TRIPOLI, Libya — If Moammar Gaddafi ever needs a legal defense team at The Hague, he may already have his men.
Former French foreign minister Roland Dumas, whose career was plagued by scandal and who served as an attorney for Saddam Hussein, turned up in Tripoli on Sunday alongside Jacques Verges, a man nicknamed “the Devil’s Advocate” for defending some of the world’s most notorious figures, including Klaus Barbie and Carlos the Jackal.
They came to the Libyan capital to take up a case against NATO on behalf of 13 families who say their relatives have been killed in alliance airstrikes. The pair said they were also ready to defend Libya’s leader at the International Criminal Court if needed and invited.
“In that case we would say yes,” the 88-year-old Dumas said. “But we believe it will not happen.”
ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has asked judges to issue arrest warrants against Gaddafi and two senior regime members, alleging crimes against humanity during a brutal crackdown on unrest.
Dumas and Verges also showed up in Ivory Coast in late 2010 to defend Laurent Gbagbo, the former president who refused to accept his election defeat to Alassane Outtara last year and was eventually arrested in April after a bloody conflict.
Two days after Russia said Gaddafi should leave Libya, the appearance of Dumas and Verges could be seen as an indication of the Libyan leader’s growing international isolation.
Dumas resigned as president of France’s Constitutional Court in 1999 after being accused of involvement in a corruption scandal. His mistress went to jail, but he was eventually acquitted. He did, however, serve a 12-month suspended prison sentence in 2007 for misappropriating funds while acting as executor of a will.
At Cambodia’s genocide tribunal, Verges defended Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Sampan against charges of involvement in the deaths of up to 2 million people from 1975 to 1979. Barbie, another past client, was an SS captain nicknamed “the Butcher of Lyon” for torturing and killing thousands of people.
But the lawyer said his eyes filled with tears when he met victims of NATO airstrikes at a Tripoli hospital over the weekend.
If they do not succeed in winning a case against NATO in Europe, Dumas said, the men could take the case to a new “international law” court being set up in Bolivia in what may be a left-wing attempt to establish a rival to the ICC.