Today the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for the arrest of Colonel Muammar el-Gaddafi and also for his son, Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, and Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi on charges of crimes against humanity on opponents of the regime. According to the Guardian, Sanji Monogeng of Botswana, the presiding judge of the Hague-based ICC, said there is evidence of “a consistent modus operandi … an attack against the civilian population” and that the warrants are necessary to prevent a “cover-up and more crimes.” She further stated that there are “reasonable grounds to believe” that Gaddafi, his son, and Sanoussi are “criminally responsible as indirect co-perpetrators” for the murder and persecution of Libyans in the early days of the popular revolt against Gaddafi’s 40-year rule.
Monageng emphasized that the warrants are not proof of guilt for the three men, who would have to be tried in court. Gaddafi and his forces are accused of shooting at civilians at demonstrations and funeral processions and of ordering snipers to fire on people leaving mosques, says NPR. While these attacks are believed to have occurred in the early days after the revolt broke out on February 15, prosecutors believe that have continued.
The ICC was established in 2002 as a permanent court for trying those accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, if the accused’s own country was either unable or unwilling to do so.
On May 16, the ICC’s chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, had submitted a 74-page dossier of evidence focusing on incidents in Benghazi, Misurata and Tripoli from February 15-20. Following his submission to the court, Moreno-Ocampo said:
“Gaddafi’s plan expressly included the use of lethal force against demonstrators and dissidents.
“Methods used to torture alleged dissidents have included tying electric wires around victims’ genitals and shocking them with electricity and whipping victims with an electric wire after tying them upside down with a rope connected to a stick.”
As Care2 blogger Judy Molland wrote yesterday, among the documents are Gaddafi’s orders “to bombard and starve the people of Misrata.” The UN Security Council has ordered the court to continue to investigate the violence in Libya.
The head of Libya’s opposition National Transitional Council expressed his support for the warrants, says Al Jazeera. As the NTC has “made it clear that the door has been shut to any peaceful political settlement of this conflict,” the fear remains that Gaddafi — “now is a prisoner in his own country” — will hold out to the very end; to death.
Others also think that the warrants could worsen the possibility of a negotiated solution to the conflict. As NPR notes, while the warrant will be sent to Libya it is “large symbolic” as the ICC lacks a police force and has a “patchy record” on actually detaining suspects:
It is unclear how the warrant could restrict Gadhafi’s travels within Africa, since many African states are not ICC signatories and others have declined to act on an ICC arrest warrant for another African leader, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. The Sudanese leader was on his way to China at Beijing’s invitation when the warrant was announced for Gadhafi.
The warrants turn the three men into internationally wanted suspects, potentially complicating any efforts to mediate an end to more than four months of intense fighting in the North African nation.
Al Jazeera says that, despite the warrant, Bashir has traveled to Qatar, Chad and Egypt “without incident.”
Even before the warrant was read out in the Hague, the Gaddafi regime in Tripoli had rejected it and said the Libyan leader is in “high spirits” and in day-to-day control of the country.” On the other hand, at a meeting of African Union leaders in Pretoria, South Africa, Gaddafi had said he would not take part in negotiations to end the conflict.
The announcement of the warrant coincides with the 100th day of NATO’s campaign of airstrikes, says the Guardian; China and Russia have been “unhappy” with the NATO bombing. As the New York Times says, NATO could now “expand its mandate” to include Gaddafi, his son and his intelligence chief although doing so would required that NATO leaders “revise their current policy of limiting alliance action to aerial attacks,” and certainly if any “any overt or covert operations to track down the suspects” were implemented.
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