The Hague: World crimes court judges are to decide on Monday whether to issue an arrest warrant for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi for crimes against humanity committed against opponents of his regime.
Judge Sanji Mmasenono Monageng is expected to read a three-judge bench’s decision at 1:00 pm (1100 GMT) on a request by The Hague-based International Criminal Court’s prosecutor to have the Libyan strongman and two of his closest allies arrested.
The ICC’s prosecution asked for warrants for Gaddafi, 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.
ICC judges may now decide to issue the warrants, to decline the request or to ask for additional information before giving the nod.
Prosecutor Luis 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 Sunday, Moreno-Ocampo said the war crimes in Libya will not stop until Gaddafi is arrested.
“Crimes continue today in Libya. To stop the crimes and protect civilians in Libya, Gaddafi must be arrested,” he said in a statement.
It will be the second time the ICC’s top accuser has a country’s head of state in his sights, after an arrest warrant for Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir was first issued in March 2009. The warrant is yet to be executed.
In his submission, Moreno-Ocampo said Gaddafi had a personal hand in planning and implementing “a policy of widespread and systematic attacks against civilians and demonstrators and dissidents in particular”.
“Gaddafi’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.
“Gaddafi’s plans were carried out through his inner circle, which included Seif al-Islam, Gaddafi’s de-facto prime minister and his brother-in-law Al-Senussi, considered to be his right-hand man,” the submission said.
Established in 2002, the ICC is the world’s first 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.
African leaders on Sunday welcomed Gaddafi’s decision to stay out of talks to end Libya’s conflict, entering its fifth month, as fighting raged between his troops and rebels near Tripoli.
Multiple rocket and heavy machine-gunfire was heard on the plains below the rebel enclave in the Nafusa Mountains, southwest of Tripoli.
Rebel commanders said the fighting centred on Bir al-Ghanam, a strategic point on the road to the Libyan capital.
Meanwhile, the African Union panel on Libya meeting in the South African capital Pretoria said Gaddafi would not participate in peace talks, in what appeared to be a concession.
The panel “welcomes Colonel Gaddafi’s acceptance of not being part of the negotiations process”, AU peace and security commissioner Ramtane Lamamra said, reading a prepared statement issued after four hours of talks.
A South African official who requested anonymity said after the panel meeting: “We wanted Gaddafi to make a public statement that he would not take part in the negotiations but he would not.”
Asked about the significance of his refusal to make a statement, the official, part of the South African team that travelled to Tripoli last month in a failed bid to launch peace talks, said: “This means he is finished.”
On Saturday, Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, vice chairman of the National Transitional Council (NTC), said that they had been in touch with loyalists over the possibility of Gaddafi submitting to internal exile.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Sunday there had been contact between the two camps that specifically involved the fate of Gaddafi.
“I know that they covered, for example, the fate reserved for Gaddafi himself, which is one of the central questions today…,” he told France’s RTL radio.
But Gaddafi government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim said on Sunday the leader had no intention of quitting power.
“Gaddafi is here. He is staying. He is leading the country. He will not leave. He will not step down because he does not have any official position,” Ibrahim said.
“We will not give in to some criminal gangs who took our cities hostage. We will not give in to the criminal organisation of NATO. Everyone continues to fight. We are ready to fight street to street, house to house,” he added.
The wording of the AU panel’s statement was far softer than South African President Jacob Zuma’s opening remarks. He had again warned NATO against overstepping the mandate of the UN resolution imposing a no-fly zone over Libya.
“The intention was not to authorise a campaign for regime change or political assassination,” Zuma said behind closed doors, according to a text of the speech.
Zuma urged both Gaddafi and the rebel NTC to make compromises to reach a deal in the face of a conflict that was degenerating into a protracted and bloody deadlock.
“On the ground, there is a military stalemate which cannot and must not be allowed to drag on and on — both because of its horrendous cost in civilian lives and the potential it has to destabilise the entire sub-region,” he said. Zeenews