By Associated Press, Wednesday, November 2, 2011
UNITED NATIONS — The prosecutor of the international war crimes tribunal said Wednesday that his office will “impartially and independently” examine allegations of crimes committed by NATO and opposition forces, as well as by pro-Gadhafi troops, during this year’s fighting in Libya.
At the same time, prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo said he is pursuing Gadhafi’s son Saif al-Islam and the former military intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi, both of whom have been charged with alleged war crimes. Moreno Ocampo said he has been in contact with intermediaries about the son’s possible surrender, but has received information he may try to leave Libya.
Along with alleged crimes by Gadhafi’s forces, “There are allegations of crimes committed by NATO” and opposition forces, Moreno Ocampo said.
He said allegations of crimes perpetrated by the opposition National Transitional Council included detention of civilians suspected of being mercenaries and the killing of detained combatants. He did not provide details of possible crimes by NATO forces.
The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court told the U.N. Security Council that his office has been informed that Libya’s new leaders will look at the circumstances surrounding Gadhafi’s Oct. 20 death as they prepare a strategy to address crimes committed during the conflict.
Questions remain about the death of Gadhafi, who was still alive when opposition forces took him into custody.
The ouster of Gadhafi’s regime would have been impossible without the involvement of NATO, which carried out a 7-month air campaign against Libya that was legally authorized by the Security Council.
That campaign ended on Monday, setting Libya on the path to a democratic transition less than two weeks after Gadhafi was captured and killed.
“To demonstrate their clear break from the past, Libya’s authorities should continue to speak out against reprisals and hold those guilty of abuses to account,” British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said. “In this regard, we welcome the National Transitional Council’s investigation into the circumstances of Gadhafi’s death.”
“We call on the National Transitional Council to ensure independent and impartial investigations to establish the facts of alleged human rights abuses and war crimes committed by both sides of the conflict,” said German Ambassador Petter Wittig. “Dealing successfully with this issue will pave the way for national reconciliation.”
Libya’s deputy U.N. Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi told the council that his country’s new leaders would handle with “transparent investigations and fair and just trials” those crimes not covered by the international tribunal.
The new Libyan authorities “will have the realization of justice as its highest priority because security cannot be achieved without justice,” said Dabbashi, “and democracy, development and prosperity cannot be achieved without security.”
Moreno Ocampo, an Argentine attorney, said his office is investigating numerous allegations of sexual violence by Gadhafi forces amid evidence that indicates hundreds of rapes were committed during the conflict.
“The prosecution has collected some evidence showing that commanders gave orders to commit rape in the western mountains area, and is screening possible witnesses that indicated that Moammar Gadhafi, al-Senussi and other high officials were discussing the use of rape to persecute those considered dissidents or rebels,” he said.
Gadhafi’s son Saif al-Islam, and al-Senussi were named along with Gadhafi in arrest warrants the court issued in June for attacks against unarmed civilians Benghazi, Tripoli, and other parts of Libya in February.
The court at the time concluded that there were “reasonable grounds” to believe that Gadhafi and his son were “indirect co-perpetrators of the crimes against humanity and persecution,” and that al-Senussi was “responsible as a direct perpetrator.”
Moreno Ocampo said that people linked to Saif al-Islam Gadhafi had approached his office about the legal conditions that would be attached to his potential surrender, and said that Gadhafi’s son and al-Senussi should give themselves up.
“It is up to the U.N. Security Council and states to ensure that they face justice for the crimes for which they are charged,” he said.
Richard Dicker, director of the international justice program for Human Rights Watch, said although council members gave broad support to the court’s work in Libya, “talk isn’t enough.”
Council members “need to use their diplomatic clout with states in the neighborhood to see the two ICC suspects arrested and surrendered for fair trial in The Hague,” Dicker said.