LONDON: Proving that Saif al-Islam Qadhafi gave direct orders for regime forces to open fire on peaceful protesters would be the “key question” for prosecutors at the international criminal court (ICC).

If Muammar Qadhafi’s highest profile son is taken into custody at The Hague, he will attend a confirmation of charges hearing where three judges rule whether he has a case to answer.

They would examine evidence linking Saif al-Islam to charges of crimes against humanity for the bombing and shooting of civilian protesters in February. If it is found to be too weak, the case against him would collapse, allowing him to walk free.

Richard Dicker, director of the international justice programme at Human Rights Watch, said: “The challenge for the prosecution will be making the connection between the killing of peaceful protesters in February and the orders Saif al-Islam allegedly gave to the security forces to open fire. It’s what lawyers call ‘command responsibility’. This will be the key question on which the prosecution must satisfy the judges.”

The same issue has arisen in previous cases involving defendants from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and post-election violence in Kenya.

Dicker added: “Often such orders are not written down. If that is the case, the prosecution relies on oral testimony from insider witnesses.” But history is against Saif al-Islam escaping a full trial. —Dawn/Guardian News Service

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