Gaddafi to be investigated for crimes against humanity

March 3, 2011

 

Sanctions, an arms embargo, asset freezing, a travel ban and a Security Council referral in terms of  the Rome Statute.  Security Council Resolution 1970 comes as a welcome change after the initial echoes of condemnation, amounting to nothing more than a firm tongue lashing, seemingly failed to appreciate the gravity of the Libyan situation. And today ICC Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, formally announced the ICC’s intention to open an investigation into the alleged crimes against humanity committed by Gaddafi, his sons and his “inner circle”.

It has certainly been encouraging to see the rapid mobilization of international support and unanimity in voting in international bodies. Even the United Nations General Assembly suspended Libya’s membership in the Human Rights Council. The African Union has disappointingly, but hardly surprising, kept rather quiet on the Libyan crisis. Perhaps African leaders see a little too much of themselves in Gaddafi. Africa is after all home to some of the world’s longest serving leaders, anything too firm may have set itself an unfavourable precedent.

Referrals, votes, suspensions, finger pointing and sweeping statements aside, will the ICC be able to maintain this momentum? There is still a way to go, the investigation needs to be completed and the ICC will then have to rule on whether it will issue arrest warrants, a process that could take many months.  But there is an even bigger question; are the measures that are currently in place enough to bring an end to the Gaddafi regime? Gaddafi’s reign of terror continues. Libya is not another Tunisia or Egypt where the leadership ultimately resigned itself to the inevitable. Gaddafi has proved himself unrelenting in his desperate bid to cling to power. Will this hamper the investigation process? Will investigators even be able enter Libya?

Although a long and perhaps uncertain road lies ahead, international justice deserves a pat on the back. When the ICC issues arrest warrants, justice, although it may not be swift, it will be done. If Gaddafi manages to retain power, the international community will be watching his every move making travel and evading arrest rather difficult. If he is overthrown, I doubt very much that Libya’s future leadership and the people of Libya will be very forgiving and they certainly won’t think twice about handing him over to the ICC.

So if the international efforts to date are anything to go by I am confident that the Libyan crisis will be one that is characterised by accountability and not impunity.

Watch the press conference here.

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