan justice system. It has descended to the lowest levels imaginable.”

“We call on the Security Council and the whole international community to end this grave injustice and take all steps to overturn the death sentence immediately and uphold international human rights standards.”

Libya has been plunged into civil war since the 2011 NATO-backed overthrow of Gaddafi. Rival cities, tribes, militias and even parliaments are battling each other for control of the country, which is home to Africa’s largest oil reserves. In the midst of this political vacuum the Islamic State group has also emerged and now has a foothold in several areas.