ICC judges issue arrest warrants for Kadhafi
Judges at the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi for war crimes and crimes against humanity on Monday, the 100th day of a NATO bombing campaign.
Britain, which has led the UN-mandated international effort to protect civilians from Kadhafi's forces, hailed the court's decision and said members of the Libyan regime should now abandon him.
Italy's foreign ministry said the decision of the three-judge court, set up in 2002 to try war crimes, confirmed that Kadhafi had lost all "moral legitimacy" and could have "no role in the future of his country."
ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo had sought the warrants for Kadhafi, 69, his son Seif al-Islam, 39, and the head of Libyan intelligence, Abdullah al-Senussi, 62, for murder and persecution since mid-February, when the bloody uprising started.
All three are charged over their roles in suppressing the revolt, in which civilians were murdered and persecuted by Libyan forces, particularly in Tripoli, Benghazi and Misrata, the prosecutor said.
Thousands have so far died in the fighting, while around 650,000 others fled the country. Another 243,000 Libyans have been displaced internally, according to UN figures.
Moreno-Ocampo said on Sunday that the war crimes in Libya will not stop until Kadhafi is arrested.
"Crimes continue today in Libya. To stop the crimes and protect civilians in Libya, Kadhafi must be arrested."
The only other warrant issued by the ICC for a sitting head of state, for Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir in March 2009, has yet to be served. Bashir was due to begin a state visit to China later Monday.
Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague said he welcomed the decision to issue arrest warrants for the three.
"These individuals are accused of crimes against humanity and should be held to account before judges in a criminal court," he said, calling on the Libyan government to cooperate with the investigation.
"The warrants further demonstrate why Kadhafi has lost all legitimacy and why he should go immediately. His forces continue to attack Libyans without mercy and this must stop," Hague said.
"Individuals throughout the regime should abandon Kadhafi.
In his submission, Moreno-Ocampo said Kadhafi had a personal hand in planning and implementing "a policy of widespread and systematic attacks against civilians and demonstrators and dissidents in particular."
"Kadhafi's plan expressly included the use of lethal force against demonstrators and dissidents," the submission said.
The Libyan strongman also ordered sniping at civilians leaving mosques after evening prayers. His forces carried out a systematic campaign of arrest and detention of alleged dissidents, it said.
"Kadhafi's plans were carried out through his inner circle, which included Seif al-Islam, Kadhafi's de-facto prime minister and his brother-in-law Al-Senussi, considered to be his right-hand man," the submission said.
The ICC is the world's only permanent, treaty-based court set up to try those accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide if the accused's own country cannot or will not do so.
NATO meanwhile said it is hitting around 50 targets a day and that its "Operation Unified Protector" was approaching its 5,000th strike sortie.
The airstrikes are mostly in or around Tripoli and Misrata in the west; Brega in the east; and the Nafusa Mountains southwest of the capital.
The strikes appear to have helped the rebels launch an offensive of their own against Kadhafi's forces. However, only in Nafusa does the rebel army of ill-equipped irregulars and defectors appear to be making any sustained progress.
An AFP correspondent at the scene said rebel forces on Monday were around 50 kilometres (30 miles) from Tripoli, a day after seizing a hill some 15 kilometres from Bir al-Ghanam, a strategic point on the road to the capital.
Rebel commanders said the fighting centered on Bir al-Ghanam, a strategic point on the road to the Libyan capital.
Moreno-Ocampo's investigation follows a referral by the United Nations Security Council on the Libyan conflict on February 26. The prosecutor's office launched its investigation five days later. On May 16, Moreno-Ocampo asked the court for the warrants.
© 2011 AFP