Back Against the Wall: Libya Wants the ICC to Prosecute Wanton Militias

(Photo: Mahmud Turkia / AFP / Getty Images)

(Photo: Mahmud Turkia / AFP / Getty Images)

Not long ago, I suggested that the work of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in Libya might not be finished. My belief was that the Court would go after alleged international criminals residing outside Libya. They still might. But if the Libyan government has its way, the Court will actually prosecute militias currently causing violent ruckus and disarray within the country.

It is no secret that Libya is reaching a dire state. While the situation in the country has been overshadowed by events in Gaza and Eastern Ukraine, stability and order in Libya are being severely threatened. To those who have followed events in the country, that won’t come as much of a surprise. As report after report has shown, the country has been thrown into a political and security vacuum following the demise of the Gaddafi regime.

After forty years a civil society-less existence, Libyans were left with almost no fully functional state institutions. Militias, armed to the teeth from the civil war and now the flourishing arms routes (really more like highways) across the Maghreb and Sahel, moved to fill the security void. Some were supported by the government. Others, however, are responsible for ongoing violence and atrocity. Speaking to the United Nations Security Council last week, Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdelaziz even referred to his country as a potential “failed state” — three times. In an remarkably frank discussion indicative of the deteriorating situation, Abdelaziz also added that “Libya has no witness protection facilities” and that the country suffers from an “absence of a strong and effective and humane criminal justice system.”

Amidst intensifying violence, the government has decided to seek external help. Last week, Tripoli asked the United Nations Security Council to consider sending in a stabilization team. In truth, this should have happened in October 2011 when the regime of Muammar Gaddafi collapsed. But neither the Security Council (and especially NATO member states) nor the Libyan government had any appetite for an external force being deployed in-country. The current situation, however, has left Tripoli desperate. With its back against the wall, the government has dramatically altered its political calculus.

A check-point between Bani Walid and Misrata (Photo: Lopez Jean Baptiste / SIPA)

A check-point between Bani Walid and Misrata (Photo: Lopez Jean Baptiste / SIPA)

According to Moutaz Ali of the Libya Herald, Libyan officials are attempting to persuade the ICC’s Prosecutor to open an investigation into militias currently involved in violence around the capital:

Libya is looking into the possibility of allowing the International Criminal Court (ICC) to prosecute those responsible for the recent violence in Tripoli and elsewhere, notably the attacks on Tripoli International Airport.

The Minister of Justice, Salah Marghani, discussed the idea with the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, in The Hague yesterday, according to the Prime Minister’s office.

The move represents an abrupt about turn. Previously the Libya authorities had rejected the ICC’s demands to hand over Saif Al-Islam Qaddafi and Abdullah Senoussi, both of whom have been indicted by the ICC, saying they were capable of trying them in Libya.

The ICC cannot initiate prosecutions by itself. But it can take them on if they have been referred to it by the UN Security Coucil (as was the case with Saif Al-Islam and Senoussi) or if the government of a country where the incidents took place asks it to do so because it is incapable of doing so itself.

The Ministry of Justice had warned earlier this week that it was in consultation with international and national legal bodies about prosecuting those military groups which had refused its order to immediately stop the fighting and the launching of missile attacks.

“The situation is serious and all parties must realise that no one is above the law. If not today, they will be prosecuted in the future,” Cabinet Secretary Ahmed Lamin told the Libya Herald. “They are damaging facilities owned by all Libyans” he said.

The decision to possibly transfer authority for prosecution to the ICC appears to be directed at both Misratan and Zintani forces, their commanders and those behind them.

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Posted in International Criminal Court (ICC), Libya, Libya and the ICC | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

The ICC in Palestine: Threat or Promise?

With the backdrop of growing tensions and violence in Gaza, the question of whether the International Criminal Court (ICC) will intervene in Palestine has come back to the fore. The following is an excerpt from my article, from yesterday, for the Monkey Cage blog at the Washington Post. You can read the full article here.

(Photo: Bernat Armangue / AP)

(Photo: Bernat Armangue / AP)

On July 6, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas issued a stern warning: “Those who fear courts should refrain from committing crimes.” The intended target of this warning was obvious: Israel, which is in the midst of yet another military offensive in Gaza. The meaning of his statement was also clear: Palestine will not hesitate to ask the International Criminal Court (ICC) to intervene. Despite this rhetoric, international accountability for crimes in Palestine and Israel is as unlikely today as it has ever been. None of the key actors – the Palestinian Authority, Israel, Western states or the ICC itself – is able or willing to achieve justice for the victims and survivors of this intractable war.

Palestine’s interest in an ICC intervention is nothing new. The government initially referred Palestine to the ICC in January 2009. More than three years later, then-Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo decided that the court could not investigate alleged crimes because it was unclear whether Palestine was a state – and therefore whether it could legally refer itself to the ICC. Whilst the majority of human rights advocates agreed that the court was right in ruling that it was not the appropriate venue to decide on Palestinian statehood, many were perplexed and even insulted that the prosecutor took so long to issue a handful of sentences on a subject with such legal and political gravitas.

In response to the prosecutor’s decision not to open an investigation, Palestine went on a statehood shopping spree, seeking ascension to various U.N. agencies. The General Assembly overwhelmingly voted to recognize Palestine as a state and granted it “Non-Member Observer State” status. The implication was clear: With recognized statehood Palestine could join the ICC and re-refer itself to the court.

Palestine’s efforts have been met with a wall of political obstruction. Western powers have attempted to coerce the Palestinian Authority into ceasing its pursuit of full statehood and a possible referral to the ICC. Much fuss has been made that seeking an ICC intervention would underminepeace talks brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. During the negotiations, one U.S. officials suggested that so long as talks were ongoing, there was little threat of an ICC intervention. More recently, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power was unequivocal,stating that the United States was “absolutely adamant” that Palestine should not join the ICC as the court “is something that really poses a profound threat to Israel.”

But an ICC intervention also poses a real threat to certain Palestinian groups. It is a common misconception that Palestinian authorities can “press charges” or refer Israel to the ICC for alleged crimes committed in their protracted, decades-long war. In reality, Palestine can only refer itself to the court and, if it did so, ICC investigators would be restricted to investigating crimes perpetrated on Palestinian territory – a territory that is, for purposes of criminal investigation, still unclear. Any alleged crimes perpetrated in Israel – including the construction of illegal settlements – would be inadmissible. Continue reading

Posted in International Criminal Court (ICC), Israel, Palestine, Palestine and the ICC, Peace Negotiations, United States | 2 Comments

What Gives? African Union Head of State Immunity

(Photo: AU)

(Photo: AU)

Last week, the African Union (AU) voted to grant immunity from prosecution to all African Heads of State and “senior officials” at the African Court of Justice and Human Rights. Predictably, the human rights and international justice world were up in arms. Some called it the “worst possible signal” to perpetrators of atrocities.

Members of the African Union have pushed for head of state immunity since Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was first indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2009. Their mission has only gathered steam since Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is facing trial at the ICC, was elected in March 2013.

So what should we make of the AU’s efforts? Here are a few thoughts.

Not Just Ocampo-Justice

It would be easy, but generally wrong, to ascribe the AU’s motion to a bunch of cronies. There are cronies and they are leading the attack on the ICC. But ICC member-states in Africa aren’t exactly lining up to defend the Court. This seems symptomatic of a widening and deepening wave of discontent with international justice. And this frustration may yet grow amongst the citizenry of African states – ironically in part because the Court has been unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute some African heads of state.

It wasn’t that long ago that Jean Ping stated that the AU was not against the ICC but “against Ocampo”, referring to the previous, often cavalier, former Chief Prosecutor of the ICC. Some had hoped that the election and tenure of Fatou Bensouda as new Prosecutor would help reconcile relations between African states. There is little evidence that it has and, for the Court and its proponents, that must be troubling.

Before any fervent human rights advocates rush to print placards declaring that African dictators are abandoning international justice, it behooves them to consider where the frustration of many African states comes from – and why it is so easy for generally pro-ICC states to stand idly by.  As I have argued before, there needs to be a re-imagination of that relationship from the Court’s side, along with new strategies for how the ICC communicates and prioritizes its relations with African states.

Small Group, Big Pull

While proponents of international criminal justice shouldn’t interpret the AU’s vote as the work of a group of despots, it is likewise wrong to suggest that the vote reflects the African Union as a whole – let alone ‘Africa’. As Samuel Oakford observes,

Though the AU often projects itself and is frequently reported as a singular voice, the vote reflected a concerted push on the part of a minority of leaders, two of whom have been charged by the ICC. Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta has been accused of fomenting ethnic violence that marred the 2007 elections, and Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has been charged with orchestrating genocide in Darfur. Both angled to weaken the African court’s ability to pursue heads of state and high level official[s].

Notably, this small group of vehement anti-ICC figures is willing to put more resources into their cause than their pro-ICC colleagues who, it would seem, are passively content to allow bluster and rhetoric to flourish whilst knowing that little will likely come of it (see below).

In its own right, this is a bad sign for international criminal justice. The path of least resistance amongst AU states is to side with, and not against, immunity for heads of state and anti-ICC resolutions.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta arrives for an African Union Summit in October 2013 (Photo: Jacey Fortin)

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta arrives for an African Union Summit in October 2013 (Photo: Jacey Fortin)

The Problem of International Justice is…

The problem with international justice is not that it does too much but that it is too limited: that there isn’t enough head of state accountability. Of course, this isn’t an issue that pertains specifically to the African continent, although it would be a welcome sign to see the likes of Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni (who insists that his list of sins is longer than Bashir’s), Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe held responsible for their alleged role in mass human rights violations. Former leaders like George W. Bush and Tony Blair are consensus candidates to be prosecuted for alleged crimes committed in Iraq and Afghanistan and very few proponents of international criminal justice would deny this.

Unfortunately, many dictators and despots around the world who long ago passed their democratic expiry dates can only gain an incentive from measures to ensure and protect head of state immunity. So too will “senior officials” who are covered by the AU’s resolution. That doesn’t sound like an particularly good recipe for democratic development. But maybe I’ve just read too much Chinua Achebe.

The new resolution warps the incentives of government leaders and senior officials to leave power. It thus not only hurts judicial accountability but undermines democratic accountability.

Rebel Justice

The AU’s resolution re-affirms a troubling pattern amongst those African states who have pursued international justice and accountability: justice is for their rebels adversaries and not for governments. This is also evident in essentially every self-referral by an African state to the ICC.

There is a striking correlation between self-referrals and the ICC targeting non-state actors. And it is equally notable that the most controversial cases for African states have come as a result of UN Security Council referrals which have primarily targeted governmental actors.

The AU’s amendment should thus be read not only as an attempt to grant government officials immunity but as a means to narrow the scope of retributive justice to those rebel groups that may threaten those African governments currently in power.

A primary problem of this uneven selection of targets is its effects on conflict resolution. The prosecution (or proscription) of one side and not the other when both are responsible for atrocities is unlikely to be conducive to peacemaking.

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Posted in African Union (AU), ICC Prosecutor, International Criminal Court (ICC) | 3 Comments

Caring and Acting Beyond Borders

“How do we mobilize political will and not only get people to care but to act?” James P. Rudolph joins JiC for this post on the challenges in galvanizing support and action to prevent atrocities. For James’ other posts at JiC, see here.

Bansky art on the Israel West Bank wall (Photo: Buzzfeed)

Bansky art on the Israel West Bank wall (Photo: Buzzfeed)

Americans, like most people, have busy schedules. Our obligations are many: school, family, work. All this activity consumes most of our time and attention. So why, given all this frenetic (and often exhausting) activity, should people care about anyone beyond immediate friends and family? Why, to quote Neville Chamberlain, should we care about a “quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing?”

This question is not only a philosophical question; it is also the primary problem bedeviling human rights activists throughout the world. To put it bluntly, if we cared only about family and immediate loved ones, there would be no human rights industry. Thus, mobilizing political will is the sine qua non — the Holy Grail — of human rights activists. How, then, do we mobilize political will and not only get people to care but to act?

The consensus among human rights experts is that mobilizing political will involves four steps: knowing; caring; building confidence; and building or improving institutional processes. This final step — institutional effectiveness — is, notwithstanding the importance of the other factors, first among equals, and it is related to the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s “Rights Up Front” initiative, both of which exhort the international community to assist states in meeting their human rights obligations.

Knowledge is the first step in the process of getting people to care beyond what is close and familiar. Knowing about Syrians being slaughtered pulls at our heartstrings. These are real people — sons, daughters, mothers, fathers — being tortured, gassed and incinerated. Knowing about the abducted schoolgirls in Nigeria, or the terrible tit-for-tat violence in the Central African Republic, pricks our conscience. But knowing is never enough. The so-called diffusion of responsibility, in which individuals in a group assume that somebody else will take care of the problem, always threatens to undermine the utility of knowledge. Knowledge, therefore, must be coupled with concern, the second step, to truly mean anything. But how and why are people motivated to care? Given the multiplicity of religious and philosophical persuasions in the United States, an appeal to morality could work, but for a more broad-based approach, other motivating factors could and should be explored.

0_16531525_303_00An argument based on national interest, for instance, oftentimes works to get people to realize that problems in one part of the world can quickly become problems right here at home. Osama bin Laden was able to operate out of Afghanistan because it was a failed state in which human rights were nonexistent. And Mohamed Salameh, convicted of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, was a Palestinian from the West Bank who complained about oppressive regulations and other human rights violations. People, in other words, can and usually will care when convinced that abuses or deprivations in faraway lands can indeed affect their everyday lives. The corollary to the national interest argument is the financial argument. That is to say, it is much cheaper to spend money on prevention measures than it is to deploy troops for humanitarian interventions.

The third step to mobilizing political will is building confidence. Citizens, as taxpayers, rightfully expect that whatever policy is proposed will actually make a difference. The United States has endured some difficult times in Iraq and Afghanistan, and this history feeds into a perception that “foreign adventures,” whether humanitarian or not, are best avoided. The feeling, of course, is understandable and natural, but it should not overshadow all the quiet and mostly unknown victories achieved by the United Nations and other nongovernmental organizations throughout the world. Notwithstanding Syria, Darfur and the Central African Republic, there has been a decline in the number of genocides and other mass atrocity crimes due, in large part, to the upsurge of conflict prevention measures, conflict management and post-conflict peacebuilding initiatives. Continue reading

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The ICC in Libya: Not Done Just Yet

Are more ICC arrest warrants in Libya on the horizon? (Photo: Suhaib Salem / Reuters)

Are more ICC arrest warrants in Libya on the horizon? (Photo: Suhaib Salem / Reuters)

With the ruling that the case against Saif al-Islam Gaddafi is admissible before the International Criminal Court (ICC) and that Libya must surrender him to The Hague, observers might be inclined to think the story between the ICC and Libya is over. After all, there is virtually no way that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s son and ‘heir apparent’ will be surrendered to the ICC. But the story between the ICC and Libya may not be over. Indeed, a new chapter may just be opening.

In a New Years post on 2014 predictions, I suggested that another Libyan will be indicted by the ICC and Libya will not have any issue with it. Since then, in speaking with a number of well-connected sources, it has become clear that there is a growing belief that the Prosecutor may proceed in requesting additional warrants for individuals responsible for crimes committed during the Libya’s 2011 uprising and civil war.

Close ICC observers, especially those who tune into online streams of the Prosecutor’s reports to the UN Security Council, might not be surprised. Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has intimated, on at least two occasions now, that more arrest warrants may be forthcoming.

This is what the Prosecutor told the UN Security Council in November of last year:

There are many others who are alleged to have committed crimes and/or who continue to commit crimes in Libya since February 2011. Some are still inside in the country while others are abroad where they continue to use their influence to destabilise the country and pose a security threat to civilians.  It is impossible for the ICC alone to investigate and prosecute all perpetrators.  Neither can Libya undertake this demanding task alone.  Investigation and prosecution of the few by both ICC and the Government of Libya respectively should not result in impunity for the many. Joint complementary efforts of both the Government of Libya and the ICC, strongly and actively supported by the international community, are thus crucial for ending impunity in the country.

To this end, my Office and the Government of Libya have recently concluded a burden-sharing Memorandum of Understanding, the purpose of which is to facilitate our collaborative efforts to ensure that individuals allegedly responsible for committing crimes in Libya as of 15 February 2011 are brought to justice either at the ICC or in Libya itself.  While my Office will prioritise its investigation and prosecution of those who are outside the territory of Libya and who are thus largely inaccessible to the Libyan authorities, the Government of Libya will prioritise investigations of those suspects who are within Libyan territory. I am also pleased to report that my Office and the Government of Libya have also committed to supporting each other’s investigations and prosecutions through the exchange of information, subject to confidentiality and protection obligations.  To be absolutely clear, this agreement does not relinquish the ICC or the Libyan courts of their respective jurisdiction, nor does it apply and/or affect the ongoing judicial proceedings in either the Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi or the Al Senussi cases.

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda reports to the UN Security Council in November 2013 (Photo: UN / Eskinder Debebe)

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda reports to the UN Security Council in November 2013 (Photo: UN / Eskinder Debebe)

And this is what the Prosecutor informed the Council of last month:

Following the conclusion of the memorandum of understanding on burden-sharing with the Government of Libya last year, on 29 January 2014, my Office held fruitful and constructive discussions with the Libyan Prosecutor General Abdul Qader Radwan on practical aspects of the implementation of this MOU and strategies for further investigations, prosecutions and possible arrests. These discussions will be continued during the next meeting with the Prosecutor General’s investigators, scheduled for 15 May. The support of this Council and of all States is critical for these joint endeavours to bring to justice, either in Libya or at the ICC, those responsible for serious crimes.

In particular, and as I have said before, such support is crucial for the colossal task of collecting evidence to untangle the modus operandi of the networks responsible for committing crimes. Amongst others, we will require telephone intercepts and sustained follow-up on the transfers of funds to establish the whereabouts and movements of persons under investigation. This is all information that we can only access through the assistance of States. Above all, we hope we can count on the cooperation of States in facilitating the smooth arrest and surrender of those against whom warrants will be issued. This is key for sending a clear message to would-be Libyan perpetrators and indeed all other would-be perpetrators that the international community is watching and will no longer allow impunity to reign unchecked.

There are a few things to take away from this.

First and most obviously, the level of apparent time and effort that is being spent on investigating and potentially prosecuting additional figures from Libya suggests that the Prosecutor isn’t content with the Court’s legacy in Libya and, in particular, is not satisfied with being left empty-handed in Libya.  Continue reading

Posted in ICC Prosecutor, International Criminal Court (ICC), Libya, Libya and the ICC, United Nations | 2 Comments

ICC Justice in Ukraine May Have to Wait

I recently had the opportunity to write an op-ed for the Moscow Times on the potential investigation of recent events in Ukraine by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Will the ICC intervene in Ukraine? If so, would former President Viktor Yanukovych ever face prosecution or will Russia shelter him from accountability? What would an ICC intervention mean for the (very) tense relations between the ‘West’ and Russia?

(Photo: Valentyn Ogirenko / Reuters)

(Photo: Valentyn Ogirenko / Reuters)

The ongoing crisis in Ukraine has been fuelled by speculation concerning the murder of protestors on Kiev’s Maidan Square during pro-European Union demonstrations. Broadly speaking, supporters of Ukraine’s turn west have accused police snipers. Those in favour of closer ties to Russia, meanwhile, have said far-right anti-Russian provocateurs, hoping to discredit the then-government, were responsible.

Lost in this turmoil are objective answers about who was responsible for the violence on Maidan and whether or not they will be ever be held to account.

Following a request from the Ukrainian parliament, the International Criminal Court, or ICC, opened a preliminary investigation into alleged crimes committed in Ukraine between 21 Nov. 2013 and 22 Feb. 2014. These dates mark the beginning of protests on Maidan and the Ukrainian parliament’s vote to oust pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Of course, the ICC’s involvement does not mean that any conclusion about the violence on Maidan will be reached soon.

Opening a preliminary investigation does not, in itself, mean that the court will open an official investigation — let alone issue arrest warrants. Some situations, like the war in Afghanistan or the conflict in Colombia, have toiled for years in the judicial purgatory that is the ICC’s preliminary investigation list.

Moreover, the time-period that the ICC can investigate essentially restricts the court to investigating alleged crimes on the Maidan Square in Kiev. If prosecutors find that the time-period referred to the ICC was intended to narrow the court’s focus against specific parties, namely former President Viktor Yanukovych and his cronies, then the ICC can and should decide not to proceed. Prosecutors may also fear intervening whilst fragile negotiations between the West and Russia over Ukraine’s future are ongoing.

States tend to believe that when they refer themselves to the ICC, they are, in fact, referring their adversaries. While the history of one-sided prosecutions by the ICC in Uganda, the Central African Republic, Libya and elsewhere give credence to their thesis, there is nothing to prevent the ICC from targeting all sides of a conflict.

(Photo: Sergey Supinsky / AFP)

(Photo: Sergey Supinsky / AFP)

If ICC prosecutors do proceed, it is hard to imagine that Yanukovych could possibly escape scrutiny. He is, in the eyes of many, the top-prize for justice in Ukraine, accused by some of ordering the police to open fire on the Maidan protestors. The trouble is, after fleeing Kiev and seeking refuge in Russia in late February, Yanukovych is no longer within easy reach. Would Moscow ever hand over their former political proxy? Or is Yanukovych destined to be a fugitive from justice, protected by his Russian patrons?

In the midst of mudslinging rhetoric between the West and Russia over Ukraine and Syria, it may be tempting to believe that Moscow is inherently opposed to an ICC intervention in Ukraine. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power recently placed the blame over the failure to refer Syria to the ICC as well as the selectivity of international justice squarely at the feet of the Kremlin. If we are to believe the hype, big bad Russia is a major obstacle to achieving international accountability. Continue reading

Posted in International Criminal Court (ICC), International Law, Justice, Russia, Ukraine, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Not Everyone Thinks the ICC in Syria is a Good Idea

Not everyone thinks an intervention by the International Criminal Court would be conducive to peace. Professors Rianne Letschert and Marc Groenhuijsen of the International Victimology Institute at Tilburg Law School, argue that there is too little empirical evidence to suggest that the ICC should get involved in active and ongoing conflicts like the one ravaging Syria.

A member of the Free Syrian Army sits amidst rubble in Deir al-xor (Photo: Khalil Ashawi / Reuters)

A member of the Free Syrian Army sits amidst rubble in Deir al-xor (Photo: Khalil Ashawi / Reuters)

A group of international NGOs has been lobbying for a referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. Such a referral is only possible through a UN Security Council resolution and would mean that the Prosecutor may start an investigation into possible committed crimes against humanity, war crimes or genocide by all parties to the conflict. So far, Russia and China have blocked any referral of Syria to the ICC. We have known for a long time that these countries support the regime of Assad and that the West supports the opposition. But is it right to criticize Russia and China for blocking a referral? And should the discussion not focus more on the possible effects of an intervention by the ICC in an ongoing conflict on those most affected? A look at recent history may guide such discussion.

During the Balkan war, the UN Security Council decided to establish the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (1993) with the aim of bringing about peace and reconciliation in the region (the Tribunal was established under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter which deals with the promotion of peace and international security). But the aim of bringing about peace was an impossible goal, for which a criminal institution cannot be held responsible. Two years after the creation of the Tribunal, after all, the world witnessed the Srebrenica drama (1995) which killed more than 8000 people. And everyone will understand how difficult it was for the Tribunal to start criminal investigations in a country where the war was still ongoing.

Regarding the conflict in Libya, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1970, referring the case to the ICC (2011). The Council unanimously requested the ICC to investigate the violence of the Libyan regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi against the protesters. Investigations led the ICC to issue arrest warrants against Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and Abdullah al-Senussi, the Chief of the security services. They were accused of crimes against humanity in the first twelve days of the Libyan uprising. We still know too little about the positive or negative effects of international arrest warrants on finding political solutions aiming to end massive violence. But the arrest warrant against Gaddafi could have been a complicating factor in the search for a political solution to the war that raged for three months. Some commentators argue that if Gaddafi had considered stepping down, it now became very unattractive by the prospect that he could end up in a cell in The Hague. On the other hand, as Richard Dicker of Human Rights Watch noted: “It beggars belief that a dictator who has gripped power for over forty years would be frozen in place by this arrest warrant.”

Lakhdar Brahimi recently resigned from his post as U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria (Photo: Balibouse / Reuters)

Lakhdar Brahimi recently resigned from his post as U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria (Photo: Balibouse / Reuters)

With regard to Gaddafi a move to a prison in The Hague became moot when he was eventually killed by his opponents in October 2011. A more recent ICC decision regarding Libya again caused fierce discussion in Libya and beyond. The ICC decided that the case against Gaddafi’s son was admissible because Libya would not be able to conduct the trial back home. According to the NGO ‘No Peace Without Justice’, there is a risk that this decision will ‘further deepen the ongoing crisis and to give another blow to the trust of the Libyans people in the capacity of their State to administer justice on crimes under international law committed on its territory by its citizens.’ We can only guess what the effects of the ICC intervention in 2011 and its more recent decisions have been on this fragile country that is still struggling with many transitional justice dilemmas. What we do know is that the situation in Libya is not getting any better. Just last week the United States called on all citizens to leave the country. And we also know that a proper assessment of victim’s perceptions on how ‘justice’ should be delivered is lacking. Continue reading

Posted in Guest Posts, International Criminal Court (ICC), Syria | 1 Comment