Abdullah Al-Senussi

25.04.2016 ( Last modified: 08.11.2016 )
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Abdullah Al-Senussi was born on 5 December 1949 in Sudan. He is the brother-in-law of Muammar Gaddafi who ruled Libya from 1969 to 2011 by marrying a sister of Gaddafi’s second wife, Safia Farkash.

He was chief of Libya’s Military Intelligence until at least 20 February 2011 and part of Gaddafi’s entourage.

He is allegedly implied in the following terrorist attacks and massacres:

– In 1996, prisoners at Abu Salim prison in Tripoli protested to demand better conditions and fairer trials. Al-Senussi is accused of having violently responded to this protest by ordering the killing of 1’200 prisoners.

– On 21 December 1988, a Boeing 747 blew up over Lockerbie (Scotland), killing all 259 passengers and 11 persons on the ground. Al-Senussi allegedly hired Abdel Basset Ali Al-Megrahi who was found guilty of orchestrating the bombing and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2001.

– On 19 September 1989, UTA Flight 772 blew up over the Sahara desert in Niger killing 170 people, including 54 French. In March 1999, the French criminal Court of Paris (Cour d’Assises de Paris) found Al-Senussi guilty of masterminding this operation. He was sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment.

– On 15 February 2011, after the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, about 500 demonstrators gathered in front of the police headquarters in Benghazi protesting against the arrest of Fathi Terbil, a Libyan lawyer representing relatives of prisoners allegedly massacred at Abu Salim prison. Senussi allegedly ordered the violent response against the demonstrators. Hundreds of them were killed, injured, arrested and imprisoned.

On 26 February 2011, the United Nations Security Council referred the situation in Libya to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) who decided to open an investigation on 3 March 2011. On 16 May 2011, the ICC Prosecutor requested the issuance of arrest warrants for Muammar Gaddafi, Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi and Abdullah Al-Senussi. Pre-Trial Chamber I of the ICC issued those three arrest warrants on 27 June 2011. Al-Senussi was thus charged with the crimes against humanity of murder and persecution, committed in Benghazi from 15 February 2011 until at least 28 February 2011.


legal procedure

On 17 March 2012, Abdullah Al-Senussi was arrested in Mauritania at Nouakchott airport.

Libya confirmed his arrest and sent an extradition request to the Mauritanian government. Mustafa Abu Shaghour, Deputy Prime Minister of Libya indicated that Al-Senussi will be judged in Libya.

Following his arrest, French authorities also requested Al-Senussi’s extradition because of his life ‘imprisonment conviction regarding the terrorist attack against UTA flight 772 in 1989.

Mauritania intended to put Al-Senussi on trial for forged documents and illegally entering the country

On 20 March 2012, Deputy Prime Minister of Libya said that Mauritania has agreed to extradite Al-Senussi to Libya. On 5 September 2012 Al-Senussi was extradited from Mauritania to Libya.

On 10 September 2012 the ICC sent a note verbale to Libya requesting confirmation of the extradition of Al-Senussi from Mauritania to Libya.

Despite a request of the ICC for the surrender of Al-Senussi to the Court, no answer had been given by Libya in this regard. On 10 December 2012 the ICC reiterated its request to Libya and reminded the country of its obligation to comply with the said request.. The ICC requested Libya to reply not later than 15 January 2013. On 7 January 2013 Libya announced that the trial of Al-Senussi would take place in Libya within the next month, after questioning is completed.

On 7 February 2013 the ICC ordered Libya to hand over Al-Senussi. However, Libya continued to insist that he, along with Saif al-Islam, should be tried in a national court. On 2 April 2013, Libya challenged the admissibility of the case before ICC.At the end of August 2013, Libyan prosecutors said al-Senussi had confessed to collaborating on producing car bombs in Benghazi during the uprisings. His trial, along with the trial of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, was scheduled to start on 19 September 2013.

On 11 October 2013, the Pre-Trial Chamber I of the ICC found al-Senussi’s case inadmissible before the court, because the case is subject to domestic proceedings in Libya, which is able and willing to investigate. On 24 July 2014, the Appeals Chamber of the ICC unanimously confirmed the first instance verdict.

On 14 April 2014, Libyan prosecutors opened the trial against Abdullah al-Senussi, along with more than two dozen other former officials, including Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi and Saadi Gaddafi, the sons of Muammar Gaddafi.

On 28 July 2015, the Libyan criminal Court of Tripoli sentenced Al-Senussi and Saif al-Islam to death by firing squad for war crimes committed during the Libyan revolution in 2011.

The verdict is currently under appeal before the Libyan Supreme Court.




In 1969, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi got to power and ruled the country in an autocratic regime until 2011, when anti-authoritarian protests swept through the Arab world and his government was overturned. On 15 February 2011, Libyan human rights campaigners were arrested in Benghazi (Eastern Libya), sparking clashes with security forces, which rapidly spread throughout the country resulting in an uprising against the Gaddafi regime. Many were killed and injured as the government forcefully tried to suppress the revolt. In March 2011, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution establishing a no-fly zone over Libya and authorizing air strikes to protect civilians, of which NATO assumed command. The main opposition group, the National Transitional Council (NTC), was recognized by some Western nations as the legitimate government of Libya. In August 2011, a major offensive by the rebels enabled them to enter the capital Tripoli. Gaddafi was forced to go into hiding, while his wife and three children fled to Algeria. On 20 October 2011, Colonel Gaddafi was captured and killed. The NTC took control of the country and in August 2012, handed over power to Libya’s newly elected parliament, the General National Congress. In November 2012, the new government was sworn in and started preparing the country for a new constitution and parliamentary elections.


Many abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, such as targeting civilians or paramedics, torture and enforced disappearances, were reported during the uprising. On 25 February 2011, the Human Rights Council established the International Commission of Inquiry to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law in Libya. The Commission reached the conclusion that international crimes, specifically crimes against humanity and war crimes have been committed in Libya by both the Government and the rebel forces.

The UN Security Council referred the situation in Libya to the International Criminal Court (ICC), which sought the arrest warrant of the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, his son Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi and intelligence chief Abdullah Al-Senussi for crimes against humanity. However, Libya’s cooperation with the ICC remains limited. In May 2012, Libya filed an admissibility challenge to the ICC’s jurisdiction requiring the pending cases to be transferred to its domestic judiciary. The ICC has yet to decide upon the referral of the cases to Libya.

In May 2013, the ICC pre-trial chamber I rejected the objection of inadmissibility regarding Al-Islam. The Court has reaffirmed its competence to judge Gaddafi’s son for crimes against humanity, arguing that current investigations by the national Libyan authorities were not covering the same facts and behaviours as those under the ICC’s mandate. Today, Libya has not made any steps towards the surrendering of Al-Islam to the Court.

In October 2013, the Court has nonetheless decided that Al-Senussi will be judged in Libya. It has indeed considered that the current investigations in front of the Libyan tribunals are in accordance with the principle of complementarity.


Challenges also arise in relation to domestic prosecutions of persons suspected of having committed crimes against humanity or war crimes. On 2 May 2012, the Libyan authorities adopted a blanket amnesty law granting immunity to former rebels who fought to oust Gaddafi’s regime. The immunity covers military, security or civilian acts undertaken by revolutionaries with the aim of ensuring the revolution’s success and its goal, thus applying to everyone from the rebel forces and for every crime. This effectively bars any prosecution of international crimes committed by the opposition and is debatable in light of the findings of the International Commission of Inquiry about the commission of international crimes by both parties.



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