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ICC prosecutor asks court to issue arrest warrant for Libyan leader

Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) today asked the court’s judges to issue arrest warrants for Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi, one of his sons and the head of the country’s intelligence forces, accusing them of committing crimes against humanity during the ongoing conflict in the North African nation.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo said his office has gathered direct evidence detailing the orders issued by Colonel Qadhafi, the role of Saif Al Islam Qadhafi in recruiting mercenaries, and the participation of intelligence chief Abdullah Al Sanousi in attacks against demonstrators.

Mr. Moreno-Ocampo added that his office has evidence documenting how the three men held meetings to plan the operations.

“These are not just crimes against Libyans; they are crimes against humanity,” he told a press conference in The Hague in the Netherlands, where the ICC is based.

Hundreds of people are confirmed to have been killed since opposition forces rose up against the regime of Colonel Qadhafi in February as part of a wider pro-democracy movement across North Africa and the Middle East.

Government forces have engaged in fierce fighting with the opposition in many major cities and towns, and civilians have often borne the brunt of the clashes.

In March the Security Council adopted a resolution calling on Member States to take “all necessary measures” to protect civilians in Libya. Earlier it also referred the matter to the ICC for investigation.

Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said the evidence indicated that pro-Government forces had attacked civilians in their homes, repressed protests using live ammunition, deployed heavy artillery against participants in funeral processions and placed snipers to kill people as they left mosques after prayers.

He said persecution was still occurring in areas of Libya under the control of the Qadhafi regime, with his forces preparing lists of names of alleged dissidents, apparently before they are arrested and tortured.

Mr. Moreno-Ocampo’s office will continue to investigate other allegations made about possible war crimes during the conflict in Libya, including attacks against sub-Saharan Africans wrongly perceived to be mercenaries, and mass rapes of civilians.

“There will be no impunity for such crimes in Libya,” he said.

Judges in the ICC’s pre-trial chamber will now have to decide to either accept the request from prosecutors, reject it, or ask for more evidence.

Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said that should the court agree to issue arrest warrants, Libyan authorities have the primary responsibility to arrest them.

“When the time comes, implementing the arrest warrants will be the most effective way to protect civilians under attack in Libya and elsewhere,” his office said.

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