THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Libyan authorities insisted Tuesday they can and will hold a fair trial for one of late dictator Moammar Gadhafi's sons, and they appealed an International Criminal Court order for them to hand him over.
The National Transitional Council also hinted that tribal rivalries in Libya stand in the way of transferring Seif al-Islam Gadhafi to a foreign court, saying it has been negotiating "for some time" with rebels holding him in the western town of Zintan just to have him moved to a jail in Tripoli.
"Given the situation in Libya, this has not been a straightforward task and has demonstrated to the Libyan government the considerable difficulties which it would face if it had to immediately arrange for the surrender of Mr. Gadhafi to The Hague," the written appeal said.
The council says prosecuting Seif al-Islam in Libya rather than The Hague is, "a matter of the highest national importance, not only in bringing justice for the Libyan people but also in demonstrating that the new Libyan justice system is capable of conducting fair trials."
The world's first permanent war crimes tribunal is locked in a legal tug-of-war with Libya's National Transitional Council over who should try Seif al-Islam, who was captured last year.
Libya said Monday that he will be tried there soon on charges of rape, murder and corruption with a verdict expected by mid-June. A trial in The Hague would likely take many months.
The announcement came despite repeated calls from rights groups to hand him over to the International Criminal Court due to fears that he may not get a fair trial in Libya.
Seif was indicted by ICC prosecutors on charges of murdering and persecuting civilians in the early days of the uprising that toppled his father's regime last year.
Moammar Gadhafi also was indicted, but his case was dropped after he was killed by a mob of rebels who captured him during the final days of Libya's civil war.
In its written appeal to the court, the National Transitional Council says it has "expended considerable resources" to ensure Seif al-Islam is safe in Zintan.
"The Libyan government is very mindful of the unfortunate way in which Moammar Gadhafi passed away and of the perilous situation which Mr. Gadhafi would face if he were not adequately protected while in custody," the filing said.
Libyan authorities say they are negotiating with rebels in Zintan to move Seif al-Islam to a "better equipped detention facility in Tripoli, that meets applicable international standards."
A defense lawyer at the International Criminal Court assigned to protect Seif al-Islam's interests told judges last week that the defendant has been attacked while in detention and is in pain due to lack of dental treatment.
Libyan authorities have told the International Criminal Court they plan to challenge its jurisdiction in the case, but judges say until that challenge is filed the authorities in Tripoli remain under obligation to surrender Seif al-Islam.
Tuesday's written filing formally appealed that decision, arguing that Libya already has begun its jurisdiction challenge and therefore should be allowed to postpone Seif al-Islam's surrender.
The International Criminal Court is a tribunal of last resort that prosecutes the most senior suspects of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in countries unwilling or unable to hold such trials.
However, it has no police force to arrest suspects and can only launch investigations in the around 120 countries that have signed its founding treaty or if the United Nations Security Council orders it to step in, as it did in Libya.