War crimes evidence against Qaddafi collected by ICC

Report prepared for United Nations Security Council by investigators for the International Criminal Court says says Qaddafi’s forces have shot protesters 'as a matter of policy'.

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NEW YORK // Investigators for the International Criminal Court have collected evidence indicating that the Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi's forces have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during a crackdown on political dissent.

A report prepared for the United Nations Security Council by the court’s chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, says Col Qaddafi’s forces have shot protesters “as a matter of policy.”

The eight-page report, a copy of which was obtained by The National, also implicates rebel forces in impropriety during a spate of violence against sub-Saharan Africans who were considered to be mercenaries fighting on Col Qaddafi's payroll.

According to the report, within weeks Mr Ocampo will ask judges at the court, which is based in The Hague, to issue arrest warrants for war-crimes suspects.

The UN security council authorised Mr Ocampo to probe atrocities in Libya beginning on February 15, when the arrest of a rights activist in Benghazi triggered protests that escalated into a nation-wide civil conflict and air raids by a hastily-assembled global coalition.

His report focuses chiefly on atrocities by pro-government forces, describing the shooting of peaceful protesters as “systematic, following the same modus operandi in multiple locations” as well as outlining cases of torture and the use of civilians as human shields. It details instances of rape, which can constitute a war crime, and the use of “cluster munitions, multiple rocket launchers and mortars, and other forms of heavy weaponry, in crowded urban areas” which have caused mass civilian bloodshed.

The United States ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, has reportedly claimed that Col Qaddafi’s forces have used rape to terrorise civilians and have even been issued with Viagra, an anti-impotence drug, to promote a wave of sexual violence. Mr Ocampo estimates that between 500 and 700 protesters were killed by Col Qaddafi’s forces during the initial protests, but his report cites figures from the rebel authorities that as many as 10,000 people have perished in the ensuing civil conflict.

While allegations against Col Qaddafi and his cabal are unlikely to surprise members of the Security Council later today, when Mr Ocampo formally delivers his report, evidence of wrongdoing by the rebels is likely to prove controversial. The document describes the reported “unlawful arrest, mistreatment and killings of sub-Saharan Africans perceived to be mercenaries” in Benghazi and other cities by “angry mobs of protesters” that led to dozens of deaths.

“Allegedly, they were considered to be members of the groups of mercenaries which had been recruited to quash the protest,” it said. “A number of sub-Saharan Africans were allegedly arrested by the new authorities in Benghazi and it is unclear whether they were innocent immigrant workers or prisoners of war.”

ICC investigators have interviewed almost 45 witnesses and examined more than 569 documents to collect evidence in a probe that has encompassed 15 missions to 10 countries, Mr Ocampo said in his report to the UN’s top body. The prosecutor said he will apply for arrest warrants against suspects “in the next weeks” and that ICC judges will decide whether there are sufficient grounds.

Mr Ocampo told Reuters that he initially plans to indict five suspects, but has disclosed no names. The report, which has been circulated to members of the UN Security Council and will be form the basis of today’s discussion, comes against a backdrop of mounting tensions between envoys to the 15-nation body on the Libyan crisis.

The council agreed unanimously to refer Libyan atrocities to the ICC on February 26 and has since authorised a no-fly zone and the use of force to protect civilians, but cracks are emerging over whether the western-led coalition that is bombing Libya is exceeding its UN mandate. Two of the body’s permanent, veto-wielding council members, Russia and China, are increasingly critical of the UN-backed intervention in Libya, and Moscow and Beijing have complained that the western-led operation is targeting Col Qaddafi and his family.