Legally Brunette! Amal Clooney in legal bid to save Saif Gaddafi from the death sentence

Published August 2nd, 2015 - 10:13 GMT
Lawyer Amal Clooney wants the International Criminal Court to listen to Saif Gaddafi's case. (File photo)
Lawyer Amal Clooney wants the International Criminal Court to listen to Saif Gaddafi's case. (File photo)

Amal Clooney – the barrister and glamorous wife of Hollywood actor George Clooney – has made an 11th-hour bid to save the lives of the son of Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi and his hated spy chief.

Saif Gaddafi and the former intelligence boss Abdullah al-Senussi were sentenced to death in a Tripoli court last week for crimes against the Libyan people.

Mrs Clooney’s legal chambers represent both Gaddafi and al-Senussi, and have argued that they should be put on trial in the Hague.

She has played a leading role in the bid for the spy chief to have his case heard by judges from the International Criminal Court – where there is no death penalty. 

Last night her London chambers Doughty Street described the Libya trial as a travesty of justice and called on the United Nations to halt the executions. Gaddafi and al-Senussi have been told they will be killed by firing squad.

Lead counsel Ben Emmerson QC – speaking on behalf of the legal team acting in the case – told The Mail on Sunday that Mrs Clooney was one of three lawyers working for al-Senussi and that her Doughty Street colleague John Jones QC had been appointed to act for Gaddafi. 

Mr Emmerson said the two cases were closely linked as legal arguments centred on the failure of Libyan courts to hold a fair trial.

He said: ‘The trial has been conducted in an atmosphere of extreme fear, insecurity and intimidation in which judicial officers and defence lawyers have been threatened and physically attacked.’

He added: ‘As his international lawyers, we have been repeatedly denied access to him [al-Senussi] – this is an outrage and reveals the true depravity of the Libyan justice system. 

'It has descended to the lowest levels imaginable. We call on the Security Council and the whole international community to end this grave injustice and take all steps to overturn the death sentence immediately and uphold international human rights standards.’

In a separate statement, Mr Jones said: ‘It’s a complete show trial, a farce. This trial is effectively being run by militia.’

More than 30 associates of Colonel Gaddafi were tried last week for suppressing peaceful protests during the 2011 uprisings which deposed the dictator.

Saif Gaddafi was not in court, but has previously appeared via video link. 

However Mr Jones said the link had worked on only three occasions, leaving him in the dark about the proceedings. ‘They [Tripoli prosecutors] are relying on confessions from defendants extracted by torture. It was condemned by Libya’s own ministry of justice as illegal.’

Gaddafi is being held by a former rebel group from the town of Zintan which refuses to hand him over to the authorities in Tripoli.

Al-Senussi has previously been linked to the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. And in 1999 he was convicted in absentia in France for his role in the bombing of an airliner over Niger ten years earlier. 

However, for ordinary Libyans, his name will always be associated with the 1996 massacre of 1,200 inmates at Tripoli’s Abu Salim prison.

Mrs Clooney’s high-profile client list already includes Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, and Yulia Tymoshenko, former prime minister of Ukraine. 

A spokesman for Mrs Clooney said: ‘[Mrs Clooney’s] involvement as counsel for Mr Senussi was limited to the case against him before the International Criminal Court (ICC), in which she argued that he should be tried for crimes against humanity in The Hague (which does not apply the death penalty) rather than Libya.

‘The ICC proceedings came to an end on 24 July 2014, when the ICC Appeals Chamber ruled that the case against Mr Senussi was inadmissible.’

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