The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) requested arrest warrants Monday for Libyan leader Colonel Muammar el-Gaddafi, his second oldest on Saif al-Islam and his brother-in-law and intelligence chief Abdullah al Sanoussi.
Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said his office plans to investigate others, but right now Moreno-Ocampo claims he can directly trace evidence of attacks on civilians and other crimes against humanity to Gaddafi, his son and his brother-in-law, citing his belief that the three operated as an “inner circle,” orchestrating the killing of peaceful protesters, with Saif al-Islam operating as a “de facto prime minister,” the Guardian said.
Moreno-Ocampo and his team gathered their evidence after traveling to 11 countries, conducting interviews with about 50 key witnesses and reviewing videos and more than 1,200 documents.
If the ICC judges approve the warrant for Gaddafi, it would only be the second time the ICC has sought a warrant for a sitting head of state, the BBC pointed out. (The first is Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who has been indicted for genocide in Darfur.)
Moreno-Ocampo discussed his request at a press conference at ICC headquarters in The Hague, as CNN reported:
“The evidence shows that civilians were attacked in their homes; demonstrations were repressed using live ammunition; heavy artillery was used against participants in funeral processions, and snipers placed to kill those leaving the mosques after the prayers,” Moreno-Ocampo said.
“The evidence shows that persecution is still ongoing in the areas under Gadhafi control,” he said. “Gadhafi’s forces prepare lists with names of alleged dissidents. They are being arrested, put into prisons in Tripoli, tortured and made to disappear.”
Authorities believe Gadhafi “personally ordered” attacks on unarmed civilians, he said, and al-Sanussi is “his right-hand man, the executioner.”
The Libyan government said it will ignore the Court’s announcement since Libya doesn’t recognize the ICC’s jurisdiction and claims the ICC was set up by the European Union in order to prosecute African leaders.
Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khalid Kaim dismissed the potential ICC action, saying that because Libya is not a signatory of the Rome Statute — which established the ICC — the government will “just ignore it,” CNN said.
The ICC has no police force of its own, and as MSNBC noted,
The warrants are not expected to have any immediate impact on the war in Libya, but they could make it harder for their targets to end the conflict by going into exile. Because the Security Council ordered the ICC investigation, all U.N. member states would be obliged to arrest him if he ventures into their territory.
However, even if Gaddafi flees Libya, some nations have refused to act on arrest warrants. For example, three countries have let Sudan’s Bashir visit without arresting him, MSNBC also said.
CNN pointed out that Moreno-Ocampo’s request for the arrest warrants:
was the first time the International Criminal Court has taken action while a conflict was ongoing. It is the culmination of an investigation that began February 15, when demonstrations against Gadhafi’s regime accelerated. Since then, war has erupted in Libya as the strongman has tried to stay firm on his grip on power.
“Gadhafi ruled Libya through fear,” Moreno-Ocampo said Monday, “and I think Libyans are losing that fear.”
Moreno-Ocampo will present the evidence to the Criminal Court’s panel of three judges who will decide whether or not to accept the request, or to ask for more evidence. That decision should come in three to four weeks. In addition, as the BBC noted, “an inquiry set up by the UN Human Rights Council is expected to submit its report on the alleged war crimes to the UN Security Council on 7 June.”
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