The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) said today he is investigating alleged crimes against humanity committed in Libya, including by President Muammar Al-Qadhafi and members of his inner circle, following a request from the United Nations Security Council to probe the violent crackdown on protesters.
“There will be no impunity in Libya,” Luis Moreno-Ocampo told a news briefing in The Hague, where the Court is based. “No one has authority to attack and massacre civilians.”
The announcement comes just days after the Security Council asked the Court to look into the violent repression of protesters, in which more than 1,000 people are reported to have been killed and many more injured as Mr. Qadhafi’s loyalists opened fire on peaceful civilians demanding his ouster.
It also comes amid efforts to address the growing humanitarian situation in Libya and on its borders. The UN humanitarian office estimates that some 180,000 people have fled the fighting in Libya so far.
At UN Headquarters in New York, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon convened a video and telephone conference call this morning with regional organizations and UN agencies to discuss the humanitarian situation.
“The Secretary-General urgently appeals to the Libyan authorities to allow immediate and unimpeded access into Libya to determine humanitarian needs and provide assistance inside the country should it be required, including in the west,” UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky told reporters, adding that Mr. Ban intends to name a special envoy shortly.
On the ICC investigation, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said the probe will look into several incidents that have occurred since 15 February in various towns and cities across Libya. “During the coming weeks, the Office [of the Prosecutor] will investigate who are the most responsible for the most serious crimes committed in Libya,” he stated.
The Office has identified some individuals with de facto or formal authority on the security forces who allegedly committed the crimes, such as Mr. Qadhafi and his inner circle, including some of his sons.
The Prosecutor also noted that there are people with formal authority who should pay attention to the crimes committed by their people because if they are not preventing, stopping and punishing these crimes, they could be responsible. They include the minister of foreign affairs and the head of the regime’s security and military intelligence, among others.
“We’d like to use this opportunity to put them on notice. If forces under their command and control commit crimes, they could be criminally responsible,” he stated.
The Office of the Prosecutor will present its evidence to the Court’s judges, who will then decide whether or not to issue arrest warrants.
During this morning’s conference call, Mr. Ban and the other participants cited a strong need for urgent relief – food, water, sanitation and shelter – for the thousands on both sides of the Tunisian and Egyptian borders due to significant population movements, as well as the need to prepare for a further possible escalation of humanitarian needs should conditions deteriorate inside Libya.
The UN and its partners are working closely with authorities in Egypt, Tunisia and also Niger to meet the basic needs of those who have fled from Libya, the vast majority of whom are migrant workers. But as the situation escalates, it is evident that a much larger response is required, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) stressed.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) reported March 3 that a ship chartered by the agency and carrying more than 1,000 metric tons of wheat flour to the Libyan port of Benghazi has returned to port in Malta without unloading its cargo due to security concerns.
“We urgently call for safe humanitarian access to Libya,” said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran. “This shows the scale of the challenge we face, especially if there is a need to ramp up food and other assistance in Libya.”
The agency said that aerial bombardments have been reported outside Benghazi, and owners of cargo vessels are reluctant to send their ships into areas where crew members could be endangered or assets damaged.
“We are exploring every possible humanitarian corridor to be prepared in case needs escalate,” Ms. Sheeran added.