Muammar Gaddafi, his sons and key aides will be probed over allegations they have perpetrated crimes against humanity during Libya's uprising, the International Criminal Court's (ICC) chief prosecutor said Thursday.
"The office of the prosecutor decided to open an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity committed in Libya," Luis Moreno-Ocampo said, citing information that "peaceful demonstrators were attacked by security forces".
"We have identified some individuals with de facto or formal authority, who had authority over the security forces who allegedly committed the crimes. They are Muammar Gaddhafi, his inner circle, including some of this sons," the prosecutor told journalists in The Hague.
Moreno-Ocampo said he expected to ask ICC judges for arrest warrants within "a few months". He also "put on notice" a group of key Gaddafi aides, who "should pay attention to crimes committed by their people because if they are not preventing, stopping or punishing these crimes, they will be responsible".
The positions identified include the Libyan foreign minister, the head of the regime's security forces, the head of the veteran Libyan leader's personal security, and the head of the Libyan External Security Organisation.
"We would like to take this opportunity to put them on notice. If forces under their command and control commit crimes they will be criminally responsible," Moreno-Ocampo said.
The list also included the regime's spokesperson and its national security advisor. Ocampo did not name names.
More than 100,000 people have fled Libya to escape a vicious crackdown by Gaddafi loyalists that has left at least 1000 dead since the rebellion started on 15 February, according to UN estimates. According to one Libyan human rights group, the number dead is at least 6000.
Ocampo's probe follows referral by the UN Security Council, which said at the weekend that "the widespread and systematic attacks currently taking place against the civilian population may amount to crimes against humanity". "In the coming weeks the (prosecutor's) office will investigate who are most responsible for the most serious incidents, for the most serious crimes committed in Libya," said Moreno-Ocampo.
"The office will present its evidence to the judges and the judges will decide on whether or not to issue arrest warrants," he added.
In the course of its investigation, the office of the prosecutor would liaise with the UN, the African Union, the Arab League, individual states and Interpol.
Moreno-Ocampo stressed that opposition groups could also be prosecuted if they committed crimes under the court's jurisdiction. "There will be no impunity in Libya."
The ICC is the world's only independent, permanent tribunal with the jurisdiction to try genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.