Switzerland and Libya have opened the settlement process of their dispute following the arrest and detention of Motassim Bilal Kadhafi (Gaddafi, Qaddafi), a.k.a Hannibal and his wife. Both States have agreed to submit their dispute to an arbitral tribunal so as to assess the legality of the methods used in the arrest of Hannibal Kadhafi and his wife in Geneva, July 2008. The content of the agreement is available on the website of the Swiss Confederation.

Let us briefly sum up the facts that created this dispute. In July 2008, Hannibal Kadhafi and his pregnant wife Aline came to Geneva where Aline intended to give birth. They were arrested at the hotel President Wilson by the Police forces, for having allegedly beaten two of their employees.
The couple remained in jail for two days, and was released after payment of CHF 500'000.-. This arrest caused a crisis between both countries. Colonel Kadhafi, Hannibal's father, demanded that all procedures against his son be dropped, which was initially refused (Hannibal Kadhafi was not entitled to diplomatic protection under the 1961 Vienna Convention). Libya ceased its oil deliveries to Switzerland, withdrew about all its capitals (about CHF 5 billion) and retained two Swiss nationals captive on its territory. In any event, the Colonel would take nothing less that official excuses. The prosecution against Hannibal was dropped, but the crises did not come to an end. On August 20th, the Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz presented the Libyan people with the excuses Colonel Kadhafi had asked for in execution of an agreement entered into by both parties. This agreement also contained an arbitration clause, which we will now detail.

The agreement starts quite surprisingly by stating that the arrest was accompanied by "unjustified and unnecessary measures and actions against" Hannibal and his family. It is also surprising that Hannibal is given the title "diplomat". This being said,the issue should already be resolved: if Hannibal Kadhafi was a diplomat and, in addition to that, the measures were unjustifed and unnecessary, it is doubtful that the arbitrators are actually been asked to decide the case.

Nevertheless, this part of the agreement is named a preamble, and it is therefore not legally binding. For this reason, it is folled by "(the parties) have agreed on the following".

What does this agreement provide for?
The Tribunal shall be composed of three arbitrators. Two are to be appointed by the parties and are to be nationals of third countries (no Libyans, no Swiss) until the 30th of August 2009. These two arbitrators are to appoint the president of the Tribunal. If they cannot agree by the 19th of September, the President of the International Court of Justice (Hisashi Owada).

The Tribunal shall apply relevant national laws (which should mean Swiss law, practically speaking), international conventions, international custom (which might be relevant in terms of the treatment afforded in such situation to the trouble maker) and the "general principles of law and courtesy recognized by civilized nations. I will not comment on that last part which may appear slightly outdated. Customary rules are indeed already taken into account, and the Tribunal will not lose time in determining whether Switzerland and Libya are civilized nations.

The mandate of the Tribunal is to review all the evidence relating to the incident, determine the actions taken by the Geneva police force and review the requests regarding the tribunal's decisions as requested by the parties.

The Arbitration, in English, will take place in London.

The Tribunal is to decide the procedural rules and may apply the rules of arbitration of the treaty of 1908 regarding the Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes.

The final decision is ot be made in sixty days as from the start of the Procedure.

What else?
Besides several provisions regarding what should be done according to the tribunal's decision, I would like to underline the 6th point: Switzerland commits not to repeat this incident in the future against the Libyan citizens or Libyan officials and to improve their treatment and facilitate their procedures. Well... one will feel happy if this does not allow Libyans to behave as they please!

Finally, the parties will also restore their normal relations (which is quite good, practically speaking).

Frankly speaking, this agreement appears perfectly valid... Let's only hope the decision is complied with.