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ICC Prosecutor Requests First Arrest Warrants in Libya Investigation: Related Media Statements
16 May 2011
Dear all,

On 16 May 2011, ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo announced that his office submitted its first application to judges of ICC pre-trial chamber I for arrest warrants for alleged crimes against humanity committed in Libya since 15 February 2011. The prosecutor has applied for arrest warrants for three individuals: Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, Libyan government spokesman, and Abdullah al-Sanusi, head of Libyan intelligence. It is now up to Judges of ICC Pre-Trial Chamber I to decide whether or not to issue arrest warrants.

This message includes relevant media statements from the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC (I) and Coalition members (II).

Please take note of the Coalition's policy on situations before the ICC (below), which explicitly states that the CICC will not take a position on potential and current situations before the Court or situations under analysis. The Coalition, however, will continue to provide the most up-to-date information about the ICC.

With regards,
CICC Secretariat



1. "Statement, ICC Prosecutor, Press Conference on Libya, 16 May 2011," Statement by ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, 16 May 2011, of the court/office of the prosecutor/reports and statements/statement/statement icc prosecutor press conference on libya 16 may 2011

"... Less than three months ago the UN Security Council unanimously required the intervention of the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to conduct an impartial investigation into the crimes committed in Libya. Today, the Office presented its evidence to the judges and is requesting the International Criminal Court to issue arrest warrants.

The evidence shows that Muammar Gaddafi, personally, ordered attacks on unarmed Libyan civilians. His forces attacked Libyan civilians in their homes and in the public space, repressed demonstrations with live ammunition, used heavy artillery against participants in funeral processions, and placed snipers to kill those leaving mosques after the prayers.

The evidence shows that such persecution is still ongoing, as I speak today, in the areas under Gaddafi control. Gaddafi's forces prepare lists with names of alleged dissidents. They are being arrested, put into prisons in Tripoli, tortured and made to disappear.

Most of the victims are Libyans, but the widespread and systematic attacks against them are affecting the international community as a whole. The crimes are crimes against humanity. That is why the Arab League and the African Union were concerned and the Security Council decided the intervention of the International Criminal Court. The situation in Libya is also reflective of the broader movement for change sweeping the region. States in the region have been indispensable to the investigation, but more importantly, citizens from the region have played a key role in their personal capacities in bringing support to Libyan victims and making sure their stories are heard by the Court.

On the basis of the evidence collected the Office defined who bear the greatest criminal responsibility.

The evidence shows that Gaddafi relies on his inner circle to implement a systematic policy of suppressing any challenge to his authority. His second eldest son, Saif Al Islam, is acting as a de facto prime minister and Al-Sanousi, Gaddafi's brother-in-law, is his right-hand man and the Head of the Military Intelligence.

The Office gathered direct evidence about orders issued by Muammar Gaddafi himself, direct evidence of Saif Al Islam organizing the recruitment of mercenaries, and direct evidence of the participation of Al Sanousi in the attacks against demonstrators. Additionally the Office documented how the three held meetings to plan the operations.

Muammar Gaddafi committed the crimes with the goal of preserving his absolute authority. As the Guide of the Revolution he has absolute authority in accordance with Libyan law. His orders are binding even for the Congress. It is a crime to peacefully oppose Muammar Gaddafi, insult him or challenge his authority.

Based on the evidence collected, the Prosecution has applied to Pre-Trial Chamber I for the issuance of arrests warrants against Muammar Mohammed Abu Minyar Gaddafi, Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi and Abdullah Al-Sanousi.

The case is now before the judges. They can accept the request, reject it or ask for more evidence.

In the meantime, the Office of the Prosecutor will continue its investigations: we will further investigate first, the allegations of rapes committed in Libya. There will be no impunity for gender crimes committed in Libya. Second, the allegations of attacks against sub-Saharan Africans wrongly perceived to be mercenaries.

Third, the allegations of war crimes committed by different parties during the armed conflict that started towards the end of February. The Office is liaising with the International Commission of Inquiry created by the UN Human Rights Council which will present its report to the Council at the beginning of June.

My Office has not requested the intervention of international forces to implement the arrest warrants. Should the Court issue them and the three individuals remain in Libya, Libyan authorities have the primary responsibility to arrest them. Libya is a member of the United Nations and it has the duty to abide by Security Council Resolution 1970.

When the time comes, implementing the arrest warrants will be the most effective way to protect civilians under attack in Libya and elsewhere. As in any other criminal case, the execution of the warrants will have a deterrent impact for other leaders who are thinking of using violence to gain or retain power. ..."


2. "Monday 16 May, ICC Prosecutor presents his findings in Libya," ICC-OTP, 13 May 2011,


1. "ICC Prosecutor Requests Arrest Warrants against Muammar al-Gaddafi, Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi and Abdullah al-Sanusi: Prosecutor Submits First Application to Judges Regarding Crimes Against Humanity Allegedly Committed in Libya", Coalition for the International Criminal Court Media Advisory, 16 May 2011,

"WHAT: On 16 May 2011, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno-Ocampo announced that his office submitted its first application to judges of ICC pre-trial chamber I for arrest warrants for alleged crimes against humanity committed in Libya since 15 February 2011. The prosecutor has applied for arrest warrants for three individuals: Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, Libyan government spokesman, and Abdullah al-Sanusi, head of Libyan intelligence. The ICC is the world's first and only permanent international court to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

NEXT STEPS: The judges of ICC pre-trial chamber I will now decide whether to 1) issue the arrest warrants; 2) reject the prosecutor's request; or 3) ask for further information. The pre-trial chamber will look at whether there are reasonable grounds to believe that Muammar al-Gaddafi, Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi and Abdullah al-Sanusi have committed crimes against humanity and that the warrants are necessary to ensure the appearance of the suspects before the ICC, to prevent interference in the ongoing investigation and to prevent the commission of further crimes. Additionally, further cases may be opened in relation to other crimes committed as part of the ongoing hostilities in Libya. The prosecutor will address the UN Security Council (UNSC) in six months on further progress made in the investigation.

COMMENTS: "It now falls to the judges of the pre-trial chamber to decide whether or not to issue arrest warrants based on the evidence provided by the prosecutor," explained Sunil Pal, head of the legal section at the Coalition for the International Criminal Court. "We urge the ICC pre-trial chamber to act as expeditiously as possible in this regard," he added. "The decisive action of the international community in referring the situation in Libya to the ICC as expressed in United Nations Security Council Res. 1970 sends a clear message to others in the country and in the wider region that the use of extreme force to suppress its populations will not be tolerated," Pal stated. "In furthering this resolution we urge states, the UNSC and other international and regional organizations to assist the Court with its ongoing investigations, which includes the arrest of these three men if ordered by the pre-trial chamber."

BACKGROUND: Libya is the sixth situation under investigation by the ICC. On 3 March 2011, the ICC prosecutor decided to open a formal investigation into the violence following UNSC Resolution 1970 (2011) which referred the situation in Libya to the ICC.

In its unanimously adopted resolution 1970 (2011), the UNSC considered that the widespread and systematic attacks taking place in Libya against the civilian population may amount to crimes against humanity and decided to refer the situation in Libya to the ICC prosecutor to investigate crimes committed from 15 February 2011. The ICC prosecutor can only investigate situations in non-state parties, such as Libya, where the Security Council refers the situation to the prosecutor in accordance with Article 15(b) of the Rome Statute or where a non-state party has submitted a declaration to the Registrar of the ICC accepting the jurisdiction of the Court in its territory pursuant to Article 12(3) of the Statute. The referral by the Council, however, did not automatically trigger an ICC investigation as the Court operates independently of the UN. Rather, it was the prosecutor's decision to determine whether an investigation was warranted. The decision to open an investigation was made on 3 March.

The ICC is the world's first, permanent international court to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. There are currently 114 ICC States Parties. Central to the Court's mandate is the principle of complementarity, which holds that the Court will only intervene if national legal systems are unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. There are currently six active investigations before the Court: the Central African Republic; the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Darfur, the Sudan; Uganda, Kenya and Libya. The ICC has publicly issued 15 arrest warrants and nine summonses to appear. Three trials are ongoing. The office of the prosecutor has made public that it is examining at least nine situations on four continents, including Afghanistan, Colombia, Côte d'Ivoire, Georgia, Guinea, Honduras, Republic of Korea, Nigeria, and Palestine.

The Coalition for the International Criminal Court is a global network of civil society organizations in 150 countries working in partnership to strengthen international cooperation with the ICC; ensure that the Court is fair, effective and independent; make justice both visible and universal; and advance stronger national laws that deliver justice to victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. For more information, visit:

Members of the Coalition are available for background information and comments. Experts list available upon request to: [email protected] ..."

2. "NPWJ welcomes Libya arrest warrants' request: International community must extend full cooperation to the ICC", No Peace Without Justice Media Statement, 16 May 2010,’-request-International-community-must-extend-full-cooperatio

"Today the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno-Ocampo, announced that he has submitted to the Pre-Trial Chamber I a request to issue three arrest warrants against the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, his son Saif al Islam Gaddafi and the intelligence chief Abdullah Al Senussi for serious crimes allegedly committed in Libya since 15 February 2011, during the violent Government crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations and the armed conflict that followed. On 26 February 2011, the UN Security Council unanimously referred the situation in Libya to the ICC and on 3 March, the Prosecutor announced the decision to open an investigation.

Statement by Alison Smith, Legal Counsel of No Peace Without Justice:

"No Peace Without Justice and the Transnational Nonviolent Radical Party welcome the Prosecutor's request to issue arrest warrants in relation to crimes against humanity committed in Libya, including for Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. This is a fundamental step to ensure that for the first time in decades, the cycle of upholding political power through violence is broken, and this authoritarian regime is being challenged to account for its repressive tactics."

"NPWJ appreciates the policy focus of the Prosecutor on "those who bear the greatest responsibility" for the most serious crimes allegedly committed. We note that the arrest warrants requested today refer only to individuals accused of crimes against humanity committed during the Libyan Government's violent suppression of protests by unarmed civilians. The Prosecutor has made clear that his office is also investigating war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed in the context of the armed conflict currently ongoing in Libya and we call on the Prosecutor to continue to investigate thoroughly the totality of the crimes committed in order to identify those allegedly bearing the greatest responsibility."

"With its unanimous decision to refer the situation in Libya to the ICC, the Security Council has begun to uphold its responsibility to protect the people of Libya, but States now need to turn that decision into reality. NPWJ urges the international community to provide full and complete support to the ICC in its mandate to ensure accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Libya since 15 February 2011. If the judges confirm the Prosecutor's requests presented today to issue warrants of arrest, the only exile deal possible for alleged perpetrators will now require a stop over in The Hague. "

"The Court also has the responsibility to carry out its mandate to fulfill victims' rights under the Rome Statute and it should begin outreach and interaction with victims at the earliest possible occasion. NPWJ urges the ICC to begin outreach immediately with victims and affected communities - with the Prosecutor's request for arrest warrants, there is a pressing need to engage directly with those affected by the violence in order to promote understanding of the Court and manage expectations."

3. "Libya: ICC Prosecutor Names First Suspects", Human Rights Watch Media Advisory, 16 May 2011,

"The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor's request for arrest warrants for serious crimes in Libya is a first step in achieving justice, Human Rights Watch said. On May 16, 2011, the ICC prosecutor asked the judges of the court to issue arrest warrants for three suspects for crimes against humanity, including Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

"The ICC prosecutor's request acts as a warning bell to others that serious crimes will not go unpunished," said Richard Dicker, international justice director at Human Rights Watch. "It's a message to those responsible for grave abuses that they will be held to account for their actions."

The prosecutor is seeking arrest warrants for Muammar Gaddafi, his son Seif al-Islam, and Abdullah Sanussi for crimes against humanity.

Anti-government protests began in Libya's east on February 15, following the widespread pro-democracy protests that led to changes of government in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt. Libyan government security forces responded with arrests and attacks against peaceful demonstrators in the cities of Benghazi, Derna and Tobruk, and then in the capital, Tripoli, and some cities in the west. Human Rights Watch documented the arbitrary arrest and disappearance of scores of people, as well as cases in which government forces opened fire on peaceful protesters.

"Libyan civilians who have lived through a nightmare over the past months deserve redress through an independent and impartial judicial process," Dicker said. "Today's announcement offers them that chance."

Criminal liability before the ICC can apply to both those who physically commit the crimes, and to senior officials, including those who give the orders and those in a position of command who should have been aware of the abuses but failed to prevent them or to report or prosecute those responsible. The Rome Statute, the court's founding treaty, applies equally to all persons, including heads of state and government officials regardless of any immunity they might claim.

Should the court issue an arrest warrant for Gaddafi, it would not be the first warrant for a sitting head of state by an international court. In 1999, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia issued its first indictment against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Kosovo. In 2003, the Special Court for Sierra Leone unsealed its indictment of Charles Taylor, then President of Liberia. Most recently, the ICC has issued two arrest warrants for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

"Seeking an arrest warrant for Muammar Gaddafi for crimes in Libya shows that no one is above the law," said Dicker. "It is the prosecutor's job to follow the evidence wherever it leads, even to a head of state."

The prosecutor's request comes about two-and-a-half months after the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed resolution 1970 referring Libya to the ICC. Following the council's referral on February 26, the ICC prosecutor announced on March 3 that he would open an investigation into potential crimes against humanity committed in Libya since February 15.

The ICC's Pre-Trial Chamber must now review the information submitted by the prosecutor to determine whether to grant the request. The Pre-Trial Chamber judges will issue warrants if they are satisfied that there are "reasonable grounds to believe" that the persons have committed the crimes alleged.

If warrants are issued, any suspect who is arrested or who surrenders to the court has an opportunity to object to the charges and to challenge the evidence in a "confirmation of charges" hearing. At that point, the Pre-Trial Chamber must decide whether enough evidence exists to establish "substantial grounds to believe" that the person committed each of the crimes charged in order to move forward to trial.

While the first warrant requests are considered by the court, Human Rights Watch urges the ICC prosecutor to continue to investigate serious crimes that may have been committed by all parties in Libya, including war crimes committed during the armed conflict. 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.

"Accountability for Libya should include investigating possible crimes committed by both government and opposition forces," said Dicker. "We look to the prosecutor to implement his mandate impartially so that those responsible for grave abuses face justice, regardless of their political allegiances."

Human Rights Watch has documented serious violations of the laws of war by Libyan government forces, including repeated indiscriminate attacks into residential neighborhoods in Misrata and towns in the western Nafusa mountains.

The ICC must rely on state cooperation to further its investigations, including by facilitating evidence collection and preservation, as well as assisting with the execution of arrest warrants. Security Council resolution 1970 obligates the Libyan authorities to cooperate fully with the court. In April, the self-appointed opposition authority in Libya, the Interim Transitional National Council, promised to cooperate with the ICC in a letter to the Prosecutor's Office. ..."

4. "FIDH welcomes request for arrest warrants for Muammar Gadhafi,
Saif Gadhafi and Abdulah Al-Sanousi,"
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Press release, 16 May 2011,

"The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) welcomes the announcement made today by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) regarding the request for arrest warrants for Muammar Gadhafi, Saif El Islam Gadhafi and Abdulah Al-Sanousi. FIDH urges the ICC relevant Chamber to make a decision on the Prosecutor's application without delay. FIDH also calls upon all States to prepare for immediate execution of the arrest warrants once issued.

"The application filed today confirms that very serious crimes have been committed in Libya. Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gadhafi, Saif El Islam Gadhafi, Col. Gadhafi second eldest son, and Abdulah Al-Sanousi, Chief of the intelligence unit, are alleged to be individually criminally responsible for crimes against humanity committed over the last three months. They must be arrested immediately so as to deter commission of further atrocities," said Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President.

Libya has been in turmoil since mid-February when the regime of Col. Kadhafi started launching massive attacks against protesters and other civilians. FIDH's member organisation from Libya, the Libyan League Human Rights, has documented an extensive number of crimes committed against the civilian population, including crimes against humanity and war crimes. The suspects are accused of attacking unarmed civilians, shooting demonstrators and arresting, torturing and disappearing political opponents as a result of a common plan established by all three of them. The ICC Prosecutor believes Col. Gadhafi has abused his authority under Libyan law to commit atrocities.

FIDH notes with satisfaction that the pace of the ICC investigation with respect to crimes in Libya has been remarkably quick. For the first time since its creation, the ICC Office of the Prosecutor has prepared an application for arrest warrants in slightly over two months. The request will now be considered by a Pre-Trial Chamber composed of three judges. FIDH urges the Pre-Trial Chamber to make a decision on the Prosecutor's filing without delay, considering that arresting the suspect could have a significant impact to deter further crimes.

During a briefing by the ICC Prosecutor at the United Nations Security Council, held on 4 May 2011, all Security Council members reaffirmed their support for the ICC investigation and commended the Prosecutor's swift action in Libya. If and once arrest warrants are issued, all States, including Libya, must take steps to execute them.

The Prosecutor has indicated that investigations will continue and that other persons, including other parties to the conflict, could be targeted by future arrest warrants. FIDH calls upon the Prosecutor to carry on his investigations without delay.


The situation in Libya was referred to the Security Council on 26 February 2011, following Resolution 1970 which was adopted unanimously. The ICC Office of the Prosecutor announced the opening of an investigation on 3 March 2011. At the time, the Prosecutor referred to the responsibility of Muammar Gadhafi and warned him and others that they could be held to account before the ICC. On 4 May 2011, the Prosecutor briefed the UN Security Council on the progress of his investigation and indicated that he would be lodging an application for arrest warrants soon after the briefing.

The ICC has not police force. States Parties and UN members, including Libya, will be responsible for the execution of arrest warrants for the three suspects, once issued. ...:


5. "Questions and Answers about Libya and the ICC," Human Rights Watch, May 2011,

CICC's policy on the referral and prosecution of situations before the ICC:

The Coalition for the ICC is not an organ of the court. The CICC is an independent NGO movement dedicated to the establishment of the International Criminal Court as a fair, effective, and independent international organization. The Coalition will continue to provide the most up-to-date information about the ICC and to help coordinate global action to effectively implement the Rome Statute of the ICC. The Coalition will also endeavor to respond to basic queries and to raise awareness about the ICC's trigger mechanisms and procedures, as they develop. The Coalition as a whole, and its secretariat, do not endorse or promote specific investigations or prosecutions or take a position on situations before the ICC. However, individual CICC members may endorse referrals, provide legal and other support on investigations, or develop partnerships with local and other organizations in the course of their efforts. Communications to the ICC can be sent to: ICC P.O. box 19519 2500 CM the Hague The Netherlands