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International Justice/ICC: Dec ‘10/Jan '11

Member of international justice team assesses ICC move to investigate Libyan leader.
By IWPR staff

IWPR journalist Melanie Gouby was interviewed by the BBC March 3 on the decision by the International Criminal Court, ICC, to investigate possible crimes against humanity committed by Muammar Gaddafi and his inner circle.

As the unrest in Libya continues, ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo announced that he would look into claims that unarmed protesters had been attacked by forces loyal to the Libyan leader.

Speaking to BBC Network Africa's Audrey Brown, Gouby, a member of IWPR’s international justice team, said the ICC would initially gather evidence of possible crimes against humanity but could also investigate war crimes if the conflict escalates.

“A crime against humanity is a crime involving widespread and systematic attacks against a civilian population,” she said. “It doesn’t take place in an armed conflict, that’s the difference from a war crime.”

But, she continued, “recent developments in Brega, for instance, could lead to the ICC looking for war crimes, because the opposition seems to be armed, so that becomes an armed conflict and it’s not unarmed civilians being attacked”.

Assessing the difficulties of mounting a field investigation, Gouby said, “It’s a tough situation for the Office of the Prosecution. I talked to Luis Moreno Ocampo.. and he told me it would be ‘Mission Impossible’ for them because they are obviously not going to be allowed in Libya at least for the foreseeable future.”

“So what the Office of the Prosecutor is probably going to do is rely on testimony from witnesses who are on the ground,” she continued, adding that it was possible that “people from the opposition and sources within Gaddafi’s army” might already be briefing investigators.

However, she cautioned against drawing any premature conclusions from Moreno Ocampo’s announcement, noting that the investigation could be stopped if peace talks were judged to be a more likely way to bring stability back to Libya.

“It’s not a given that Gaddafi is going to be one of the people that the ICC is going to issue an arrest warrant for. The Office of the Prosecution said they were issuing a warning to Gaddafi and his inner circle but that doesn’t mean these are actually going to be the people found guilty in the end,” she said.

Also see Defining 'crimes against humanity' on BBC World Service website.

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