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Libya: Warrants Send Strong Message to Abusive Leaders
 
Human Rights Watch
June 27, 2011
 
(…) The International Criminal Court (ICC), by issuing an arrest warrant for Muammar Gaddafi, signaled that the law can reach even those long thought to be immune to accountability, Human Rights Watch said today. The ICC judges granted warrants on June 27, 2011, for Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, his son Seif al-Islam, and Libya's intelligence chief, Abdullah Sanussi. They are wanted on charges of crimes against humanity for their roles in attacks on civilians, including peaceful demonstrators, in Tripoli, Benghazi, Misrata, and other Libyan cities and towns.
 
Issuing the warrants was an important step to providing the victims of serious crimes in Libya the chance for redress. Despite concerns that an arrest warrant against Gaddafi would act as an obstacle to finding a solution to the conflict in Libya and thus discourage the Libyan leader from relinquishing power, it is unlikely that there is a connection between the ICC investigation and Gaddafi's refusal to step down, Human Rights Watch said. (…)
 
(…) Following the court's issuance of arrest warrants, initiatives aimed at ending the devastating conflict in Libya are important, but justice should not be abandoned as other objectives are pursued, Human Rights Watch said. Human Rights Watch research in countries such as Sierra Leone and Angola shows that the failure to hold perpetrators of the most serious international crimes to account can contribute to future abuses.
 
The record from other conflicts also shows that arrest warrants for senior leaders can actually strengthen peace efforts by stigmatizing those who stand in the way of conflict resolution. For example, the indictments of Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia are credited with keeping them sidelined during the Dayton peace talks, which led to the end of the Bosnian war. (…)
 
(…) In addition to the current case against the three Libyan suspects, Human Rights Watch urged the ICC prosecutor to continue to investigate serious crimes that may have been committed by any party during the armed conflict in Libya. Security Council resolution 1970 gives the ICC ongoing jurisdiction over war crimes and crimes against humanity committed on the territory of Libya since February 15, 2011. (…)
 
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