How ICC warrants could change NATO strikes in Libya
NATO airstrikes today hit two government buildings in Tripoli, including the Interior Ministry.
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The potential that the International Criminal Court (ICC) could issue an arrest warrant for Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi is unlikely to marginalize him at home. But such a warrant could give NATO more latitude to target the dictator directly.
So far, NATO airstrikes have focused on military targets – this morning they hit two government buildings in Tripoli, including the Interior Ministry. However, the head of Britain's military said on Sunday that NATO needed authorization to also strike infrastructure targets. There is speculation that the ICC warrants could justify NATO efforts to target Qaddafi, rather than simply to "protect Libyan civilians under threat of attack."
The ICC's chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, announced yesterday that he is seeking warrants for the arrest of Mr. Qaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam, and his intelligence chief for "crimes against humanity." According to the Associated Press, "the legal action has been seen in Libya as giving NATO more justification to go after him."
The stated goal is to isolate Qaddafi and his close associates, but ICC warrants are only effective if the accused individuals venture into a country that recognizes the court's jurisdiction. A wide range of countries do not recognize the its jurisdiction, however, including the US and many African and Middle Eastern nations – where Qaddafi is most likely to travel.
A person accused by the ICC can still lead a country – there has been a warrant out for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir since 2009. He has continued governing and sometimes travels to other countries that will not turn him over to the court.
The Libyan government recognizes that the warrant only undermines Qaddafi's rule as much as he lets it, according to the Tripoli Post.
Claiming that the ICC was a “baby of the European Union designed for African politicians and leaders,” and that its practices were “questionable,” Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khalid Kaim said Libya does not recognize the court’s ... jurisdiction. He said that like most African countries and the United States, Libya ... would ignore any such announcement.