Abuzaid Dorda

23.04.2016 ( Last modified: 29.09.2016 )
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Abuzaid Dorda was born on 4 April 1944 in Rhebat, Libya.

Dorda entered politics as Governor of the Misrata Province in 1970 until 1972. From 1972 until 1974, he served as Minister of Information and Culture, and from 1974 until 1976 as Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs. In 1990, he became Prime Minister, and in 1997 he became Libya’s Permanent Representative at the UN until 2003. On April 12, 2009, Dorda had been appointed to head the Libyan intelligence service, replacing Moussa Koussa.

Due to his loyalty to the Gaddafi regime, he is considered to be implicated in the crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during the repression of the civil protests and the non-international armed conflict that followed between 15 February and 30 March 2011.

On 15 February 2011, a series of protests and confrontations started in Libya that led to a large popular uprising. Within a week, it spread across the country, including its capital Tripoli. Gaddafi’s Regime responded with a military crackdown on protestors and civilians, recruiting foreign mercenaries to supplement his forces as the Eastern part of the country was falling under control of the rebel forces and parts of the military defected.

By the end of February 2011 the rebels formed a government called the National Transitional Council (NTC) based in Benghazi. According to the information of human rights groups, Gaddafi’s forces are responsible for alleged killings in Tripoli, where 228 or more people died in air strikes; in Benghazi where bombing also allegedly killed some 257 people; and in the towns of Misrata, Brega, Derna, Zenten and Ajdabiya where air strikes and attacks by security forces were allegedly responsible for at least 40 deaths.

On 31 March 2011, Dorda was reported to have been in Tunisia, awaiting flight out of the country.

The U.N. Security Council, in a unanimous decision on 26 February 2011, instructed the International Criminal Court to investigate into the Libyan crisis that was described as “widespread and systematic attacks currently taking place against the civilian population [which] may amount to crimes against humanity”. The United Nations Security Council also passed a resolution freezing the assets of Gaddafi and ten members of his inner circle and restricting their travel.

ICC Prosecutor Jose Luis Moreno Ocampo announced within a week that he had launched an investigation and had identified several suspects. He announced a probe into Gaddafi, three of his sons and key aides, including Dorda, for crimes against humanity arising from the crackdown on Libya’s popular revolt. He has also declared that he has enough proof that crimes against humanity have occurred in Libya.

On 11 September 2011, Dorda was arrested by forces of the NTC.


legal procedure

On 11 September 2011, Dorda was arrested by forces of the NTC.

His trial before a Libyan court was scheduled for 26 June 2012 but his defence counsel requested more time to prepare the case. Therefore the beginning of proceedings was postponed initially until 10 July 2012 and later until 28 August 2012.

On 24 October 2013, the Tripoli Court brought formal charges against Dorda, citing serious crimes committed during the 17 February 2011 uprising in Libya. The crimes Dorda was charged with included, “mobilising security forces to fire bullets at the heads and chest of civilians,” “preventing, through use of force and intimidation, the staging of peaceful protests,” and “arming his ethnic group with the purpose of inciting civil strife.”

On 28 July 2015, Dorda was convicted and sentenced to death. He was one of nine defendants, out of 32, that were sentenced to death in relation to charges of serious crimes committed during Libya’s 2011 uprising. The trial began in March 2014 and ended in May 2015.




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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