Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi, was sentenced to death by a Libyan court on Tuesday for war crimes dating back to the 2011 uprisings and eventual civil war that ripped through the North African country.
The ruling in Tripoli was declared in absentia, as Saif is currently under the hold of a former rebel group in Zintan, a northwestern city in Libya, after attempting to flee into Niger. Because his captors refuse to release him, Saif's previous court appearances have been done through video streaming.
Gaddafi and eight others prominent officials in the country, like former spy chief Abdullah al-Senussi and former Prime Minister Al-Mahmoudi al-Baghdadi, were sentenced to death by firing squad as prosecutors spoke of plans to "quell, by all means, the civil demonstrations against the Gaddafi regime," according to the BBC. Their tactics, according to attorneys, included murdering protestors and inciting violence during the revolution.
The U.N. Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) released a statement on Tuesday in opposition to the sentences, fearing a breach of "international standards in a number of ways."
Claudio Cordone, Director of the Human Rights, Transitional Justice and Rule of Law Division of the UNSMIL, said some of the factors include multiple absences from defendants in several court sessions, their limited access to lawyers and family, and for the prosecution's failure to prove witnesses and documents in court.
"Given these shortcomings, it is particularly worrisome that the court has handed down nine death sentences," Mr. Cordone said. "International standards require that death sentences may only be imposed after proceedings that meet the highest level of respect for fair trial standards. The United Nations opposes the imposition of the death penalty as a matter of principle."
The Human Rights Watch also viewed the trial process unfavorably.
“This trial has been plagued by persistent, credible allegations of fair trial breaches that warrant independent and impartial judicial review,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director for Human Rights Watch, according to the Associated Press. “The victims of the serious crimes committed during the 2011 uprising deserve justice, but that can only be delivered through fair and transparent proceedings.”
Since Colonel Gaddafi's death, an unstable Libya has two groups claiming control over the country, one in Tripoli and another in Tobruk, with no single government in place.
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