Prosecutor investigating war crimes allegations

The International Criminal Court prosecutor said Wednesday that he will seek arrest warrants in the coming weeks against three Libyans who appear to bear “the greatest criminal responsibility” for crimes against humanity by Moammar Gadhafi’s security forces in the current uprising.

The International Criminal Court prosecutor said Wednesday that he will seek arrest warrants in the coming weeks against three Libyans who appear to bear “the greatest criminal responsibility” for crimes against humanity by Moammar Gadhafi’s security forces in the current uprising.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo told the U.N. Security Council that he is also investigating allegations of war crimes, and at a press conference later he didn’t rule out future cases stemming from rebel or NATO attacks.

He said the evidence his office has collected on alleged crimes against humanity establishes “reasonable grounds” to believe that widespread and systematic attacks are being committed against civilians by Moammar Gadhafi’s security forces.

The Security Council voted unanimously on Feb. 26 to refer the Libyan crisis to the International Criminal Court and asked the prosecutor to report in two months.

Moreno-Ocampo said the evidence shows that government security forces have been systematically shooting at peaceful protesters, using the same tactics in multiple locations. He said systematic arrests, torture, killings and enforced disappearances of civilians have been reported in government-controlled areas including Tripoli, Al Zariyah, Zintan and the Nafousa Mountains.

“In all the incidents to be presented to the judges, the victims who were shot at by the security forces were unarmed civilians and there is no evidence of any attack against the security forces,” Moreno Ocampo said, adding “there are at least two eyewitnesses for each incident, documents, and, in many cases, corroboration of details by pictures or video.”

The prosecutor did not identify the “three individuals who appear to bear the greatest criminal responsibility for crimes against humanity.” He said he would identify the Libyans he was seeking arrest warrants for when he presents the case to the court’s pre-trial chamber. The court must then decide whether to issue arrest warrants, reject his application, or ask prosecutors for more evidence, he said.

Moreno-Ocampo said arresting those who ordered crimes to be committed will deter others from harming civilians.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said the spectre of an “imminent” prosecution by the court “should again warn those around Gadhafi about the perils of continuing to tie their fate to his.”

Libya’s deputy foreign minister Khaled Kaim disputed Moreno-Ocampo’s evidence.

He told a press conference in Tripoli late Tuesday that the government has “evidence” that most information gathered by Moreno-Ocampo in visits to Egypt and the rebel-held East is “either unverified information or video footages reproduced or photoshopped by some amateur photographers.”

If the Security Council is “sincere about finding the truth” it should listen to all parties, he said.

Kaim said Ocampo won’t be invited to Libya because it is not a party to the Rome statute that created the International Criminal Court. He said another Security Council fact-finding mission could come instead.

Moreno-Ocampo responded at a news conference later, saying his evidence will be judged in court, and “I wait for them in court.”

Libya should co-operate with the court, he said, because it must follow Security Council decisions as a member of the United Nations.

Gadhafi, who has been in power for more than four decades, has fought fiercely to put down an uprising against his regime that began with protests inspired by a wave of Mideast unrest and escalated into an armed rebellion.

“The victims are civilians who participated in demonstrations, are considered disloyal to the regime or talked to international media, activists and journalists,” Moreno-Ocampo said. “In addition, citizens of Egypt and Tunisia were arrested and expelled en masse because of their perceived association with the popular uprising. The mosques they used to pray were destroyed.”

Since the end of February, he said there has been an armed conflict in Libya and his office has also received “relevant information on the alleged commission of war crimes.”

The prosecutor said specific allegations of war crimes include the use of imprecise weapons such as cluster bombs, multiple rocket launchers and mortars in crowded urban areas, particularly in besieged rebel-held Misrata. There are also reports of forces blocking humanitarian supplies, the use of civilians as human shields, and the torture of prisoners of war or civilians, he said.

Moreno-Ocampo said his office is also investigating alleged rapes, including incidents of victims who have been arrested and harassed. He noted the high-profile case of a woman who reported to international media that she had been raped by security forces because of her suspected association with the rebels.

Several sources have also reported the unlawful arrest, mistreatment and killings of “sub-Saharan African civilians wrongly perceived to be mercenaries,” he said, noting that angry mobs in rebel-controlled Benghazi and other cities assaulted these black Africans and killed dozens of them.

Moreno-Ocampo said efforts to cover up the crimes have made it difficult to ascertain the precise number of victims, but there is “credible information” estimating that 500 to 700 people died in February alone when security forces fired live ammunition at peaceful demonstrators.

“The total number of persons that have died since the beginning of the conflict is in the thousands,” he said.

Moreno-Ocampo said he may seek further arrest warrants “taking into account the full scope of criminality, including war crimes, allegedly committed by different individuals.”

Stressing the impartiality of the court, Moreno-Ocampo didn’t rule out arrest warrants as a result of the allegations against the rebels or NATO attacks. Russia has accused NATO of a “disproportionate use of force.”

He said a report by investigators from the U.N. Human Rights Council on alleged rights violations in Libya is due at the end of May, and the data they collect “will be very useful to the prosecution for further action,” including possible new arrest warrants.

Moreno-Ocampo also urged the international community to assist with the serious planning and preparation that will be necessary to arrest those sought by the court.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is a independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
A CN rail worker stands on an idle locomotive as protesters opposed to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion block rail lines, in Burnaby, B.C., on Friday, November 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
CN makes rival bid to CP Rail’s offer to buy U.S. railway Kansas City Southern

Offer tops proposal made last month by Canadian Pacific Railway

The Rogers Logo is photographed on a Toronto office on Monday, September 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin
Rogers says wireless service fully restored after daylong nationwide outage

Wireless interruption had deep economic implications

President Joe Biden meets with members of congress to discuss his jobs plan in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Monday, April 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Feds weighing how to respond after verdict in Chauvin trial

The verdict, and the aftermath, will be a test for Biden

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, centre, tables the federal budget in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Monday April 19, 2021. The federal government unveiled spending plans to manage the remainder of the COVID-19 crisis and chart an economic course for a post-pandemic Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Conservatives, Bloc Quebecois to propose budget rewrites as debate starts

O’Toole has signalled that his party will propose its own economic recovery plan

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

Super League a ‘longtime dream’ for Madrid president Pérez

League created because coronavirus pandemic left clubs in a dire financial situation

San Jose Sharks centre Patrick Marleau (12) skates during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Minnesota Wild, in San Jose, Calif., Monday, March 29, 2021. Marleau is skating in his 1,757th game. Only one other player in NHL history has hit that mark. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Tony Avelar
Patrick Marleau set to break Gordie Howe’s record for most NHL games played

Marleau was set to suit up for the 1,768th time Monday

FILE - In this Saturday April 17, 2021 file photo, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II follows the coffin in a car as it makes it’s way past the Round Tower during the funeral of Britain’s Prince Philip inside Windsor Castle in Windsor, England. Now that the Royal Family has said farewell to Prince Philip, attention will turn to Queen Elizabeth II’s 95th birthday on Wednesday, April 21 and, in coming months, the celebrations marking her 70 years on the throne. This combination of events is reminding the United Kingdom that the reign of the queen, the only monarch most of her subjects have ever known, is finite. (Leon Neal/Pool via AP, file)
Queen enters ‘twilight’ of reign after farewell to Philip

Charles’ increased role began gradually

This combination photo shows Oscar nominees for best actress, from left, Viola Davis in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” Andra Day in “The United States vs Billie Holiday,” Vanessa Kirby in “Pieces of a Woman,” Frances McDormand in “Nomadland and Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman.” (Netflix, from left, Hulu, Netflix, Searchlight Pictures, Focus Features via AP)
Oscar predictions: Can anything beat ‘Nomadland’?

Best actress race is perhaps the biggest wild card

Letter: Restrictions have nothing to do with religion

Many have framed the closure of GraceLife Church near Edmonton by Alberta… Continue reading

LtE bug
Letter: Thanking volunteers in Red Deer

National Volunteer Week is April 18 to 24. At the Canadian Cancer… Continue reading

Letter to the editor
Letter: Good on MLAs for speaking out

This is a letter in regard to MLAs not standing united behind… Continue reading

Treena Mielke
Family: Happiness can be found in many ways

I’ve heard it said that necessity is the mother of invention. I… Continue reading

Most Read