Monday, June 27, 2011

International court issues arrest warrant for Gaddafi

By Aaron Gray-Block and Nick Carey

THE HAGUE/TRIPOLI (Reuters) - The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant on Monday for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and rebels trying to oust him said their forces had advanced to within 80 km (50 miles) of the capital.

Procecutor Ocampo of the International Criminal Court attends a meeting about Libya …
The court approved warrants for Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam and Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi on charges of crimes against humanity. ICC prosecutors allege they were involved in the killing of civilian protesters who rose up in February against Gaddafi's 41-year rule.

"To prevent them covering up ongoing crimes and committing new crimes, they should be arrested. This is the only way to protect civilians in Libya," ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who had sought the arrest warrants, said.

The ruling is unlikely to lead to Gaddafi's arrest as long he remains in power and inside Libya, because the court does not have the power to enforce its warrants.

Celebrations erupted in the rebel-held city of Benghazi, in eastern Libya, after the ICC ruling. People honked car horns, waved flags and fired shots into the air.

The ICC decision invalidated any notion of having negotiations with Gaddafi, insurgent officials said.

"After this warrant, it is all irrelevant. We cannot negotiate with war criminals," Jalal al-Galal, spokesman of the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) told Reuters in its eastern stronghold of Benghazi.

"The world has confirmed what we have been saying all along. He's a war criminal, and he should be tried for it."

Gaddafi's government denies targeting civilians, saying it took action against armed criminal gangs and al Qaeda militants. It says NATO should be prosecuted instead for killing civilians with its bombing campaign.

Anti-Gaddafi rebels, based in the Western Mountains region southwest of Tripoli, made their biggest breakthrough in weeks to reach the town of Bir al-Ghanam, where they are now fighting pro-Gaddafi forces for control, their spokesman said.

The move took them 30 km (18 miles) north of their previous position and closer to Tripoli, Gaddafi's main power base.

"We are on the southern and western outskirts of Bir al-Ghanam," Juma Ibrahim, a rebel spokesman in the nearby town of Zintan, said by telephone.

"There were battles there most of yesterday. Some of our fighters were martyred and they (government forces) also suffered casualties and we captured equipment and vehicles. It's quiet there today and the rebels are still in their positions."


The rebels have been battling Gaddafi's forces since late February, when thousands of people rebelled, prompting a fierce crackdown by Gaddafi's security forces.

The revolt has turned into the bloodiest of the Arab Spring uprisings against autocratic rulers across the Middle East.

In Nalut district by the Tunisian border, rebels said power and water infrastructure had been hit by pro-Gaddafi bombing.

"There is a crisis here," the spokesman, identified as Mohammed, said. "We are without electricity after the brigades hit high-voltage electricity posts ... and the power problem affected water supplies."

A Reuters reporter in the center of Tripoli heard at least two loud explosions on Monday coming from the direction of Gaddafi's Bab al-Aziziyah compound, repeatedly targeted by NATO.

Later, government officials took reporters to the compound. They showed them a burned-out bus which, they said, belonged to Gaddafi and had been hit by two NATO missiles.


Gaddafi is the second sitting head of state to have an ICC arrest warrant issued against him. One was issued previously for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

Securing arrests, however, has proven difficult for the ICC, which has no police force and relies on member states to enforce arrest orders. Some states have refused to arrest Bashir, who is still able to travel to friendly states.

Mohammed al-Alagi, justice minister for the Libyan rebels, told reporters in the Hague that, depending events, they might opt to prosecute Gaddafi in Libya.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the court's ruling reinforced the reasons for the alliance's bombing campaign and deepened Gaddafi's isolation.

"(Gaddafi) and his henchmen need to realize that time is rapidly running out for them," Rasmussen said in a statement.

Reading out the ruling at the court in The Hague, presiding judge Sanji Mmasenono Monageng said Gaddafi has "absolute, ultimate and unquestioned control" over Libya's state apparatus and security forces.

She said Gaddafi and Saif al-Islam had "conceived and orchestrated a plan to deter and quell by all means the civilian demonstrations" against the regime and that al-Senussi used his position of command to have attacks carried out.

Gaddafi's administration made no immediate comment on the ICC ruling. Speaking on Sunday, government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said the court was guilty of double standards and was following a Western political agenda.

"The ICC has no legitimacy whatsoever," Ibrahim said.

Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the council chairman, urged Gaddafi's aides and supporters to abandon him, saying those who help him escape justice will end up sharing his punishment. "It is time to abandon Gaddafi to spare themselves," he added.

In neighboring Tunisia, three Libyan ministers, including the foreign minister, were holding talks with "foreign parties," the Tunisian state news agency reported, in a possible sign some in Gaddafi's circle were seeking a settlement.

(Additional reporting by Joseph Nasr in Berlin, Tarek Amara in Tunis, Hamid Ould Ahmed in Algiers, Maria Golovnina in Benghazi, Sherine El Madany in Cairo, Louis Charbonneau at the United Nations and David Brunnstrom in Brussels; writing by Christian Lowe and Mark John; editing by Michael Roddy)

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