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Ocampo seeks warrant for Gaddafi

By | May 16th 2011

The International Criminal Court chief prosecutor is seeking the arrest of Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi and two others for crimes against humanity.

ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said Col Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam, and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Sanussi bore the greatest responsibility for "widespread and systematic attacks" on civilians.

ICC judges must still decide whether or not to issue warrants for their arrest.

The Libyan government has already said it will ignore the announcement.

Deputy Foreign Minister Khalid Kaim said the court was a "baby of the European Union designed for African politicians and leaders" and its practices were "questionable".

Libya did not recognise its jurisdiction, like most African countries and the United States, and would ignore any announcement, he added.

'Inner circle'

Mr Moreno-Ocampo said that after reviewing more than 1,200 documents and 50 interviews with key insiders and witnesses, his office had evidence showing that Col Gaddafi had "personally ordered attacks on unarmed Libyan civilians".

"His forces attacked Libyan civilians in their homes and in public spaces, shot demonstrators with live ammunition, used heavy weaponry against participants in funeral processions, and placed snipers to kill those leaving mosques after prayers," he told a news conference in The Hague.

"The evidence shows that such persecution is still ongoing as I speak today in the areas under Gaddafi control. Gaddafi forces have prepared a list with names of alleged dissidents, and they are being arrested, put into prisons in Tripoli and tortured," he added.

Mr Moreno-Ocampo said that Gaddafi had "committed the crimes with the goal of preserving his absolute authority".

"The evidence shows that Gaddafi relied on his inner circle to implement a systematic policy of suppressing any challenge to his authority."

"His second-oldest son, Saif al-Islam, is the de facto prime minister and Sanussi, Gaddafi's brother-in-law, is his right-hand man - the executioner, the head of military intelligence. He commanded personally some of the attacks."

The three "held meetings to plan and direct the operations", he alleged.

"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 Sanussi in the attacks against demonstrators."

The prosecutor insisted he was almost ready for a trial, based on the quality and quantity of the testimony - particularly of those who had escaped from Libya.

Earlier, Moreno-Ocampo said the three men were suspected of committing crimes against humanity in two categories — murder and persecution — under the Rome Statute, which established the court.

The charges cover the days following the start of anti-government protests on 15 February. Between 500 and 700 people are believed to have been killed in that month alone.

ICC prosecutors are also studying evidence about the alleged commission of war crimes once the situation developed into an armed conflict, including allegations of rape and attacks against sub-Saharan Africans wrongly perceived to be mercenaries.

An inquiry set up by the UN Human Rights Council is expected to submit its report on the alleged war crimes to the UN Security Council on 7 June.

Mr Moreno-Ocampo said he was acting in accordance with UN Security Council resolution 1970, which referred the situation in Libya to the ICC, and stressed the need to hold to account those responsible for attacks on civilians.

The Pre-Trial Chamber's judges may decide to accept the prosecutor's application, reject it, or ask him for additional information.

If a warrant for Col Gaddafi is issued, it would only be the second time the ICC has sought a warrant for a sitting head of state. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has been indicted for genocide in Darfur.

Ceasefire call

BBC diplomatic correspondent James Robbins says making any arrests would be difficult as first responsibility would rest with the Libyan authorities.

There are also concerns in some Western capitals that the ICC's move could further complicate efforts to halt the conflict in Libya.

On Sunday, Libyan Prime Minister al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi told the UN's special envoy, Abdul Ilah al-Khatib, that his country wanted "an immediate ceasefire to coincide with a halt to the Nato bombardment and the acceptance of international observers", state media said.

Libya was committed to the unity of its territory and people, and Libyans had the right to "decide on their internal affairs and political system through democratic dialogue away from the bombing threat", he added.

Overnight, Libyan state television reported said Nato aircraft had bombed an oil terminal in the eastern port of Ras Lanuf.

The alleged strike came after rebel fighters said they had taken full control of the western city of Misrata.

The government had earlier condemned British calls for Nato to bomb a wider range of infrastructure targets to put pressure on Col Gaddafi.

A spokesman said the comments by the Chief of the Defence Staff, Gen Sir David Richards, was a threat "aimed at terrorising civilians".


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