16 May 2011

ICC names Gaddafi and son as war crimes suspects

The International Criminal Court requests arrest warrants for Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam and spy boss Abdullah al-Senussi. But will this bring justice, asks Lindsey Hilsum.

Gaddafi and son wanted for 'crimes against humanity' in Libya (Getty)

ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, requesting the arrest warrants, said they related to crimes against humanity amid the violent crackdown on protesters in Libya in February.

Mr Moreno-Ocampo said: “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 al-Senussi in the attacks against demonstrators.”

Protests in Libya against Colonel Gaddafi’s 41-year rule descended into pitched battles and effectively civil war. Since then, NATO has intervened and set up a no-fly zone to protect civilians. The country remains divided between the rebels in the east, and Gaddafi’s stronghold in the capital Tripoli.

This office gathered direct evidence about orders issued by Muammar Gaddafi himself. ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo

Judges now need to see if there is enough evidence to issue arrest warrants for Gaddafi, his son Saif-al Islam, and spy chief Abdullah al-Senussi.

‘Pre-determined killing’

Mr Moreno-Ocampo has been gathering information since February, when the UN Security Council referred the violence in Libya, in which thousands have died, to the Hague-based court. Earlier this month he said he would seek three arrests for the “pre-determined” killing of protesters.

The ICC has moved with unprecedented speed in the investigation, requesting arrest warrants just two and a half months after the referral.

Will the arrest warrants issued for Colonel Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam and brother-in-law Abdullah Sanussi by the International Criminal Court bring justice, or hinder the search for peace? 

Read more from Channel 4 News International Editor Lindsey Hilsum on Indicting the Colonel

Mr Moreno-Ocampo said the three men “held meetings to plan the operations” and Gaddafi used his “absolute authority to commit crimes in Libya.”

Libyan officials have already denounced the ICC Prosecutor’s action, saying the court is a creation of the West for prosecuting African leaders. They also deny the allegations, saying they had to take action against armed gangs and al-Qaeda militants rather than civilians.

Mr Moreno-Ocampo had said his request for warrants would be based on “strong evidence,” which would include photographs, video footage and the testimony of government insiders, but Libya is not an ICC member state and is therefore not obliged to arrest the court’s suspects.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said: “The human rights situation in Western Libya and the behaviour of the Gaddafi regime remains of grave concern and the UK was at the forefront of efforts in the UN to adopt resolution 1970 which referred the situation in Libya to the ICC. The request for these warrants is a reminder to all in Gaddafi’s regime that crimes will not go unpunished and the reach of international justice will be long.

“Those responsible for attacks on civilians must be held to account. The international community must fully support the ICC in thoroughly investigating all allegations. I call on all UN Member States, whether parties to the Rome Statute or not, to offer their full co-operation.”