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GENEVA (Reuters) - The trial of a son of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi fell short of international standards and the appeals court should review the sentence of death passed in absentia or order a re-trial, the United Nations said on Tuesday.
"This trial was a missed opportunity for justice," U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in a statement.
The U.N. said in a report that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi should also face separate charges of crimes against humanity, including murder and persecution, at the International Criminal Court (ICC) that is seeking his surrender.
Since his father's toppling in 2011, Saif has been held in Zintan, a mountainous western region, by one of the factions that began contending for power after Gaddafi was killed.
He was sentenced to death in July 2015 by a Tripoli court for war crimes, including killing protesters during the revolution. Zintani forces refused to hand him over, saying they did not trust Tripoli to guarantee he does not escape.
The U.N. report on the trial of 37 defendants including Saif cited serious violations of due process, such as prolonged incommunicado detention without access to families or lawyers, and allegations of torture that were not properly investigated.
The proceedings "fell short of international norms and standards for fair trial and also breached Libyan law in some respects", it said. No prosecution witnesses were called to testify, undermining the defendants' ability to challenge evidence.
Appeals are pending at Libya's Court of Cassation.
"We are calling on the Court of Cassation in particular to take into full account the due process violations that we have identified and to take remedial action," Claudio Cordone, the U.N. human rights representative in Libya, told a news briefing by telephone.
"The court can either change the verdict themselves or can send back the case for retrial by the same court of first instance or by another one," he said.
Saif, former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi and former Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi a-Mahmoudi were among nine defendants sentenced to death by firing squad.
"The Libyan Government has been unable to secure the arrest and surrender of (Gaddafi), who remains in Zintan and is considered to be outside the control of the internationally-recognised Libyan authorities," the U.N. report said.
It called on Libyan authorities to ensure the surrender of Saif to the Hague-based ICC, "in compliance with Libya’s international obligations". The ICC does not allow the death penalty.
"We believe that Libya should comply with Security Council resolutions and they should hand him over," Cordone said. "To the extent that he remains in Libya, obviously he should be tried fairly."
Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Ralph Boulton