Saif al-Islam Gaddafi

Saif Gaddafi at a Libyan court hearing. © Reuters.
As de facto prime minister under the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, Saif Gaddafi is wanted by the ICC for crimes against humanity following the outbreak of popular demonstrations in Libya in February 2011. He remains in detention in Libya.
Case status: 
The ICC prosecutor alleges that Saif Gaddafi, as the de facto prime minister under the regime of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, devised and implemented a state-level policy to quell, including by use of lethal force, civilian demonstrations in 2011. While he was sentenced to death by a Libyan court in 2015, Saif Gaddafi remains wanted by the ICC for crimes against humanity.

Libya refuses to transfer Saif Gaddafi to The Hague

In 2014, Libyan authorities failed in their challenge to the admissibility of Saif Gaddafi’s case before the ICC, with ICC appeals judges confirming that Libya had not sufficiently proven that its national investigation covers the same case as the one before the ICC.

Libyan authorities, however, have failed to transfer Saif Gaddafi to ICC custody, with the Zintan militia detaining him refusing to hand him over to central government authorities. This matter was referred to the UN Security Council by ICC judges following a ruling that Libya had not complied with its obligations to cooperate under the terms of the Council’s referral of the Libya situation to the Court.

In 2015, a Libyan court in Tripoli sentenced  Saif Gaddafi, fellow ICC suspect Abdullah al-Senussi and seven other former government officials to death. The trial and verdicts generated an international outcry over allegations of serious due process violations. The ICC prosecutor and civil society groups urged the surrender of Saif Gaddafi to the ICC and called on Libya to not proceed with the execution. 


Gaddafi inner circle suspected of crimes against humanity against civilians in 2011 

The ICC prosecutor alleges that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and his inner circle devised and implemented a state-level policy to quell, including by use of lethal force, civilian demonstrations against Muammar Gaddafi’s government in 2011. Reports at the time suggested hundreds of civilians were killed and injured as well as arrested and imprisoned. 

Libya was the first ICC situation to be unanimously referred to the ICC by the UN Security Council. The ICC prosecutor concluded a preliminary examination of the situation within one week of the referral, opening a full investigation into potential Rome Statute crimes committed since 15 February 2011.  

ICC arrest warrants were issued for Muammar al-Gaddafi (withdrawn following his death), his son and alleged de facto prime minister Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, and Abdullah al-Senussi, director of military intelligence in the Gaddafi regime. 


The prosecutor alleges that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi is criminally responsible as an indirect co-perpetrator for murders and persecution committed as crimes against humanity in Libya between 15 February 2011 and at least 28 February 2011. The crimes referred to were allegedly carried out by security forces under Gaddafi’s control as part of a state policy set up by Muammar Gaddafi in coordination with his inner circle. 

The alleged attacks occurred in Benghazi, Tripoli, Misrata and neighboring towns. It is also alleged that Saif Gaddafi, as Muammar Gaddafi’s unspoken successor and most influential collaborator, exercised the powers of a de facto prime minister, such as control over state finances and logistics. 


ICC judges rule Saif Gaddafi case admissible, call for transfer to The Hague 

Libya unsuccessfully challenged the admissibility of Gaddafi’s case at the ICC based on the principle of complementarity, which holds that the ICC does not replace national criminal justice systems and can only investigate and prosecute if the state concerned cannot or will not do so genuinely. In May 2014, the Appeals Chamber confirmed the admissibility of the Gaddafi case before the ICC. The Chamber concluded that pre-trial judges had not erred in finding in 2013 that Libya had not sufficiently proven that its national investigation covers the same case as the one before the ICC. The domestic charges included indiscriminate shelling, opening fire at demonstrators and engaging in acts of vandalism, looting, and killing. 

Death sentence prompts outcry 

On 28 July 2015, a Libyan court in Tripoli convicted Gaddafi, fellow ICC suspect Abdullah al-Senussi and seven other former government officials. Saif Gaddafi was sentenced to death. The trial and verdicts generated an international outcry over allegations of serious due process violations, including that: the militia (the Zintan Brigade) detaining Gaddafi refused to hand him over to Libyan authorities, held him for extended periods in isolation, interrogated him without counsel present in violation of Libyan law, and almost completely denied him access to pre-trial and trial proceedings.  

In response to the verdict, the ICC prosecutor requested that pre-trial judges order Libya not to execute Gaddafi and to instead surrender him to the ICC to face charges of crimes against humanity. The ICC cannot itself impose the death penalty as a sentence, and customary international human rights law dictates that such a penalty is not available in instances where fair trial rights have not been observed. Coalition member the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in addition to calling for Gaddafi’s surrender to the ICC, urged the Libyan Supreme Court to review the verdicts and sentences and the ICC to reconsider its inadmissibility decision in the Abdullah al-Senussi case. 

ICC staff detained 

On 7 June 2012, four ICC staff members were detained in Zintan, Libya, while undertaking a mission authorized by ICC judges and approved by the interim Libyan government to visit with Saif Gaddafi. The four were released on 2 July 2012.

Libya: non-compliant? 

In December 2014, the Court issued a finding of non-compliance by Libya with respect to the non-execution of requests for cooperation transmitted by the ICC. The Court found that Libya had failed to comply with two ICC requests: that Libya surrender Gaddafi to the ICC; and that Libya return to Gaddafi’s ICC defence team original documents that were seized by Libyan authorities during a 2012 consultation in relation to the case. The Court further decided to refer the matter to the UNSC for its assistance in removing obstacles to cooperation.