A big victory for the human rights campaigners yesterday, as the International Criminal Court in the Hague issued arrest warrants for Colonel Gaddafi and two of his key lieutenants.
“Justice must be delivered to the victims of serious human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law committed in Libya during and following the brutal repression of pro-reform protests earlier this year,” said Michael Bochenek, Director of Law and Policy at Amnesty International. “Al-Gaddafi and others who are accused of orchestrating this bloody crackdown must be held to account.”
But of course it’s rather more complicated than that. Libya is not a signatory to the Treaty of Rome. Nor does the ICC have a police force ready to parachute into Tripoli to arrest the suspect. So far the ICC has failed to convict a single criminal and remains a long way from nabbing President Omar al Bashir, the other wanted head of state.
It remains unclear whether the ICC warrants will speed an end to the war by accelerating the breakup of the regime, through the isolation of the Gaddafis, or will deepen its defiance by cutting off lines of retreat. Gaddafi spokesman Moussa Ibrahim on Monday shrugged off the arrest warrants, saying, “The ICC has no legitimacy whatsoever. We will deal with it.”
The real question is what it does for the chances of a negotiated settlement. Jacob Zuma has been trying to broker a deal, but what sort of deal can you offer a wanted man? Imagine if the British police had tried to arrest Martin McGuinness during the Good Friday negotiations…
“It’s unfortunate that the ICC could take such a decision while the AU through its ad hoc committee has done so much. Progress so far signals that there’s a commitment now from both the Libyan authority led by Colonel Gaddafi and the Transitional National Council.”
On his refusal to budge, Gaddafi has been entirely consistent from the outset and, because he has nowhere to go and because the ICC has effectively branded him an international outlaw, it seems implausible to believe he will change his mind now. The ICC has added its weight to attempts to corner Gaddafi. But cornered, he is rendered all the more dangerous.