The International Criminal Court Goes After Qaddafi

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The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor petitioned its judges Monday to issue warrants for the arrest of Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi, his son Seif al-Islam Qaddafi, and Libyan intelligence head Abdullah al-Sanoussi.

The ICC prosecutor, Argentine Luis Moreno-Ocampo, charges the trio with crimes against humanity. Specifically, Moreno-Ocampo cites shelling funeral processions, attacking civilian homes, and gunning down protestors during the recent unrest to buttress the general charge. The prosecutor says of the judges, “The case is now in their hands.”

But is it?

In the nine years since its inception, the International Criminal Court has convicted zero human beings of genocide, crimes against humanity, or aggression (the three offenses their mandate allows them to prosecute). Its six active cases involve weak African states with little standing in the international community. North Korea? Iran? China? Their “crimes against humanity” have escaped the court’s, but not humanity’s, notice.

Two years ago, the ICC indicted Qaddafi’s neighboring dictator to the southeast, Sudanese strongman Omar al Bashir, for mass killings in the Darfur region. But he still reigns. The ICC wields no enforcement mechanism. It may act as a deterrent for Bashir, or Qaddafi for that matter, to abdicate. But the ICC isn’t scaring the scary people into civilized behavior. Like so many ideas backed by good intentions, the ICC appears to have unintended consequences, such as the incentive for despots to more tightly grasp power in the face of internal uprisings backed by external litigation.

While Qaddafi appears guilty as charged, the expected indictments are themselves problematic. With Qaddafi’s sponsorship of terrorism over the skies of Scotland, in a German discotheque, and on Libyan streets not in question, there are a multitude of regular old national courts with greater standing than the ICC to bring the tyrant to justice should he be deposed. Libya isn’t a party to the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court. A long-held, heretofore uncontroversial tenet of international law is that nations not ratifying treaties aren’t governed by them. Qaddafi may test such a notion because there is currently no independent judiciary within Libya to call him into account. But the precedent set by the ICC exercising jurisdiction over a nation that hasn’t recognized its jurisdiction may prove a dangerous one.

That calls for the ICC to investigate the Israeli Defence Forces’ raid of the ship Mavi Marmara bound for Gaza and their combat against Hamas haven’t been dismissed out of hand—neither the Palestinian Authority nor Israel are parties to the treaty—suggests ICC aspirations beyond its stated mandate. Similar calls for the ICC to investigate the abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison, despite the U.S. prosecution of the offenders (and Iraq and the U.S. not being subject to the ICC), also call into question whether the ICC recognizes limitations. The ICC ultimately didn’t pursue the United States or Israel. But that doesn’t mean the desire to do so isn’t there.

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  • s.b

    This article disregards on important aspect when it comes to jurisdiction; Lybia is a member of the United Nations, and therefore it is subject to its decissions. And it was a UN decission to have him prosecuted. That may be more important than that Lybia has not explicitly recognized the ICC.

  • Arius

    The self hating self destructive West supports the Islamic jihad against itself in Libya and Egypt just like it did in the 1990's in Yugoslavia.

  • Fred Dawes

    That is a sideshow of a sideshow, what people sould be asking is who is behind qaddafi and who is in control of the money and who is making money of qaddafi.

  • Robert Laity


  • scum

    Can you see it? Look carefully to see DANIEL FLYNN dancing around the facts. After its inception, the Bush administration not only REFUSED TO SUPPORT U.S. RATIFICATION, but it actively worked to sabotage the ICC, and to demand IMMUNITY FROM PROSECUTION FOR U.S. CITIZENS. I know, I know, it's hard to believe Bush could say that with a straight face. It was unclear exactly what drove his strong opposition to the ICC; that is, until Abu Graib broke, when the Republican torture tactics were uncovered, and CIA black boxes unearthed around the globe. It all becomes clear now, he was protecting HIS OWN ASS. At least he's rational, sort of…. LOL LOL LOL
    Moreover, the weakness that Flynn appears to be complaining of, is in fact due precisely to the fact that BUSH worked to weaken the ICC, and avoid a U.S. ratification vote. Flynn, YOU LOSE!!