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Wanted by ICC prosecutor for 'crimes against humanity': Qaddafi

The International Criminal Court's top prosecutor today asked judges to issue arrest warrants for Qaddafi, his eldest son, and his intelligence chief for 'crimes against humanity.'

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But Sudan's broad indictment – in which ICC judges took eight months to issue the arrest warrant in an investigation that covered five years of events – did not resemble the ICC's speedy work in Libya, which relied on a wealth of evidence and many willing Libyan insiders and victims, the prosecutor said.

The prosecutor's office was "able to gather direct evidence about orders issued by Muammar Qaddafi himself," said Moreno-Ocampo. "Muammar Qaddafi committed the crimes with the goal of preserving his authority, his absolute authority.... The evidence shows that Qaddafi relies on his inner circle to implement a systematic policy of suppressing any challenge to his authority."

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Saif al-Islam was Libya's "de facto prime minister," and brother-in-law al-Sanoussi is the "right hand man, the executioner ... [who] directed personally some of the attacks," he added.

War crimes committed as 'matter of policy'

The focus of the ICC investigation so far has been on the uprising against the regime and how it was brutally suppressed, and not yet on the civil war in which pro-Qaddafi forces have been seen to fire indiscriminately into rebel-held enclaves such as Misurata and the western mountains.

Pro-Qaddafi forces "shot demonstrators with live ammunition, used heavy weaponry against participants in funeral processions, and placed snipers to kill those leaving mosques after prayers," the prosecutor said on Monday.

"The evidence shows that such persecution is still ongoing as I speak today in the areas under Qaddafi control," said Moreno-Ocampo. "Qaddafi forces prepare lists with names of alleged dissidents and they are being arrested, put into prisons in Tripoli, tortured and disappear."

While releasing its first report earlier this month, the prosecutor's office noted that "efforts to cover up the crimes" made it difficult to ascertain a death toll, though shootings in February alone accounted for an estimated 500 to 700.

"War crimes are apparently committed as a matter of policy," the May 4 report said, noting without qualification that the total death toll "is in the thousands."

War-crime allegations include use of imprecise weaponry "such as cluster munitions, multiple rocket launchers and mortars, and other forms of heavy weaponry, in crowded urban areas, in particular Misurata," Moreno-Ocampo said.

Qaddafi: You can't kill the soul that 'lives in the hearts of millions'

Qaddafi's grip on power has been threatened by rebel control of eastern Libya, NATO airstrikes on military targets – and an increasing sense in Libya and beyond that only regime change will break the stalemate.

Qaddafi has therefore lowered his public profile since an April 30 NATO airstrike that, Libyan officials claim, killed his least well-known son, Saif al-Arab, and three grandchildren. Libyan officials said Qaddafi was in their residential house at the time of the strike, but was unhurt.

"I tell the cowardly crusader [NATO] that I live in a place they cannot reach and where you cannot kill me," said a voice that sounded like Qaddafi's in a minute-long audio report that aired on Libyan television late on Friday, according to a translation by Reuters.

"Even if you kill the body you will not be able to kill the soul that lives in the hearts of millions," Qaddafi reportedly said.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini fueled rumors on Friday when he said the Catholic bishop in Tripoli, who has close relations with the Libyan regime, had said Qaddafi had probably been wounded and was no longer in Tripoli.

ICC prosecutor 'almost ready for trial'

Whatever the truth about Qaddafi's whereabouts, the ICC prosecutor said Monday he has "such strong evidence" against the Libyan leadership that he was "almost ready for trial.”

"Qaddafi has total control. Qaddafi is everything in Libya," said Moreno-Ocampo. "So he is committing the crimes, is an indirect perpetrator, because he used the entire Libyan system to commit the crimes. Saif al-Islam and al-Sanoussi are critical components of the system."

If judges opt to issue arrest warrants, Libyans themselves may carry them out, said Moreno-Ocampo, because it was the "only way" to protect civilians from “ongoing persecution.”

Implementing the arrest warrant would "send clear signals to those who commit crimes in Libya or elsewhere: You cannot gain power or retain power committing crimes against humanity," said Moreno-Ocampo. "The world will not allow you to do it."

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