By Henry Gombya and wire reports
As expected, the International Criminal Court (ICC) today (Monday) issued an arrest warrant for Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi saying there is enough evidence to link him with crimes against humanity. This warrant came 100 days after the International Community led by the United Kingdom, France and the United States mounted aerial attacks on Libya’s command and control facilities all over the country.
Col Gadhafi’s warrant of arrest was read in The Hague by ICC Judge Sanji Mmasenono Monageng. The Libyan leader’s son Dr Saif al-Islam Gadhafi and his brother-in-law Abdullah al-Sanussi were also issued with a warrant for their arrest. Saif is said to be very close to his father and was known to be acting as the country’s de facto Prime Minister, meeting distinguished world leaders like US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, among many others. Al-Sanussi is Libya’s head of intelligence and is said to be very close to the ruling hierarchy.
The three-judge Pre-Trial Chamber I at The Hague found “reasonable grounds to believe that the three suspects committed the alleged crimes and that their arrests appear necessary in order to ensure their appearances before the court,” the written announcement said. The court also believes the warrants are needed to ensure that the three “do not continue to obstruct and endanger the court’s investigations; and to prevent them from using their powers to continue the commission of crimes within the jurisdiction of the court.”
Gadhafi becomes the second African leader in as many years who has been issued with an arrest warrant by the ICC. The first was Sudanese Gen Omar al-Bashir whose warrant was issued by the ICC on March 4, 2009. But despite his open travels around Africa, no African country has ever dared arrest Gen Al-Bashir. While Col Gadhafi has not left his country since rebels started fighting his regime, it is quite unlikely that any African country will put him under arrest were he to visit any of them.
When the announcement was made, there were wild celebrations in the rebel-held city of Benghazi, now commonly known as a free part of Libya. Celebratory gunfire was heard everywhere while motorists drove their cars hooting and shouting for joy. In another town, Misrata, a critical city for Libyan rebels in which fighting has raged, a crowd cheered following the news from the court.
The announcement at The Hague came as fighting inside Libya inched closer to the capital, Tripoli. CNN reported that rebels were claiming their fighters were now ‘within 50 miles (80 kilometers) of Tripoli. The ICC announcement has now made it quite difficult for a settled negotiation to bring Col Gadhafi’s regime to an end. Since the warrant makes it difficult for him to seek asylum anywhere else, it leaves him with no option but to fight to the bitter end as he now has nothing to lose either way.