Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, the son of the now deceased Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi, has been captured by revolutionary fighters in a firefight in the Libyan desert.
After 15 days of pursuit in the area between southwestern oasis town of Obari and southern town of Sabha, military commanders were able to capture on of the most-wanted elements of the former Qaddafi regime. Saif al-Islam, infamous for his vigilance and perseverance in supporting military suppression and the brutality of Qaddafi, had sworn to die fighting. Nevertheless, Saif al-Islam was taken without firing a shot. Surprisingly, Saif al-Islam was not killed in the firefight, especially considering the extenuating circumstances concerning the death of Moammar Qaddafi and one of his sons during the raid that resulted in his death over a month ago.
“That is very important because we consider him – the judges consider him – the principal, with his father Moammar, of the crimes committed in Libya after February 13. He’s arrested, he’s alive and now he will face justice and that is the most important news.” – Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court
The International Criminal Court in the Netherlands has confirmed the arrest. The court wants Saif-alIslam Qaddafi for alleged crimes against humanity, including murder, committed during the uprising. Moreno-Ocampo will travel to Libya next week to bring Saif al-Islam to justice. The next steps, though, will be the most trying for the new transcriptional government in Libya that is to be set up on Tuesday. The Zintan fighters, who make up one of the most powerful militia factions holding ultimate power in a country still without a government, plan to keep Saif al-Islam in Zintan, until they could hand him over to the authorities. Prime minister-designate, Adburrahim El-Keib is scheduled to form a government by Tuesday, and the fate of Saif al-Islam will be an early test of its authority. Libyans want to try Said al-Islam at home before considering the possibility of handing him over to the ICC. The European Union has urged Libyan authorities to ensure Saif al-Islam was brought to justice in cooperation with the ICC. The statements come after the suspicious death of Moammar Qaddafi under Operation Unified Protector. Moammar Qaddafi’s beating, abuse and ultimate death in custody of former rebel fighters was an embarrassment to the previous transitional government. Officials in Tripoli said they were determined to hand his son’s case with more order.
“I think the Libyan people can finally actually breathe a big sigh, finally relax to some extent, because he has been threatening to come back with revenge for some time now. So, it’s a close for many, many people.” – Abdelraham Busin, National Transitional Council military liaison
In retrospect, the capture of Saif al-Islam has come as welcomed relief to many Libyans, ending months of insecurity and fear. The capture of Saif al-Islam marks the suppression of opposition but it also marks the new democratic era of Libya, which has begun with a more than questionable start. Many officials highly doubt that Saif al-Islam will be handed over to the ICC; rather, officials believe that the son of Moammar Qaddafi will be executed in Libya beforehand. This does not mark bode well for the start of the formation of the new government and with militia groups holding power on the country side, with large stockpiles of weapons,t he centralization of power will be problematic.