By David Hearst
Leaked documents show the court looked into the exiled Fatah leader in 2012, for his alleged involvement with Saif al-Gaddafi.
Exiled Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan has been investigated by the International Criminal Court for his involvement with Saif al-Gaddafi, documents seen by Middle East Eye can reveal.
In late 2012, the ICC’s prosecutor Fatou Bensouda wrote to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas seeking assistance from the Palestinian government as part of the court’s investigation into the Libyan civil war.
“In furtherance of this investigation, my office seeks the assistance of the Government of Palestine in relation to the alleged involvement of two Palestinian nationals, Mohammed DAHALAN and Mohamed Borhan RASHID,” the letter reads, “whose involvement with Saif Al-Gaddafi, Abdullah Al Senussi, and other individuals potentially most responsible for the most serious crimes under the Rome Statute, is of concern to the Office.”
“My Office seeks your assistance in identifying details of their relation to such crimes, including potentially aiding and abetting their commission,” the letter adds.
MEE has been unable to establish whether the ICC investigation is ongoing.
The letter explains that in accordance with the Rome Statute, the ICC has jurisdiction with respect to matters including war crimes and crimes against humanity.
A spokesperson for the ICC, in comments to MEE, said it could not comment on an investigation which might be ongoing.
“As a matter of policy, the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court does not comment on queries relating to any investigative activities it may or may not be conducting,” the ICC said in a statement.
In March 2011, the ICC opened an investigation into the situation in Libya, where the Arab Spring ignited an uprising against the decades-long rule of Muammar Gaddafi, following UN Security Council Resolution 1970.
An arrest warrant was issued for Saif al-Gaddafi by the ICC in June 2011 for two counts of crimes against humanity.
He is wanted for “his alleged criminal responsibility for the commission of murder and persecution of civilians as crimes against humanity from 15 February 2011 onwards throughout Libya.”
In coordination with his father, the arrest warrant states, Saif al-Gaddafi Islam “conceived and orchestrated a plan to deter and quell, by all means, the civilian demonstrations against Gaddafi’s regime.”
The second son of the former leader was released in June this year after being held hostage by a militia in the western city of Zintan for six years. It is unclear where he is now residing.
But after his release, the ICC reiterated its demand that Libyan authorities arrest Gaddafi and surrender him to the court.
PA’s own investigation
In April 2011, the PA announced that it was itself investigating Dahlan over his alleged role in the transfer of Israeli weapons to the Gaddafi government.
The ICC investigation was launched after Libyan rebels accused the Fatah leader, who has lived in exile in the UAE since June 2011, of being involved in the transfer. Dahlan at the time denied the charges, according to Palestinian media.
Mattia Toaldo, a Libya expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations, was sceptical of the ICC interest in Dahlan in 2012, and expressed caution towards any focus that may have begun with Mahmoud Abbas, Dahlan’s rival, but said it appeared Dahlan was now involved in the chaotic Libyan political scene.
“Dahlan is allegedly involved in Libya now through his support for anti-Islamist media but I have no evidence of any role in 2011,” Toaldo said, adding that he had heard from several sources that Dahlan is currently providing support to certain media outlets in Libya.
Dahlan and Saif al-Islam Gaddafi met in Spain before the Arab Spring, according to a cable from 2010, published by Wikileaks.
The younger Gaddafi was at the time “trying to position himself as the new face of the regime and as a successor to his father,” according to Mohamed Eljarh, Libya expert and non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council, and thus “There was a motive for Saif to meet with Dahlan.”
‘Saif al-Islam was trying to portray himself as a mediator, I am sure he would have wanted to play a role there, in the Palestinian peace process’ – Mohamed Eljarh, Libya expert
“Saif al-Islam was trying to portray himself as a mediator, I am sure he would have wanted to play a role there, in the Palestinian peace process,” Eljarh told MEE.
Today, Eljarh believes, Saif al-Islam is likely considering a return to the complicated frontline of Libyan politics.
“I think Saif would want to make a political comeback, but he faces a number of obstacles, not least that he is wanted by the general prosecutor in Libya, and by the ICC.”
When MEE contacted Dahlan to ask him about his alleged involvement with Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, whether he was aware his alleged relationship was or is the subject of an ICC investigation into war crimes, and whether he broke the UN arms embargo on Libya, Dahlan’s London lawyers, Tweed, declined to respond, stating that the allegations are “politically motivated” and that MEE was allowing itself to be “used as a vehicle for recycling unsubstantiated defamatory material”.
Mohamed Borhan Rashid, also named in the ICC letter, is a former economic adviser to Yasser Arafat who fell out of favour with the PA following Arafat’s death. He is now believed to live between Cairo and London.
Rashid could not be reached for comment.
UAE breached arms embargo
The PA recently said that Dahlan and Rashid would head a list of fugitives that it will ask Interpol to pursue, after Palestine became a member of the global policing body in September.
In 2012, a court in Ramallah found Rashid guilty, in absentia, of embezzlement and money laundering and he was sentenced to 15 years in prison and a $15 million fine.
He has also been accused of involvement in corrupt, multi-million-dollar business deals in Montenegro, where he is thought to have worked alongside Dahlan.
He is believed to be an Iraqi-Kurd, with Canadian citizenship, although the ICC letter refers to him as a Palestinian national.
The UAE itself has breached a UN arms embargo on Libya, providing gunships and armoured vehicles to forces loyal to Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar, who leads the Libyan National Army militia, based in the east of the country, and who is backed by Egypt.
David Hearst is a veteran Middle East correspondent based in Beirut. He attended Rugby School from 1949 to 1954 and performed his national service in Egypt and Cyprus from 1954 to 1956