Warrants for Gaddafi and son

Prospects for a negotiated solution to the Libyan crisis receded further this week after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for Muammar Gaddafi and his son Saif al-Islam over crimes against humanity allegedly committed during ongoing anti-regime protests.

The court, based in The Hague, also issued a warrant for Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi at the request of the ICC’s chief prosecutor.

Libyan sources revealed that Belarus, which is not a signatory to the ICC treaty, might be a possible exile for Gaddafi, though he has insisted he will not leave Libya.

Gaddafi, in power since 1969, is only the world’s second serving head of state to be issued with an ICC arrest warrant. A warrant for the arrest of Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, was issued in March 2009 over alleged crimes in Darfur.

The arrests were necessary to prevent a cover-up and more crimes, said the presiding judge, Sanji Mmasenono Monageng. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch welcomed the move. In Tripoli, however, government supporters were defiant: “Muammar Gaddafi is our leader and father,” said Karim, 26. “If the ICC wants to arrest someone, what about George Bush, who killed half the Iraqi people?” An opposition supporter, by contrast, believed the regime would try to keep Gaddafi out of sight. “The government will keep trying to hide him away.”

The investigation by the court’s chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, followed a referral in February by the United Nations Security Council. Resolution 1970 was supported by all members of the council, including Russia and China, which are unhappy about the bombing by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

The ICC has been attacked by some for pursuing legal redress at the expense of a possible political solution. Critics argue that Gaddafi and his closest associates will have no incentive to relinquish power or go into voluntary exile if they know they are certain to end up in the dock. —

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Ian Black
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