Saturday, 8 September 2012

A step closer to justice

[This is the headline over a report in today’s edition of the Maltese newspaper The Times.  It reads in part:]

Abdullah al-Senussi was Muammar Gaddafi’s right-hand man, a spy chief and executioner, but he returned to Libya as a man under arrest this week.

The news of his extradition from Mauritania, where he fled during the conflict that toppled the Gaddafi regime last year, was welcomed by Libyans living in Malta.

Abdalla Kablan believes that putting Mr Senussi on trial for the crimes he committed will provide some form of closure for the families of his victims.

“They can at least feel that their children can rest in peace because the man who inflicted the suffering will face the consequences of his crimes,” Dr Kablan said. (...)

He is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity in last year’s civil war and Libya’s decision to try him at home has raised question marks about the country’s ability to deliver a fair trial.

It is a concern expressed by Jim Swire, a British doctor and the father of Flora, one of the victims in the Lockerbie Pan-Am bombing in 1988.

Dr Swire has long maintained that Libyan Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the only person convicted over the Lockerbie bombing, was innocent. Mr Megrahi died last May.

“Senussi is potentially a key figure who knows a lot and I would have preferred him being tried in front of the ICC because Libyan politicians are now very keen to blame everything on (Muammar) Gaddafi to clear their country’s name,” Dr Swire told The Times.

Mr Senussi had a lot to answer for the crimes he committed, Dr Swire added, but trying him in Libya risked distorting the truth.

The US and British governments believe that Mr Senussi may have orchestrated the Lockerbie bombing in 1988. Meanwhile France also wants to question him in connection with the bombing of a UTA passenger plane in 1989.

The architect of the original Lockerbie trial, Robert Black, was cynical over whether Mr Senussi could shed light on the 1988 tragedy.

“His extradition to Libya could help the Lockerbie inquiry, say most of the media today. Probably just as much as (former Foreign Affairs Minister) Moussa Koussa did, I say. And wouldn’t it be nice if there really were a Lockerbie inquiry, and not just a pretend one?

“The trouble is that the investigators’ minds are so closed that they just wouldn’t believe Senussi if he cleared Megrahi’s name.”

Dr Kablan believes this is a chance for Libya to show the world it has changed and criminals will now face justice in a functioning legal system.

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