ICC prosecutor: 'Game over' for Gaddafi in 2-3 months

"It is a matter of time ... Gaddafi will face charges. The arrest warrants are not going away," Hague prosecutor says.

By REUTERS
June 28, 2011 18:29
3 minute read.
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Muammar Gaddafi 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

TRIPOLI/AMSTERDAM - The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor said on Tuesday it could be "game over" within months for Muammar Gaddafi, but China reacted cautiously to the issuing of an arrest warrant for the Libyan leader on charges of crimes against humanity.

"Today, it is time for arrests," ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told reporters in The Hague, a day after the ICC approved warrants for Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam and Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi.

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"It is a matter of time ... Gaddafi will face charges. The arrest warrants are not going away."

He added: "I don't think we will have to wait for long...In two or three months it is game over."

Prosecutors allege the three men were involved in the killing of civilian protesters who rose up in February against Gaddafi's 41-year rule. Rebels have pushed to within 80 km (50 miles) of the capital Tripoli.

China stopped short of condemning or endorsing the court's action. "China hopes the ICC can prudently, justly and objectively carry out its duties, and ensure that its relevant work genuinely aids regional peace and stability," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said when asked about the warrants.

China has denounced the ICC's war crimes indictment of Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who is currently on a state visit in Beijing. He and Gaddafi are the only sitting heads of state facing warrants from the court.

Beijing generally avoids entangling itself in the domestic affairs of other nations and has been skeptical about the NATO military operation to shore up rebels fighting Gaddafi.

But Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told Libyan rebel leaders last week that they had become an "important domestic political force" in the country.

NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said the ICC arrest warrants demonstrated why NATO -- which has been riven by disputes over a costly operation that has dragged on longer than some foresaw -- must continue until it fulfills its UN mandate.

"The arrest warrants are yet another signal from the international community to the Gaddafi regime: 'Your place is on trial, not in power in Tripoli'," she told a press briefing. But she added it was not up to NATO to enforce the warrant.

Bulgaria and Croatia added their names on Tuesday to the list of now 21 countries who have recognized the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC), based in Benghazi in east Libya, as the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people.

Anti-Gaddafi rebels based in the Western Mountains region southwest of Tripoli made their biggest breakthrough in weeks on Sunday to reach the town of Bir al-Ghanam, where they are now fighting pro-Gaddafi forces for control, their spokesman said.

The move took them 30 km (18 miles) north of their previous position and closer to Tripoli, Gaddafi's main power base.

A rebel spokesman said there had been further fighting on Monday. "Fighting broke out yesterday evening in Bir Ayad and Bir al-Ghanem. The (government) brigades used Grad rockets. The fighting stopped later after strikes by NATO," he said.

"The brigades bombarded Nalut last night... The humanitarian situation is still the same. We are without electricity and water."

A rebel spokesman in Misrata said Gaddafi's forces struck at the Mediterranean coastal city some 200 km (125 miles) east of Tripoli overnight.

"Gaddafi's forces bombarded Misrata last night. There were no casualties, thank God. Today the situation is quiet for the moment," said the spokesman, who gave his name as Youssef.

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