ICC & Libya – Prosecutor Bensouda gathering evidence for new war crimes charges
November 11, 2012
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In her first presentation to the U.N. Security Council as the ICC’s top prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda stated that Libya should not grant amnesty for war crimes that were committed during the uprising against former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. During this presentation last week, Bensouda mentioned that Libyan authorities previously stated that they would act to ensure that there would be no impunity for crimes committed in the conflict. However, despite this assurance, I think there are legitimate concerns that a new Libyan law would permit amnesty.
On May 2, 2012 a law was passed in Libya that allowed amnesty to be given to perpetrators of crimes if their actions were aimed at “promoting or protecting the revolution” against Muammar Gaddafi. This law allows amnesty for “military, security, or civil actions dictated by the February 17 Revolution” that were carried out by “revolutionaries with the goal of promoting or protecting the revolution.” (A letter from Human Rights Watch to former ICC prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo regarding these Libyan amnesty laws can be read here.) In the new laws amnesty is not permitted in cases of torture and rape, though other crimes including forced displacement and murder are not explicitly excluded.
Bensouda urged the new Libyan government “to ensure that there is no amnesty for international crime, and no impunity for crimes regardless of who the perpetrator is and who is the victim,” though it remains to be seen if Libyan prosecution efforts will be one-sided and focus on crimes committed by anti-Gaddafi fighters. In an interview detailed in USA Today this weekend, following her Security Council presentation Bensouda also discussed filing new war crimes charges relating to the Libyan civil war, which would be the first charges since the May 2011 arrest warrants were issued for Muammar Gadhafi, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, and Abdullah al-Senoussi. Though there has yet to be an official ruling with regard to whether Seif al-Islam Gadhafi will be tried at the ICC or in Lybia, Bensouda mentioned she is currently examining allegations that civilians in Tawerga were subjected by Misrata militias to crimes which could constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity.