Prosecutor Requests Arrest Warrants for Qaddafi

The ICC is building a crimes against humanity case against the Libyan leader

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International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo asked judges on Monday to issue arrest warrants for Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, his son, Saif al-Islam, and his brother-in-law and intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Sanussi for alleged crimes against humanity, even as Qaddafi's regime proposes a truce in exchange for a NATO ceasefire during talks with a U.N. envoy. Ocampo said his office had gathered "direct evidence" suggesting that Qaddafi "personally ordered" attacks on unarmed civilians, that Saif, acting as a "de facto prime minister," spearheaded the recruitment of mercenaries, and that al-Sanussi has served as Qaddafi's "executioner" during the regime's crackdown on demonstrators.

What crimes does Moreno-Ocampo accuse these three figures of commiting? He says the regime has attacked civilians in their homes, fired on demonstrators, used heavy artillery against funeral processions, and deployed snipers to kill people leaving mosques. In areas under Qaddafi's control, Moreno-Ocampo added, his forces continue to "prepare lists with names of alleged dissidents. They are being arrested, put into prisons in Tripoli, tortured and made to disappear."  Al Jazeera explains that Moreno-Ocampo's evidence will now go to a court in the Hague, where a panel of judges will decide whether to dismiss his petition, request more evidence, or affirm the charges and issue international arrest warrants.

But does the ICC's move really matter? CNN points out that this is the first time the ICC has taken action in an ongoing conflict and the BBC notes that if the judges do issue warrants, it would mark only the second instance in which the ICC has pursued a warrant for a sitting head of state, with the first being the court's indictment of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for crimes in Darfur. But on Sunday, Libya's deputy foreign minister said his country, which is not a signatory to the treaty establishing the ICC, would simply "ignore" any action the court took, and the AP adds that the warrants won't have "any immediate impact on the war in Libya." Still, that's not to say they'll have no imact. "They could make it harder for their targets to end the conflict by going into exile," the AP writes, because all U.N. member states would be required to arrest Qaddafi if he enters their territory. Of course, just because these countries are obliged to act by international law doesn't mean they will. Three countries have allowed Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to visit without arresting him, according to the AP. The BBC's Andrew North adds that the warrants could make Qaddafi less likely to relinquish power.

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