President Jacob Zuma’s report to the African Union (AU) about his visit to Libya will highlight the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) as the spoiler in finding a solution to the conflict in Libya, say senior government officials involved in the process.
Zuma, in his capacity as a member of the AU high-level panel on Libya, visited Muammar Gaddafi this week in the hope of ending the months-long war. He returned with a commitment from Gaddafi to cease fighting, but the Libyan leader insists on remaining in his home country.
A key demand of the Libyan rebels is that Gaddafi step down and leave the country. A senior government official involved in the matter told the Mail & Guardian that “the main sticking point in taking the next step in this issue is the ICC process”.
A warrant of arrest issued by the ICC means that every country that is a signatory to the Rome Statute, including South Africa has to arrest Gaddafi if he sets foot on their soil.
“This presents a dilemma for the AU mission. It is not impossible for Gaddafi to be convinced to go elsewhere, but there is no way he will agree with this thing hanging over his head,” the official said. “There are not many options left. Unless there is a way to have the ICC process suspended, there is little that can be done.” The recent trial in the Hague of former Liberian president Charles Taylor looms large when the issue of departure is discussed, the official said.
The security assessment of Libya conducted by the South African government shows that the rebels are closing in on Gaddafi and the Libyan leader is aware of this. Said the official: “It has been pointed out to him that [an imminent attack on his compound] is what he is facing. He is willing to agree to a cease-fire, but doesn’t want to leave while the ICC is ready to take him.”
The South African government is blaming the call for Gaddafi to leave on the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato)’s “need to justify its actions”.
“It is clear that this thing is going one way. The reality is that Nato won’t pull out until it can account for why it went in there in the first place. It overstepped the mark and now it needs something to justify it and only getting Gaddafi will do that,” the source said.
Meanwhile, Zuma said this week Gaddafi had committed himself to finding the body of slain photographer Anton Hammerl. Zuma handed over a dossier to Gaddafi with information about the possible whereabouts of Hammerl’s body as well as DNA samples to help identify the remains.