The International Criminal Court is to investigate Col Gaddafi for possible crimes against humanity, and an international lawyer tells Channel 4 News that amateur videos could be used to convict him.
Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said Gaddafi’s security forces were alleged to have attacked peaceful demonstrators in several towns and cities across Libya since February 15, and identified Gaddafi, several of his sons and several commanders and regime officials as having formal or de facto command over forces that may have committed crimes.
Moreno-Ocampo vowed there would be “no impunity in Libya.”
He said the court was using the opportunity “to put them on notice: If forces under their command commited crimes, they could be criminally responsible.”
He also warned that leaders of Libya’s opposition could be investigated if allegations were raised against them.
“We will be impartial,” he said.
Leading international lawyer and Director of the International Bar Association, Mark Ellis, studied several videos thought to have been shot in Libya.
They include one of what appears to be the scene of a mass execution, with dozens of people lying face down on the ground, their limbs tied and with blood pouring from their heads.
Another video shows what appears to be the charred remains of bodies which had been set on fire.
Mr Ellis said that the videos, for the most part, “shows without a doubt violations of the international rules of war.”
He said: “It is prima facie evidence in which unknown people have been executed. It does not matter if the perpetrators were militia or civilians: the videos are clear examples of war crimes.”
Mr Ellis said that even if the videos, blurry as they are, do not identify those who carry out the executions as pro-Gaddafi militiamen or paramilitary, there is scope in international law to make the leaders of a regime responsible for allowing them to occur.
“Responsibility for such crimes could reach all the way up the ladder, even to Gaddafi himself,” Mr Ellis added.
The news is sure to be welcomed by the father of a victim of the Lockerbie bombing, who told Channel 4 News on Wednesday he was calling for international investigators to start collecting potential evidence on the attack from Libya.
Dr Jim Swire’s daughter Flora was among the 270 killed when Pan Am Flight 103 exploded on 21 December, 1988, and he has been the main English organiser of British victim support.
“If Gaddafi is toppled and is captured, I would welcome the prospect of him being tried in the International Criminal Court,” said Dr Swire. “If there is any previously unseen evidence there now, and is accessible, it is important to uncover it.”
Against the backdrop of the announcement that investigators are now considering how best to compile evidence of war crimes, a UN Human Rights Council report, published in January shows profoundly divergent international interpretations of Libya’s record under Gaddafi.
The Council‘s largely favourable conclusions on Libya’s human rights record boast glowing appraisals from Australia and Canada.
Australia, “welcomed the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya’s progress in human rights and its willingness to facilitate visits by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, which demonstrated the country’s commitment to engaging with the international community on human rights.” And Canada, “welcomed improvements made by the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in its respect for human rights.” Others who paid tribute to Gaddafi’s record on human rights were regional neighbours Saudi Arabia, Syria, Kuwait, Yemen and Morocco.
Perhaps predictably, the US, UK, Israel and Switzerland (whose frosty relations with Libya have worsened further in recent years) represented a minority that criticised its human rights record. The UK disapproved of Libya’s lack of a free press, the US of reports of torture of prisoners, Switzerland the lack of freedom of expression and corporal punishment and Israel referred to a “systematic suppression…of fundamental right and freedoms.”
'Libya's New Flag' by Sudanese artist Khartoon