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ICC: Saif al-Islam may try to flee Libya

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 3 — The International Criminal Court is still receiving information that Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam may try to flee Libya with the help of mercenaries, the court’s chief prosecutor said yesterday.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo also said he was investigating whether the former Libyan leader and his spy chief ordered mass rapes as they battled an insurgency earlier this year. Gaddafi died shortly after his capture last month by the former rebels, now the government forces.

Moreno-Ocampo at a news conference in The Hague, June 28, 2011, on the arrest warrant issued for Gaddafi (left) and Saif al-Islam. — Reuters file picMoreno-Ocampo at a news conference in The Hague, June 28, 2011, on the arrest warrant issued for Gaddafi (left) and Saif al-Islam. — Reuters file picBut Ocampo told the UN Security Council his investigations would not be confined to Gaddafi’s forces.

“There are allegations of crimes committed by NATO forces, allegations of crimes committed by NTC-related forces . . . as well as allegations of additional crimes committed by pro-Gaddafi forces,” he said in a speech to the council.

“These allegations will be examined impartially and independently by the (prosecution).”

NATO has denied allegations that it deliberately targeted civilians during its seven-month campaign of air strikes against Gaddafi’s forces, which ended on Monday. Libya’s National Transitional Council has vowed to investigate alleged executions and abuse of suspected Gaddafi supporters.

Human rights groups have said that NTC forces singled out sub-Saharan African migrant workers for arbitrary arrest and detention due to assumptions that they supported Gaddafi.

Libya’s interim leadership has said it would like to try Saif al-Islam and former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi in Libya. The ICC has indicted the two men for crimes against humanity and other war crimes.

“We are also receiving information that a group of mercenaries may be endeavouring to facilitate his (Saif al-Islam’s) escape from Libya,” Ocampo said. “We are calling upon states to do all they can to disrupt any such operation.”

Saif al-Islam may be heading for Niger, which risks upsetting pro-Gaddafi Tuareg nomads if it hands him over to the ICC as it has promised to do if he shows up there.

Potential surrender

Ocampo said people linked to Saif al-Islam had approached his office with questions “about the legal conditions attaching to his potential surrender to the court”.

They included “what would happen to him if he appeared before the judges . . . could he be sent back to Libya; what would happen if he were to be convicted; what would happen if he were acquitted”. The intermediaries were told it would be possible to request that Saif al-Islam not be returned to Libya.

However, Ocampo wrote in a report submitted to the 15-nation Security Council that it was also possible for the two men to be tried in Libya if the authorities submitted a formal request. It would then be up to ICC judges to decide.

Another possibility, he said, was for the ICC to conduct its own trials inside Libya.

Libya’s deputy UN ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi, in a speech to the council, did not make clear where he thought the two men should be tried if arrested but promised “consultation and close cooperation” with the court.

Dabbashi also said Libya’s new rulers would make sure all those involved in crimes not covered by ICC jurisdiction received “transparent investigations and fair and just trials in Libyan courts”.

Ocampo’s probe of crimes committed during eight months of violence and war in Libya resulted in new investigations, including the possible use of rape by Gaddafi’s side to persecute their enemies.

“While it is premature to draw conclusions on specific numbers, the information and evidence indicates at this stage that hundreds of rapes occurred during the conflict,” he said.

Ocampo’s office was interviewing potential witnesses who “indicated that Muammar Gaddafi, al-Senussi and other high officials were discussing the use of rape to persecute those considered dissidents or rebels”.

The prosecutor’s office was also searching for the personal assets of Saif al-Islam and Senussi “for the potential benefit of the victims”. Ocampo urged all UN member states to help the court locate the two men.

US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told the council Libyans could now rest assured that Gaddafi could never again persecute them the way he did for over four decades.

“But this does not and cannot justify the apparently brutal way that he met his death,” she said. “We welcome the announcement of an investigation into Gaddafi’s death.”  — Reuters

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