The International Criminal Court (ICC) has no case against Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi, says Themba Langa, the lawyer leading the legal team from South Africa that is representing Gaddafi at The Hague.
The ICC issued an arrest warrant for Gaddafi on Monday. He is wanted for crimes against humanity in connection with the deaths of Libyan protesters, along with his son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and military intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi.
“We are satisfied that the ICC has no case, because it has been instructed what to do by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC),” Langa told the Mail & Guardian on Thursday.
“Based on international law, we’ll succeed. The UNSC has compromised the integrity of the ICC, when it prescribed to the ICC who it should and shouldn’t prosecute. The mandate of the UNSC is to refer cases to the ICC. But here they exceeded their mandate— The ICC should have been allowed to act impartially and independently.”
Langa said that the team’s next step depends on what emerges at the African Union (AU) summit, that began on Thursday this week in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea, and ends on Friday.
“It also depends on the attitude of Nato,” he said. “It’s a complex web. Last week, Nato issued a threat that they were going to kill [Gaddafi]. We hope things are clearer after the summit and that Nato abandons their threats. There is no doubt in our minds that we will succeed, but we don’t think we’ll get a chance because of Nato’s threats to assassinate [Gaddafi].”
Issaka Souare, senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, said that from a purely legal perspective, the ICC certainly does have a case.
“But the problem comes from the political point,” he said. “Having an arrest warrant against one of the principal actors in a conflict makes it very difficult for that conflict to be resolved.”
He added that at the AU summit, South Africa was likely to reiterate its view that the problems in Libya can only be solved through dialogue, and that Nato should cease its attack on the country in the three-month-old conflict, in which scores of civilians have been killed.
On Sunday, Zuma hosted a meeting of the AU high level committee on Libya in Pretoria, to discuss the “AU Roadmap on Libya”.
Gaddafi did not partake in the negotiations, which included the heads of state of Mali, Uganda and Mauritania.
It was reported this week that President Jacob Zuma was “disappointed” by the issuing of the arrest warrant.
The warrant comes following anti-government protests that broke out in Libya in mid-February, during which hundreds of perceived dissidents were killed or imprisoned by Libya’s security and military forces, in a number of cities, mainly Misurata and Benghazi.
This is only the second time in the nine year history of the ICC that it has issued an arrest warrant for a head of state. The first was for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in 2009, who has yet to be arrested.
Libya has rejected the warrant for Gaddafi.
“Libya … does not accept the decisions of the ICC which is a tool of the Western world to prosecute leaders in the Third World,” said Mohammed al-Qamoodi, the Libyan justice minister, as reported by Al Jazeera.