The International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants Monday for LIbyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and two of his relatives. ICC Judge Sanji Mmasenono Monageng read aloud the decision to issue warrants for Gadhafi, his son Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, and his brother-in-law Abdullah al-Sanussi. Saif al-Islam Gadhafi is a close adviser to his father. His arrest warrant came two days after his 39th birthday. Al-Sanussi serves as Gadhafi’s head of intelligence.
The warrants are “for crimes against humanity,” including murder and persecution, “allegedly committed across Libya” from February 15 through “at least” February 28, “through the state apparatus and security forces,” the court said in a news release. (CNN)
In Misrata, a critical city for Libyan rebels in which fighting has raged, a crowd cheered Monday following the news from the court. The BBC’s Andrew Harding in Misrata said there was celebratory gunfire on the streets of the besieged city as the news emerged. “We are extremely happy that the whole world has united in prosecuting Gadhafi for the crimes he has committed,” rebel council spokesman Jalal al-Galal told Reuters news agency from the rebel stronghold Benghazi. “The people feel vindicated by such a response.” (BBC) “After this warrant, it is all irrelevant. We cannot negotiate with war criminals,” al-Galal told Reuters in Benghazi. “The world has confirmed what we have been saying all along. He’s a war criminal, and he should be tried for it.” (Reuters)
The announcement at The Hague came as fighting inside Libya inched closer to the capital. A rebel fighter, Hassan al-Jiwali, told CNN the rebels were 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Tripoli on Monday.
Libya is not a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the international court’s authority, and the court does not have power to enter Libya and arrest the leaders. Many of those cheering in Misrata saw the news as a sign that the world recognizes the conduct that rebels say Gadhafi’s regime has been engaged in.
The three-judge Pre-Trial Chamber 1 at The Hague found “reasonable grounds to believe that the three suspects committed the alleged crimes and that their arrests appear necessary in order to ensure their appearances before the court,” the written announcement said. The court also believes the warrants are needed to ensure that the three “do not continue to obstruct and endanger the court’s investigations; and to prevent them from using their powers to continue the commission of crimes within the jurisdiction of the court.” (CNN)
The U.N. Security Council referred the matter to the ICC through a resolution February 26, following widespread complaints about Gadhafi’s efforts to crush a rebellion. The resolution said that while “states not party to the Rome Statute have no obligations under the statute, the Security Council urged all states and corned regional and other international organizations to cooperate fully with the court and the prosecutor.” (CNN)
Gadhafi has made clear he would not recognize the court’s authority.
Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has said he has evidence linking Gadhafi, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi and Abdullah al-Sanussi to crimes against humanity, including “widespread and systematic” attacks on civilians, in their attempts to put down the months-long revolt. (CNN)
Libyan government spokesman Musa Ibrahim has previously denied the allegations and criticized what he said were incoherent conclusions of the prosecutor’s office.
White House Spokesman Jay Carney said the warrant for Gadhafi is another indication that the Libyan leader “has lost validity… It’s another step in the process of holding him accountable,” Carney told reporters. (CNN)
The United Nations issued a statement Monday about the arrest warrants, noting that “hundreds of people are confirmed to have been killed since opposition forces rose up against the regime of Mr. Gadhafi in February as part of a wider pro-democracy movement across North Africa and the Middle East.” (CNN)
The European Union said it “fully supports” the court and underscores that the court’s Libya investigation “is an independent judicial process which must be fully respected.” (CNN)
Not everyone was cheering the news. Michael Rubin, an analyst with the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said the court’s move could damage efforts to get Gadhafi to end his 42-year-reign, because he would not seek refuge in a country that is a party or signatory to the Rome Statute. “The ICC’s arrest warrant symbolizes the dirty underside of international law,” Rubin said. “While the ICC makes itself feel good and diplomats can chatter about their commitment to international law, the fact of the matter is their action takes off the table any possibility that Gadhafi could flee to a retirement haven outside Libya. In effect, the ICC arrest warrant tells Gadhafi to fight to the death.” (CNN)
Most African countries are parties or signatories to the Rome Statute. The ICC website lists a total of 47 non-signatories in the world, 13 of them in Africa and the Middle East.
Ali Ahmida, an analyst at the University of New England who was born in Libya, said the ICC decision “complicates” the matter. “Since last week, things were heating up toward an exit strategy for Gadhafi and his sons, either inside or outside Libya in another African country,” Ahmida said. Some rebel leaders in the Transitional National Council said they would consider allowing Gadhafi to stay inside Libya, and both sides were starting to indicate a compromise was possible, Ahmida said. But now, the regime “may circle the wagons a little more,” and Gadhafi will think, “I’m a hunted criminal and should pursue civil war to the end,” Ahmida said. (CNN) While the ICC decision is justified, Ahmida said, cynics in the region will ask why Gadhafi was selected and not others. “Why not (former Egyptian President Hosni) Mubarak? Why not (former Tunisian President Zine El-Abidine Ben) Ali?” Mubark and Ali both gave up power following protests in their countries. “The court is selecting some dictators to indict, and being silent about others. That may be the biggest issue for the court,” Ahmida said. (CNN)
When asked about those suggestions, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the United States “believes that the decision to refer the case to the ICC was the right decision; that the ICC has spoken now about the need for justice and accountability. With regard to whether this hurts or helps, it doesn’t change the fact that Gadhafi’s got to take the message that it’s time to go.” (CNN)
This is not the first time that the International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for a country’s leader in the midst of a conflict. The court issued a warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in 2007, while conflict simmered in that country’s western Darfur region.
Moreno-Ocampo told CNN shortly after filing his request with the court that he had evidence that revealed Saif al-Islam Gadhafi organized the recruitment of mercenaries to defend the regime and al-Sanussi participated in attacks on demonstrators. Authorities believe Moammar Gaddafi ordered attacks on unarmed civilians, he told CNN, and al-Sanussi is “his right-hand man, the executioner.”
Moreno-Ocampo began investigating claims against Moammar Gadhafi on February 15, when demonstrations against the leader’s regime accelrated. Since then, war has erupted in Libya as Gadhafi has tried to keep his grip on power. The probe took investigators to 11 countries and included the review of 1,200 documents and interviews with about 50 witnesses. A report issued in early May found the alleged crimes against humanity included the alleged commission of rape by supporters of Gadhafi’s government, as well as the deportation or forcible transfer of citizens during the civil war in the country. Moreno-Ocampo has scheduled a news conference Tuesday to discuss the court’s decision.
The issue of Libyan casualties led the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution in March authorizing force by whatever means necessary, with the exception of a ground invasion, to protect civilians. NATO began bombing military targets a short time later.
A rebel military leader, Hajj Osama al-Jiwali, told CNN on Monday that rebels want “more airstrikes and hits of Gadhafi strategic locations for the wake of time and for the rebuilding of Libya.” He called on the United Nations to be “at the forefront” of efforts in Libya.
Al-Jiwali said rebel fighters on Sunday fought “a very fierce battle against the Gadhafi forces in Bi’r al Ghanam, where four rebel fighters died and eight were injured, and mroe than 30 of the Gadhafi forces have been killed.” The battle was still ongoing Monday, but not as fierce, he said. CNN could not independently confirm the reports. “The rebel forces are in high spirits and determined to continue to Tripoli to get rid of Gadhafi and his collaborators. They are in high spirits and the victory is closer than ever,” al-Jiwali added. (CNN)
NATO warplanes struck a rocket launcher system mounted on a government truck near the town of Bi’r al Ghanam. Three explosions could be heard in the Libyan capital late Monday morning.
“They appear closer than those heard in the past few days and week,” said CNN producer Raja Razek, who is n Tripoli.
The International Criminal Court action comes a day after the African Union announced Gadhafi will not be apart of its next attempt to map out a peace deal in Libya. It was unclear who would represent the Libyan government in negotiations, or when negotiations would occur. Journalists were not allowed to ask questions at a news conference following Sunday’s meeting of the African Union’s special committee on Libya in Pretoria, South Africa.
Members of the committee have met with Gadhafi and opposition leaders over the past three months. Another African Union-led attempt to broker peace between Gadhafi and the rebels fell through in April.
The committee repeated calls Sunday for a cease-fire between the Libyan government and rebels. “Only a political solution will make it possible to sustainably settle the current conflict,” the statement said. (CNN) It also urged NATO to temporarily suspend its bombing campaign to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid.
The ICC announcement was welcomed by NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who said the court’s decision highlighted the increasing isolation of the Libyan regime. “It reinforces the reason for NATO’s mission to protect the Libyan people from Gadhafi’s forces,” said Mr. Fogh Rasmussen in Brussels. (BBC)
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said the court’s decision further demonstrated “why Gaddafi has lost all legitimacy and why he should go immediately.” Mr. Hague called on people within the Libyan regime to abandon the leader and said those responsible for “atrocities” must be held to account. (BBC)
French President Nicolas Sarkozy echoed those sentiments, saying of the Libyan leader: “After 41 years of dictatorship, it is perhaps time to stop, for him to leave power.” (BBC)
Richard Dicker of Human Rights Watch said that after more than 40 years in power, “Gadhafi has made clear his determination to hang on; it defies belief that his arrest warrant is an obstacle to a negotiated settlement of the Libya crisis.” (New York Times)