The uprising in Libya follows on the heels of pro-democracy protests in Tunisia and Egypt. But the brutal and violent crackdown on protesters by the Libyan government differentiates this case from others.
Some of Libya’s UN diplomats have broken ranks and accused Gaddafi of genocide, and if not, of committing crimes against humanity that warrant an investigation by the ICC. To be sure, it is not genocide. (This does not diminish the severity or significance of the violence against civilians, but even a cursory reading of the Convention’s definition would demonstrate that this is not genocide.) But the head of the UN human rights commission has called for an investigation into the violence, which could result in some international pressure to hold accountable those who are responsible for ordering and organizing the violence. Keep in mind that Libya is not State Party to the ICC, so any investigation and indictment would have to come by way of referral from the UN Security Council.
And then there’s Gaddafi and his son. First, his son, Saif, made a televised statement the other day that rebuked the protesters, accused outsiders of interfering, and warned of civil war if the government fell. Turns out he also did a PhD at the London School of Economics, and wrote his dissertation on the role of civil society in democratization. Oops! Be careful what you wish for.
Second, Gaddafi is most certainly a nutty but not less dangerous dictator. His regime has been repressive and brutal and internationally he is a friend to many fellow dictators. He is also known for many bizarre things: traveling around with his own personal tent, his bevy of modelesque female bodyguards, and especially his long and non-sensical speeches at home and abroad. Gaddafi’s speeches to the United Nations in the last few years have been gems. And his speech today was no exception.
While it’s important not to make light of the seriousness of the situation or undermine the call the end violence against civilians, Gaddafi’s antics have been a source of amusement and bewilderment in the international community in the past.
See this SNL video if you want a reprieve from the depressing state of international affairs.
UPDATE: Security Council refers Libya case to the ICC. This is also the first time the United States has voted in favor of UNSC resolution on the ICC.
UPDATE: The Telegraph has an interesting article on why the African mercenaries used by Gaddafi would be ‘immune from prosecution for war crimes.‘
Also, Kevin Jon Heller, who blogs at Opinio Juris, has two interesting posts on some of the caveats of the UNSC deferral to the ICC: “Can the Security Council define the limits of a “situation”? and “Can the Prosecutor decide not to investigate the Libya situation?”