Saturday, October 29, 2011

Dr Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi and the ICC

(As the badge says, LSE exists "To know the causes of things" - like who wrote Saif al-Islam's thesis....)

I was asked the other day by a Middlebury undergrad who is writing a thesis on NATO's intervention in Kosovo for proof that international law exists - or is at least effective.* And whilst it is possible to make lots of theoretical arguments, there is nothing like a good practical example to demonstrate that international law has teeth by changing behaviours - most notably of those who would otherwise see themselves as beyond the reach of the law. 

Few in 2011 have been as far beyond the reach of the law as Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, especially after his "Rivers of Blood" speech on 21 Feb 11. Yet following military defeat and his indictment by the ICC, it is reported today that he has contacted the ICC through intermediaries to arrange his surrender to the Court. Naturally, the man that the ICC indictment refers to as the "de facto Prime Minister of Libya" protests his innocence, but it is telling that he's attempting to arrange his surrender - though clearly his limited other options and the absence of capital punishment make an ICC trial more attractive than being on the run in Libya.

And as for Saif al-Islam's PhD? Well, the London School of Economics** has referred its authorship to the University of London under the Procedure for Consideration of Allegations of Irregularity in Relation to University of London Awards. LSE now runs itself, but in 2008 when Saif al-Islam was awarded his PhD, it was still granting degrees via the University of London, and it is Senate House that will investigate the situation; a report is due later this year. At least there will be plenty of time for the ICC Registry to work out whether it needs to address its new defendant as "Dr Saif al-Islam" or simply "Mr. Gaddafi"....

*Eoin, I agree this is something of a simplification of your question.

** I loved my time at the LSE, and as painful as it is to see it's name blackened by the ill-judged Libyan connection, the Woolf Report should provide a solid foundation for transparency when it is published.


Kyle said...

Toby, what behaviour is international law changing? I respectfully submit that this example demonstrates A) more that Mr. Gaddafi doesn't want to be tortured (like the former intelligence chief) or murdered (like his father). Spending his the next few decades in a dutch prison seems far nicer, and; B) in many ways demonstrates the counter factual of your argument and highlights the political nature of the international law.

I think that your argument works better if you can demonstrate that international law has an effect on an individuals actions before they committed a crime. Granted, this standard of alternate histories is always tough to demonstrate.

Moreover, one might argue that the more 'de-facto prime ministers' who are arrested, the better for the future deterrent value of the international law project. However, at present I still stand with your student that international law, at least in the criminal realm, stands on a weak foundation at best.

Toby's Random Musings said...

Kyle, hi

Poorly worded perhaps - I agree that Saif al-Islam's conversion to the ICC process is unlikely to be the direct result of anything other than narrow self-interest, but the fact that the situation was referred comparatively early (though we await a similar reference for Syria by the UNSC) and that the role of international justice is becoming a recurrent theme in post-conflict situations is the change I was pointing to.

And am sadly stuck in VT due to the weather!