Africa

Libya revolt: Gaddafi in crimes against humanity probe

  • 3 March 2011
  • From the section Africa

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has said he will investigate Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, his sons and senior aides for crimes against humanity.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo said no-one had the right to massacre civilians.

Thousands of people are thought to have died after security forces targeted protesters in unrest which began in mid-February.

Col Gaddafi vowed to fight on despite losing control of much of the country.

Earlier on Thursday, his forces launched air strikes on the oil town of Brega, sources in the town said.

'Most serious crimes'

It came a day after 14 people died in clashes between rebels and government troops in the town.

In other developments:

  • Some 200,000 migrant workers have now fled Libya, into Egypt, Tunisia and Niger, says the International Organization for Migration
  • The Netherlands confirms three of its marines have been captured by pro-Gaddafi forces in Sirte while helping to evacuate two civilians
  • Libya and the Arab League are considering a mediation offer by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, said Caracas's information minister
  • Russia says it stands to lose $4bn (£2.5bn) in arms deals because of UN sanctions agreed last week against Libya

US President Barack Obama again called on Col Gaddafi to quit, telling a White House news conference: "The violence must stop. Muammar Gaddafi has lost the legitimacy to lead and he must leave."

The president also announced he has authorised the use of US military aircraft to help repatriate the tens of thousands of migrant workers who have fled Libya.

Mr Moreno-Ocampo said Col Gaddafi, his inner circle and some of his sons with de facto authority would be investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

"During the coming weeks, the office will investigate who are the most responsible for the most serious incidents, for the most serious crimes committed in Libya," he said.

But the prosecutor also said the opposition would be investigated if it had committed crimes.

The BBC's Matthew Price, at the ICC in The Hague, says Mr Moreno-Ocampo's office has identified at least nine incidents that could constitute crimes against humanity.

The most serious claim is that 257 people were killed by the authorities in the eastern city of Benghazi, between 15 and 20 February.

Another 26 people were allegedly killed in three other towns in the region.

In the town of Misrata, 14 protesters are said to have been killed by the security forces. Illegal detention is also being investigated.

No knock-out punch

Our correspondent says up to 15 people could face charges, including Col Gaddafi, members of his inner circle and the heads of the various security and military organisations.

Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim told the BBC the case was "close to a joke", built purely on media reports.

One of Col Gaddafi's sons, Saif al-Islam, meanwhile defended the raids on Brega.

"First of all the bombs [were] just to frighten them [rebels] to go away," he told Sky News in an interview in his car. "Not to kill them.

"I'm talking about the harbour and the oil refinery there. Nobody would allow the militia to control Brega. It's like allowing someone to control Rotterdam harbour in Holland."

The attacks came as rebels buried their dead from Wednesday's fighting, in which they apparently cleared Brega of government forces.

BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says the fighting underscores the fact that neither side seems to have the knock-out punch capable of defeating the other.

Col Gaddafi appears unable to re-capture the eastern part of his country, and for now his opponents seem powerless to mount a major offensive against Tripoli.

The rebels want to see UN-backed air strikes against pro-Gaddafi forces, but the West is reluctant to intervene.

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