Libya Urged to Deny Amnesty to War Criminals

Current law protects revolutionaries

By Jack Phillips
Epoch Times Staff
Created: November 7, 2012 Last Updated: November 8, 2012
Related articles: World » Middle East
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Anti-Gadhafi fighters from the city of Misrata man a checkpoint on the road between Wershefana and Zawiyah cities at checkpoint west of Tripoli in November 2011 (Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images)

Anti-Gadhafi fighters from the city of Misrata man a checkpoint on the road between Wershefana and Zawiyah cities at checkpoint west of Tripoli in November 2011 (Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images)

The International Criminal Court’s head prosecutor urged the new Libyan government, which will officially be sworn in on Thursday, not to give amnesty to people who committed war crimes during the uprising last year. 

In May, the Libyan National Transitional Council enacted a blanket amnesty law for those who committed crimes directed at Moammar Gadhafi’s regime.

There should be “no impunity for crimes, regardless of who the perpetrator is and who is the victim,” said Fatou Bensouda, the International Criminal Court (ICC) lead prosecutor in a speech to the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday, as transcribed on the U.N. website.

New York-based Human Rights Watch called on the U.N. Security Council to “send a strong message” to Libya that it needs to cooperate with the ICC and to pressure the government to deal with “serious and ongoing crimes” carried out by various militia operating in the country.

The Libyan transitional council has proven slow to cooperate with the ICC in the case of accused war criminal Abdullah al-Senussi.

Senussi, the former spy chief under Gadhafi, is accused of crimes against humanity for his role in civilian attacks. He is also a main suspect in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people. 

He is currently in the custody of Libyan authorities, but the ICC requested he be turned over to it in July 2011—a request which has not been met. 

Libya is obliged to comply with the request under the Security Council Resolution of 1970, binding under the U.N. Charter, said Human Rights Watch.

“The Court rules that the [Senussi] case should be heard before the ICC,” said Bensouda. “I will count on Libya’s full support and cooperation to ensure that the ICC’s proceedings are both successful and are seen to be successful by the Libyan public, the first and most important audience for any such proceedings at the ICC.” 

The new Libyan government has indicated that it will soon officially challenge this ICC ruling, said Bensouda. It already challenged a similar ICC request for Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, the jailed former dictator’s son and second-in-command. 

Saif al-Islam was one of the most vocal opponents of the Libyan uprising-turned-civil war last year and is accused of crimes against humanity, including torture and the killing of civilians—charges that he has denied. He was arrested nearly a year ago in the mountainous town of Zintan and remains in detention in Libya.

Judgment is pending on the challenge. The court will decide whether Saif al-Islam is tried in Libya or in The Hague, South Holland, where the ICC is located. 

Bensouda acknowledged the difficulties that lay ahead for the new Libyan government. He urged the government to work closely with its citizenry. The government has committed to addressing all crimes and impunity in the nation, Bensouda said. 

“I encourage the government of Libya to make this strategy public, and to work with key partners to receive feedback on this strategy and to seek out the views and concerns of victims in Libya,” Bensouda said, adding that such a move would provide a clearer “path to democracy and rule of law.”

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