ICC prosecutor says grounds to charge Libyan forces

The chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court has announced there are reasonable grounds to charge forces loyal to Libya`s Col Muammar Gaddafi with crimes against humanity.

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Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in a report charges could include murder, unlawful detention, torture and persecution.

He indicated that shooting at peaceful protesters by security forces had been systematic.

The prosecutor, who was authorised by the United Nations Security Council to investigate alleged abuses in Libya, noted there were credible estimates of between 500 and 700 people killed in February alone.

Mr Ocampo said he plans to submit his first application for arrest warrants within the next few weeks.

The warrants will apparently focus on the initial clampdown against protesters, but it does not reveal who he plans to indict.

The report noted that these alleged crimes are said to be committed on the instructions of only a few people at the top, raising theprospect that Col Gaddafi and members of his inner circle may be charged.

The chief prosecutor said there is also relevant information that war crimes were committed once the situation developed into armed conflict, such as intentional attacks against non-combatants and apparent use of cluster bombs.

The prosecutor’s office is also continuing investigations into serious allegations of rape, and reports that angry mobs in the rebel-held Libyan city of Benghazi killed dozens of Africans thought to be mercenaries.

Meanwhile the trial of two Rwandan Hutu leaders accused of masterminding atrocitiesin eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has started in Stuttgart in Germany.

The accused, Ignace Murwanashyaka, head of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), and his deputy Straton Musoni, both live in Germany.

They face 26 counts of crimes against humanity and 39 of war crimes.

The two men are accused of ordering militias to commit mass murder and rape between January 2008 and the date of their arrest in Germany in November 2009.

The United Nations has hailed the trial as a breakthrough after repeated calls by the UN Security Council to bring FDLR commanders living abroad to justice.

“This co-operative burden-sharing in prosecuting individuals for serious international crimes will greatly advance the fight against impunity,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in January.

“Legal action against FDLR leaders also reinforces efforts to demobilise and repartriate FDLR fighters, which would significantly contribute to stabilising the eastern DRC.”

Mr Murwanashyaka, 47, has lived in Germany for 20 years, having studied in the wetern city of Bonn before being offered asylum and settling in Mannheim in the southwest.

Mr Musoni, 49, has lived in Germany since 1994, and has been Mr Murwanashyaka’s deputy since 2004.

The FDLR was established by men accused of taking part in the Rwandan genocide of 1994 who later set up in the DR Congo.

It is one of the most powerful rebel forces operating in eastern DR Congo, where it is believed to make millions of dollars a year by controlling mines rich in gold and other minerals and extorting money from local people.

ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said earlier this year that the prosecution of FDLR leaders “will provide the opportunity to demobilise this armed group”.

A 1998-2003 conflict in DR Congo is estimated to have caused the deaths of five million people.

From Crespo Sebunya in Kampala