ICC to probe 10-15 Libyan leaders over crimes

AFP, Thursday 3 Mar 2011

The International Criminal Court will probe 10-15 Libyan leaders over killing civilians

The International Criminal Court will probe 10-15 Libyan leaders over the bombing and machine-gunning of civilians, the chief prosecutor said in interview published Thursday.

The accused will be investigated for grave crimes against humanity, prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in a telephone interview with El Pais from the court's headquarters in The Hague.

In a clear warning to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who has warned the West to stay out of the fray, he said leaders who commit crimes against humanity will not escape punishment.

"We are talking about 10-15 people. We have a pretty clear idea of the formal and informal command structure in Libya," the prosecutor was quoted as saying.

"In Libya there seem to be machine-gunnings or bombings of civilians in public squares. These are massive attacks on the civilian population. These are very serious acts, there are hundreds or thousands dead," he said.

Moreno-Ocampo is scheduled to name the accused at a news conference in The Hague later Thursday.

Asked whether an arrest warrant could be enforced if Gaddafi was to flee and take refuge in another state, he said: "Leaders who commit crimes against humanity should understand that they will not enjoy immunity."

Libyan jets pounded the strategic rebel-held town of Brega Thursday but the United States and its allies have cooled talk of imposing a no-fly zone over the country to protect civilians.

The ICC prosecutor said there appeared to be tension between the army and Kadhafi.

"Those who are acting are organised militia and the security and intelligence services, to whom we want to send a clear message: the chiefs will have to answer for the acts of those under their command," he warned.

"We are preparing a list of people who, because of their position, should take great care: if their units commit crimes, they will be investigated," he told the paper.

The UN Security Council referred the Libyan crisis to the ICC on Saturday to establish whether there were reasonable grounds for a full probe. "In this case, there is no doubt," Moreno-Ocampo said.

The ICC is the world's only independent, permanent tribunal with the jurisdiction to try genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

This is the second time that the UN Security Council has referred a case to the ICC; the first, in 2005, concerned alleged human rights violations committed in Sudan's Darfur region.

That referral led to arrest warrants being issued in 2009 and 2010 against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

A UN referral is one of three ways that the ICC can open a probe. In the other cases before the ICC, the prosecutor has launched his own investigations or has had them referred by signatory states to the court's founding Rome Statute.

Libya is not a signatory.

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