The Libyan government has formally challenged the International Criminal Court's right to try Moammar Gadhafi's son for war crimes, arguing that he should be tried in Libya despite concerns he may not receive a fair trial there.
The Hague, Netherlands-based court is authorized by the U.N. to try war crimes committed last year as rebels fought the Gadhafi regime. It has issued an arrest warrant for the late dictator's son, Seif al-Islam, on charges of killing and persecuting civilians during the uprising.
The court said Tuesday it had received a formal submission from Libya's new leadership arguing that Seif al-Islam, along with Gadhafi's former military intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senoussi, should be tried on Libyan soil.
Seif al-Islam was captured by rebels last year and is being held in the western town of Zintan, while al-Senoussi was arrested last month in Mauritania. Libya is seeking his extradition.
The conflict between the court and country boils down to the question of whether Libya is capable of conducting a fair trial for the pair.
Under international law, a country has both the right and the duty to prosecute suspected war criminals. However, court spokeswoman Sonia Robla explained Tuesday that once the court has issued an arrest warrant for a suspect, it cannot retract it unless judges believe suspects will be tried for substantially the same crimes they were indicted for, and that they will receive a fair trial.
Libya's filing says it seeks to do exactly that.
"Libya respectfully submits that...its (own) national judicial system is actively investigating Mr. Gadhafi and Mr. al-Senoussi for their alleged criminal responsibility for multiple acts of murder and persecution...amounting to crimes against humanity," the application released Tuesday said.
Human rights groups have expressed concern that Seif al-Islam will not get a fair trial in Libya, especially given the central government's lack of control over some areas _ including Zintan _ in the aftermath of the civil war.
Moammar Gadhafi also was indicted by the ICC, but he was killed by rebels who captured him last year and his case has since been dropped.
The court had set Tuesday as the deadline for a Libyan challenge to its jurisdiction, rejecting the government's requests for more time.
Libya insisted that its desire to try the pair "reflects a genuine willingness and ability to bring the persons concerned to justice."
"To deny the Libyan people this historic opportunity to eradicate the long-standing culture of impunity would be manifestly inconsistent with the object and purpose" of the international court.
The International Criminal Court's Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has said he has evidence linking Seif al-Islam to supervising and planning recruitment of mercenaries to fight last year's uprising. Moreno-Ocampo is cooperating with Libyan authorities. He says ICC judges must ultimately decide whether or not to remand the case to a Libyan court.
"The Libyan general prosecutor has more evidence that confirms our reports and even more that links Seif to more crimes, some (where) he was involved in with his own hands as he executed people," Moreno-Ocampo told The Associated Press last month on a visit to Libya.