International Court Seeking War Crimes Charges in Libya

Qaddafi is likely among the three people prosecutors want to charge

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The chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court told the U.N. Security Council today he was seeking arrest warrants for three members of the Libyan government, likely including Colonel Muammar Qaddafi, for crimes against humanity. Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has been "investigating Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, some of his sons and aides over a 'pre-determined plan' to attack protesters," Al Jazeera reports, but Moreno-Ocampo hasn't identified the three against whom he's seeking warrants.

The prosecutor said in his report that he was looking into Libyan forces' use of rape as a weapon, as well as shooting protesters and "systemic arrests, torture, killings, deportations, enforced disappearances and destruction of mosques." He's expected to name the accused in a pre-trial hearing in the Hague this month. In addition to Qaddafi, the Guardian's Philippe Sands pointed out today that, "the only other person mentioned in the report is Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, who has hardly helped himself with his 'no mercy' speech and is reported by some to be "orchestrating the killings."

But issuing the warrants and carrying them out are two very different things. Al Jazeera notes that the ICC has no police force of its own, and relies on its member states to carry out arrests. Libya is not a member of the court. And the criminal investigation may actually be a step toward keeping Qaddafi where he is, Sands suggests. "The security council's decision to launch a criminal investigation first, and use of force second, made Gaddafi's orderly, early departure from Libya less likely. Once he was subject to arrest warrants, he was bound to dig in his heels."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.