ICC to seek three Libya war crimes warrants

The ICC chief prosecutor said Wednesday he will seek three arrest warrants against Moamer Kadhafi's Libyan regime for crimes against humanity which are still being committed.

Chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo did not name the targets of warrants which he told the UN Security Council would be announced within weeks. But diplomats and rights groups said Kadhafi would almost certainly be on the first list.

The UN Security Council unanimously voted for the resolution in February which called for an International Criminal Court investigation into possible charges.

"Widespread and systematic attacks against the civilian population have been and continue to be committed in Libya, including murder and persecution as crimes against humanity," Moreno-Ocampo told the 15-nation council.

War crimes charges from the use of cluster bombs and other heavy weapons against civilians were likely in the future, the prosecutor added.

He added however that the International Criminal Court is also investigating the deaths of dozens of sub-Saharan Africans in the rebel capital of Benghazi by an "angry mob" who believed they were Kadhafi mercenaries.

Thousands have died since the start of the unrest in Libya on February 15 with between 500 and 700 reported dead in February alone, the prosecutor told ambassadors.

Planning to counter the protests started weeks before the first demonstration -- with Kadhafi's security forces warned by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, Moreno-Ocampo said.

"As early as January, mercenaries were being hired and brought into Libya," he told the council."

Security forces fired live ammunition onto protesters in Benghazi on February 17, killing "numerous demonstrators", Moreno-Ocampo said. Other incidents followed in other cities.

Security forces took away bodies from the streets and hospitals and doctors were not allowed to tally the number of dead, the prosecutor said.

"Systematic arrests torture, killings and enforced disappearances" have been reported in Tripoli, Al Zawiyah, Zintan and in the Nafousa mountains, he added.

Moreno-Ocampo said he had at least two witness accounts for each charge along with videos and picture evidence to back his case.

"I will request the judges to issue arrest warrants against three individuals who appear to bear the greatest criminal responsibility for crimes against humanity" in Libya since February 15.

Moreno-Ocampo said that the Security Council had to start "serious planning and preparation" to carry out any arrests.

He also highlighted the deaths of dozens of Africans "wrongly perceived to be mercenaries" hired by Kadhafi.

"Reportedly angry mobs of protesters assaulted sub-Saharan Africans in Benghazi and other cities and killed dozens of them," he said.

Authorities in Benghazi allegedly arrested a number of sub-Saharan Africans but Moreno-Ocampo said it was unclear whether they were immigrant workers or captured fighters.

The Security Council is now divided over tactics to be used to end the conflict. China and Russia have criticized the international coalition's air raids as going beyond the council's mandate to protect civilians.

France and Britain have strongly defended the need to intervene however.

And US ambassador Susan Rice told the council meeting: "The spectre of ICC prosecution is serious and imminent and should again warn those around Kadhafi about the perils of continuing to tie their fate to his."

[Source: United Nations, Agence France Presse, 04May11]

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