Libya: ‘Time for justice, not revenge’

2011-08-22 11:10

The Hague, Netherlands – The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) was contacting Libyan rebels today to urge them to hand over the son of Muammar Gaddafi, detained during their dramatic thrust into Tripoli, and not take the law into their own hands.

“It is time for justice, not revenge,” Luis Moreno-Ocampo told The Associated Press today, shortly after receiving confirmation that opposition forces had detained Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, his father’s one-time heir apparent who has been indicted on crimes-against-humanity charges.

Moreno-Ocampo charged Muammar Gaddafi, his son and his intelligence chief Abdullah al-Sanoussi in May with involvement in a campaign to attack civilians in their homes, shoot at demonstrators with live ammunition, shell funeral processions and deploy snipers to kill people leaving mosques.

Issuing arrest warrants for the suspects in June, Presiding Judge Sanji Monageng said evidence showed Gaddafi and his inner circle plotted a “state policy” to stamp out dissent “by any means – including by the use of lethal force”.

Rebels have previously pledged to hand over indicted suspects they capture, but also have said they would like to try them in Libya.

Moreno-Ocampo stressed that he wants to put Seif Gaddafi on trial in The Hague.

“Muammar, Seif and al-Sanoussi are three persons indicted by the ICC, they should be turned over to the ICC,” the prosecutor said.

He said that a new Libyan government would have to decide how to handle cases involving lower-ranked officials.

Seif Gaddafi’s detention came as rebels poured into the Libyan capital Tripoli with little resistance.

A rebel leader said the unit in charge of protecting Gaddafi and Tripoli had surrendered and joined the revolt, allowing the opposition force to move in freely.

Fighting broke out today near Gaddafi’s compound in Tripoli, but the leader’s whereabouts remained unknown.

“We hope that Muammar Gaddafi is also arrested and also faces justice,” Moreno-Ocampo said. “There is no more impunity for these crimes.”

Human Rights Watch called on the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) and the remaining pockets of Gaddafi support to protect civilians and those still backing Gaddafi in what appeared to be the last throes of his 42-year rule.

“NTC forces should not carry out reprisals against those who fought for or supported the Gaddafi government,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

Moreno-Ocampo says he has evidence of Gaddafi issuing orders and of his son organising the recruitment of mercenaries to fight for the regime.

The United Nations Security Council called in February for a probe into atrocities against opponents of Gaddafi’s regime. Moreno-Ocampo required UN approval because Libya does not recognise the court’s jurisdiction and has not ratified its founding treaty.

After arrest warrants were issued, Libyan Justice Minister Mohammed al-Qamudi dismissed the court as a front for Nato.

“It’s merely a political tool for exerting pressure and political blackmail against sovereign countries,” he said.

Muammar Gaddafi is only the second head of state indicted by the court after Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir, who has been charged with genocide for allegedly masterminding widespread attacks on civilians in the Darfur region.

Al-Bashir has refused to accept the court’s jurisdiction.

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