ICC to seek three Libya war crimes warrants

Wednesday May 04 2011

International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo. Photo/FILE

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's forces pounded the lifeline port of Misrata with deadly fire on Wednesday, as the International Criminal Court said his regime was still carrying out crimes against humanity.

A rebel spokesman said at least five people were killed as loyalists shelled Misrata port, from which an International Organisation of Migration ship managed to evacuate about 800 people, including stranded migrants and wounded.

At the violence raged, the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor charged that crimes against humanity, including murder and persecution of civilians, were still being carried out by the Gaddafi regime.

The ICC's Luis Moreno-Ocampo told the UN Security Council on Wednesday that he will seek three arrest warrants for crimes against humanity in Libya.

Moreno-Ocampo, who did not say who would be named, said crimes such as the murder and persecution of civilians were still being carried out by Gaddafi's regime.

He was also investigating the deaths of dozens of sub-Saharan Africans in the rebel bastion of Benghazi by an "angry mob" who believed they were mercenaries in the pay of Gaddafi.


Speaking of an amnesty offered by the government, Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim said in Tripoli around 400 fighters had turned in their arms in Misrata, the rebel's last major bastion in western Libya that has been under siege for almost two months.

His comments could not be verified.

"I hope that the minister of justice will listen to our call to extend it at least for another day or two, because there are good signs among people there in Misrata," Kaim said.

He said the deadline to surrender in exchange for an amnesty expired at midnight (2200 GMT) Tuesday, but it had already been rejected by the rebels fighting to oust Gaddafi after more than 40 years in power in the oil-rich north African nation.

"There has been a lot of shelling in Misrata today," said Jalal al-Gallal in Benghazi, adding that at least five people had been killed.

"I am afraid the number could be far higher than we would like to hear," Gallal said, adding that rebels were still trying to verify the total number of casualties for the past 72 hours.

AFP correspondents heard no fighting during the night but medics said at least one person was killed and some 30 wounded in clashes around Misrata on Tuesday. The death toll was sharply down on Monday, when 14 people died.

Tuesday's fighting centred on the city's western and southwestern suburbs, close to the loyalist forces' base at the airport, as rebel commanders reported several NATO air strikes on Gaddafi's armour.

With the airport in government hands, the rebels are entirely dependent on supply by sea.

The port has been repeatedly shelled by Gaddafi's forces and few vessels are docking, resulting in a worsening food shortage.

In Geneva, the International Organisation of Migration said the chartered ship Red Star One had evacuated some 800 people despite shelling and shooting in the port, and that the vessel was en route to Benghazi.

It said said hundreds of Libyan civilians had also tried to board the ship in desperation, but that with a limited capacity, the ramp of the boat had to be pulled up for the ship to pull away from the dock in safety.

After docking, 180 tonnes of humanitarian aid, including food and medical supplies, was offloaded.

In Benghazi, meanwhile, rebels said an explosion near their headquarters on Tuesday was the result of an accident and not a car bomb as they initially reported.

"The owner of the car has come to claim it and said it had quite a bit of explosives in it and that he has no idea about what detonated them," spokesman Jalal al-Gallal said.

Young men often use TNT in celebrations in Benghazi, added rebel military spokesman Ahmed Omar Bani, who shortly after the blast had said it was a car bomb.

Benghazi was on the verge of being overrun by Gaddafi forces when Western warplanes began a bombing campaign on March 19 to enforce a UN-mandated no-fly zone to protect civilians.

But since then it has seen no fighting and the frontline between Gaddafi's forces and the rebels now lies 160 kilometres (100 miles) to the southwest.

In Tripoli, three loud explosions were heard early on Wednesday as jets flew overhead, days after Gaddafi narrowly escaped a NATO air strike that killed one of his sons and three grandchildren.

However, Gaddafi was in good health, Deputy Foreign Minister Kaim said.

"He is very well," Kaim said, adding he met on Tuesday with "a number of tribal leaders" ahead of a tribal meeting on Thursday and Friday.

In Brussels, NATO military chiefs gathered for a two-day meeting, with French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe saying the aim of the Western alliance's air campaign was to weaken Gaddafi but not to kill him.

"Our aim is not to kill Gaddafi," Juppe said on news channel France 24, describing as "collateral damage" the death of the Libyan leader's son Seif al-Arab.

Juppe acknowledged that the air campaign, now in its seventh week, was taking time, but denied it would drag on into a protracted conflict.

"There is no question of getting bogged down in Libya," he said. "I hope that will last no longer than a few weeks, a few months at the most. But it is premature to talk of getting bogged down."

As the international Contact Group on Libya prepares to meet in Rome on Thursday, the rebels' provisional government in Benghazi stepped up lobbying for an emergency credit lifeline from Western governments to stop it running out of funds amid a virtual halt to oil exports.

The rebels have appealed for loans of up to $3 billion from the United States and the two European countries which have recognised them -- France and Italy -- to be secured on assets of the Gaddafi regime frozen abroad.