The International Criminal Court officially issued an arrest warrant for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, his son and a military intelligence chief. This was expected ever since the prosecutor applied for the warrants one month ago.
A three judge panel certified the warrants by issuing a legal document that offers details of specific abuses that occurred in the early days of the Libyan uprising. Taken together, the document spells out in dry legal prose how the Libyan state security apparatus–at the direction of Gaddafi– sought to quell a protest movement by killing, jailing and torturing alleged dissidents.
The document first shows that there is sufficient evidence to believe that Gaddafi directed the attacks. In fact, they use his own words against him:
On 22 February 2011, Muammar Gaddafi stated: “we shall move and the millions to sanitize Libya an inch at a time, a home at a time, a house at a time, an alley at a time, one by one until the country is rid of the filth and the uncleanliness. We cannot allow Libya to be lost from us because of the forces of oppression” and that “[officers have been deployed to their tribes and their areas to lead these tribes and these areas, secure them, clear them of these rats."
The document then goes point-by-point through each of two criminal counts: murder as a crime against humanity and persecution as a crime against humanity. The former includes laundry list of incidents in which security forces fired on unarmed protesters in three cities: Benghazi, Tripoli and Misrata. Here is just one part of the section from Tripoli:
(i) on 17 February 2011, Security Forces fired automatic machineguns at civilian demonstrators in the Gurji, Ghot al-Sha'al and Fashloum areas, killing several protestors;
(ii) on 18 February 2011, in the Fashloum area. Security Forces opened fire on civilian demonstrators causing many deaths;
(iii) on the same day, in Al-Qadisya square, a helicopter belonging to Security Forces, armed with machine guns, fired on demonstrators that had gathered, killing a number of them;^^
(iv) on 19 February 2011, at least 50 demonstrators were killed by the Security Forces in the Ben Ashour area;
(v) on 20 February 2011, Security Forces fired at a civilian crowd that was demonstrating and throwing stones in reaction to the violent arrest of a group of girls who had been chanting slogans in support of Benghazi, causing the death of as many as 80 people;
(vi) further on that day, after the sunset prayer, a demonstration spread all over the city and as civilian crowds marched towards the Green Square, Security Forces chased the demonstrators, shooting and killing a number;
(vii) also on 20 February 2011, as well, on the way to Bab al-Azizya, in Al Syahya, Gergaresh road. Security Forces drove four vehicles into a crowd of civilian protesters and shot at them at close range causing the deaths of approximately 270 people;
The warrant also alleges "persecution" as a crime against humanity. These are just a few examples of specific instances of persecution.
On 15 February 2011, Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi ordered the arrest of a Libyan author (Idriss-Al-Mismari) who was based in Benghazi and had, earlier on in the day, led a demonstration and spoken to Al Jazeera. As a result of this order, he went into hiding. Several other writers, journalists and alleged dissidents were reportedly arrested or missing in Tripoli and elsewhere the following days.
45. On 19 February 2011, in Misrata, an individual planning a protest against the events which occurred in Benghazi was arrested and ultimately released only after signing an undertaking that he would not protest or strike against Gaddafi's regime.
46. According to several reports, once taken into custody, protesters were subjected to torture. One method entailed tying electric wires around their genitals and then turning electricity on. The other (known as Fallga) entailed tying their feet with a rope connected to a stick and then turning the person upside down and whipping him with an electric wire. [Emphasis mine].
Now that all this has been documented in one place, the question is whether or not Gaddafi will ever actually stand trial for these crimes. The only way that will happen is if 1) Gaddafi gives himself up. 2) Gaddafi is “given up” by members of his security forces. 3) The rebels some how capture him. Neither seems particularly likely right now. But the value of these kind of criminal proceeding against Gaddafi means that if he is ever captured alive, there is a jail cell far away with his name on it. He would be dislodged, once and for all, from his bully pulpit.