Saif al-Islam Gaddafi after his capture in southern Libya (Photo: Reuters/Ismail Zitouni)
Last month Luis Moreno-Ocampo, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, said he would not demand that Saif al-Islam be handed over to the Hague-based court to face charges of crimes against humanity even though he has no guarantee that a Libyan trial would be fully fair.
Fred Abrahams of the New York-based group Human Rights Watch visited Muammar Gaddafi's son for 30 minutes on Sunday in Zintan, Libya. "Saif al-Islam Gaddafi says he is getting good food and medical care - he had no complaints about the physical conditions of his detention," Abrahams said in a statement.
"His main concern was the lack of access to family and to a lawyer who can help his case," he said.
The International Criminal Court indicted Saif al-Islam along with his father and Libya's former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi over their alleged involvement in the killing of protesters during the revolt that toppled Muammar Gaddafi in August.
The National Transitional Council, which led the revolt that began in February, has repeatedly said it will not hand over Saif al-Islam and will ensure that he faces a fair trial in Libya. Libyan authorities arrested Saif al-Islam on Nov. 19, a month after his father was captured and killed.
"Saif al-Islam Gaddafi deserves his due process rights, and so too do the more than 8,000 other people in detention across Libya without access to a lawyer," Abrahams said. "They should be properly investigated and brought as soon as possible before an independent judge," he said.
Last month, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Libya's former rebels were holding some 7,000 detainees, many of them sub-Saharan Africans, without access to due legal process after the country's civil war.
Ban cited reports that some detainees had been tortured, that some people had been targeted because of their skin color, that women were held under male supervision without female guards and that children were being detained alongside adults.
Saif al-Islam told Abrahams that he has received visits from the general prosecutor, Abdelaziz al-Hasadi, and various Libyan government officials. The International Committee of the Red Cross has said it visited him as well.
Hasadi told Human Rights Watch that Saif al-Islam would have access to a lawyer the moment he is in a secure facility in Tripoli that will protect him from harm and prevent him from escaping. Under Libya's code of criminal procedure, the state must allow a detainee access to a lawyer during an investigation if he or she asks for one, the group said in its statement.
International standards, including the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, require giving defendants access to a lawyer within 48 hours of arrest, the group said.
The International Criminal Court judges have asked for further information related to Libya's request to try Saif al-Islam in Libya. Human Rights Watch said the Libyan authorities have until Jan. 10 to respond.
Hasadi also told the group that he had opened an investigation into alleged corruption by Saif al-Islam before the civil war.