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LIBYA: International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor willing to hear Kadafi's side of story

March 10, 2011 | 12:24 pm

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor, who is investigating Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi and members of his inner circle for possible war crimes, told the Reuters news agency Thursday that he would welcome hearing Kadafi’s version of events as part of his probe.

In an exclusive interview with Reuters, Luis Moreno-Ocampo said the United Nations Security Council needed to start thinking about how it would proceed if the case against Kadafi moved forward, for example how it would go about arresting people if warrants were issued. Moreno-Ocampo was scheduled to advise the Security Council of the progress of his investigation on May 4, Reuters reported.

Thousands of people are feared dead as a result of fighting between Libyan security forces and rebels who demonstrated against Kadafi and took control of parts of the country in February, Reuters reported.

Last week the BBC reported that Moreno-Ocampo had identified at least nine incidents that could constitute crimes against humanity.

The most serious claim was that 257 people were killed by authorities in the eastern city of Benghazi between Feb. 15 and 20, the BBC said, citing information from the prosecutor’s office. Also under investigation are charges that 26 people were killed in three other towns in the region; the alleged killing by security forces of 14 protesters in the town of Misrata; and allegations of illegal detention, the BBC reported.

Up to 15 people could face charges, including Kadafi, his sons, and the heads of the various security agencies and military organizations, the BBC said. Also last week, the international police agency Interpol issued a security alert for Kadafi and 15 of his relatives and associates.

“I would welcome any information from Kadafi and others who are on notice on how they are punishing past crimes and preventing new crimes,” Moreno-Ocampo told Reuters during the interview at his office in The Hague.

Reuters reported that once the chief prosecutor had collected sufficient evidence, he would present his case to judges of the International Criminal Court. It would be up to the judges to decide to issue arrest warrants, Reuters said.

“If the judges then issue an arrest warrant, the U.N. Security Council will plan for its part,” Moreno-Ocampo told Reuters. “The real challenge for the Security Council and states is how to implement arrest warrants.”

Libyan government officials have reacted with scorn to news of Moreno-Ocampo’s investigation. 

Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim has been quoted as calling Moreno-Ocampo’s case "close to a joke," based solely on media reports, the British news agency reported. And Kadafi, who has ruled Libya for 41 years, has vowed to fight to the death rather than cede power. 

Moreno-Ocampo was clearly not joking.

“There are no exit strategies for anyone who commits massive crimes,” Reuters quoted the chief prosecutor as saying. “The new rule is: No leader can commit massive crimes to retain or gain power.”

-- Ann M. Simmons

 

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