UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court announced Wednesday that it has filed new arrest warrant applications resulting from its investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Libya.
Karim Khan told the UN Security Council in the first briefing of an ICC prosecutor from Libyan soil that the applications have been presented in confidence to the independent judges of the court, who will determine whether to issue arrest warrants. Therefore, he said, he cannot provide any further details.
But, Khan added, “there will be further questions we will put forward because the victims want to see the action and the evidence is available, and it is our challenge to make sure we have the resources (to) prioritize the situation in Libya to make sure we can claim. the promise of the Security Council in resolution 1970 ”.
In that resolution, adopted in February 2011, the Security Council unanimously referred Libya to the ICC in The Hague, based in the Netherlands, to initiate an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The council referral followed Moammar Gaddafi’s brutal crackdown on protesters that was underway at the time. The uprising, later supported by NATO, led to Gaddafi’s capture and death in October 2011.
Oil-rich Libya was then divided by rival administrations, one in the east, backed by military commander Khalifa Hifter, and a UN-backed administration in the west, in the capital Tripoli. Each side is supported by different militias and foreign powers.
Libya’s current political crisis stems from the failure to hold elections in December 2021 and the refusal of Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, who led a transitional government in Tripoli, to step down. In response, the country’s east-based parliament has appointed a rival prime minister, Fathy Bashagha, who has been trying to install her government in Tripoli for months.
Khan said in his virtual briefing from Tripoli that his visit to Libya, including meetings with victims of violence and abuse from all parts of the country, reinforced his belief that more needs to be done to ensure that their voices they are heard, that justice is done and there is responsibility for the crimes committed against them and their loved ones.
“We cannot allow a sentiment to become pervasive and impunity to be inevitable,” he said. “The victims want the truth to emerge.”
The prosecutor said he visited the western city of Tarhuna, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Tripoli, where mass graves were discovered in June 2020 following the withdrawal of Hifter’s forces after they failed to take the road. capital. During a panel discussion, he said, one man told him he had lost 24 family members and another said he had lost 15 relatives.
Khan said 250 bodies have so far been recovered in Tarhuna but far fewer have been identified. He said he had stressed to the Attorney General, the Minister of Justice and the forensic science service of Libya that his office is willing to provide technical assistance because “the task is so big”.
The prosecutor told the council that, for the first time since 2011, the ICC now has a regular presence in the region.
He said his staff carried out 20 missions to six countries to gather a variety of evidence, including satellites, witnesses and audio recordings. The ICC has also built partnerships with Libyan authorities, he said.
“The crushing crimes are against the Libyans,” Khan said. “And this partnership that we are trying to refocus, build and promote is absolutely crucial if we are looking to move forward.”
The prosecutor said he went to Benghazi and met with the military prosecutor and Hifter on Tuesday.
“I made it clear that we had received evidence and information regarding allegations of crimes committed by the LNA,” he said, using the initials of the self-styled Libyan National Army commanded by Hifter.
“I said those would be and are being investigated,” Khan said.
Khan said the ICC wants to ensure that “whether you are coming from the east or the west, whether you are north or south of Libya, whether you are a military commander or a civilian superior, there is an absolute ban on committing crimes of competence of the judge “.