The prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) said on Sunday that he has “substantial evidence” that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, now on the run, had helped hire mercenaries to attack Libyan civilians protesting against his father’s rule.
Saif al-Islam may be heading for Niger, which risks upsetting its own pro-Gaddafi Tuareg nomads if it hands him over to the ICC in line with its treaty obligations, as it has promised to do if the wanted man shows up on its territory."We have a witness who explained how Saif was involved with the planning of the attacks against civilians, including in particular the hiring of core mercenaries from different countries and the transport of them, and also the financial aspects he was covering," ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said during a visit to Beijing.
Saif, 39, is desperately seeking to avoid the fate of his father, Muammar Gaddafi, who was beaten, abused and shot after forces of Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) captured him on October 20 after the fall of his hometown Sirte.
The NTC may try Saif itself, but the fugitive Libyan has been in indirect contact with the ICC over a possible surrender, though he may also harbour hopes that mercenaries can spirit him to a friendly African country.
Neighbouring Niger has vowed to honour its ICC commitments, but knows that handing over Saif could spark unrest in Saharan areas where his father, feted by many desert-dwellers as a hero, nurtured past Tuareg revolts against the capital.
A senior member of Niger’s coalition government said Saif’s whereabouts remained unknown, but that surrender was his best option. Niger would cooperate with the ICC to ensure he was handed over as safely as possible.