ICC Prosecutor seeks Gaddafi arrest over protest deaths

Int'l Criminal Court accuses Gaddafi of crimes against humanity; Libyan official says ICC is "EU baby designed for prosecuting African leaders."

By REUTERS
May 16, 2011 15:15
2 minute read.
Muammar Gaddafi appears on State TV

Gaddafi on state TV 311. (photo credit: REUTERS/Libyan TV)

THE HAGUE - An international prosecutor on Monday sought an arrest warrant for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi accusing him of committing crimes against humanity by killing protesters during an uprising against his 41-year rule.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, International Criminal Court prosecutor, also asked judges, who now need to see if there is enough evidence to issue warrants, for the arrest of Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam and his spy chief Abdullah al-Senussi.

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Moreno-Ocampo signalled his action earlier this month when said he would seek three arrests for the "pre-determined" killing of protesters in Libya after the UN Security Council referred the violence to the Hague-based court in February.

"The office gathered direct evidence about orders issued by Muammar Gaddafi himself, direct evidence of Saif al-Islam organising the recruitment of mercenaries and direct evidence of the participation of al-Senussi in the attacks against demonstrators," Moreno-Ocampo said at the ICC on Monday.

The prosecutor moved with unprecedented speed in his investigation into the early violence in the uprising against Gaddafi's rule, with the request for arrest warrants coming just 2-1/2 months after the Security Council referral.

He added the office of the prosecutor also documented how the three held meetings "to plan the operations" and Gaddafi used his "absolute authority to commit crimes in Libya."

Libyan officials have already denounced the ICC prosecutor's action, saying the court is a creation of the West for prosecuting African leaders.

Thousands of people have been killed in the conflict in Libya, the bloodiest of the revolts which have convulsed the Middle East in what has been called the "Arab Spring".

Libyan officials deny killing civilians, saying instead they were forced to take action against criminal armed gangs and al Qaeda militants. They say a NATO bombing campaign is an act of colonial aggression aimed at grabbing Libya's oil.

Moreno-Ocampo said the swiftness of his investigation stems from global consensus that the crimes committed in Libya had to be investigated, although judges will now need to decide whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed with the warrants.

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He said the office of the prosecutor documented how the three named held meetings "to plan the operations" and Gaddafi used his "absolute authority to commit crimes in Libya."

The ICC has no police force and relies on member states to enforce arrests. Despite NATO bombing operations intended to protect civilians, Libya has been plunged into civil war, seriously complicating efforts to arrest ICC suspects.

Libya is not an ICC member state and is therefore not obliged to arrest the court's suspects.

Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim hit out at the ICC.

"The practices of the ICC are questionable. It's a baby of the European Union designed for (prosecuting) African politicians and leaders," Kaim said.


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