Gadaffi, along with his son and his chief intelligence advisor have been accused of alleged crimes against humanity including persecution and murder. Gaddafi has been accused of orchestrating waves of attacks against civilians. A number of opponents have been killed or have disappeared.
ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo alleged that the attacks were systematic in nature and aimed at civilians. In the recent months Amnesty International has pointed to evidence that suggested war crimes and crimes against humanity such as the repeated attacks on residential areas in Misratah.
This further intrenches the international community’s original justification for entering into the Libyan conflict. With the operation in the Libya now being over 100 days old, it is important to remember the original justification of conflict, to protect civilians. UN resolution 1973 authorises ‘all necessary measures to protect civilians’. What this arrest warrant does not do however, is justify further mission creep. Indeed, the UN resolution specifically excludes a foreign occupation force of any form on Libyan territory
The UK (as a member of the UN) has an obligation to not offer safe haven for any of the wanted men, they do not have international legitimacy to go after Gadaffi’s life. This is extra judicial execution, just as the US’s operation against Bin Laden was simply an extra-judicial execution.
What the UK must do however is to ensure that all other members of the UN deny safe haven for Gaddafi. This is not the first time that an arrest warrant has been issued for a head of state, the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has faced arrest since 2009 on charges of genocide, crimes and humanity and war crimes. The UK has to use all its diplomatic channels to ensure the Libyan leader cannot travel freely to rally support for his regime.
Equally, the UK must continue to urge the Libyan Government to comply with these arrest warrants and hand the wanted men over. It is important to remember that a lot of people involved with the regime are there by chance opposed to ideology. There are amazing stories coming out of Libya of men and women who have taken a stance against the regime and refused to act against their own people or commit atrocities. The UK Government should also applaud and seek to support these individuals.
Most importantly, this arrest warrant sends a clear message to all the senior figures involved in this conflict that they cannot act with impunity.
The UK can take strength from this announcement as it shows that we were right to move to defend civilians. It remains as important as ever to make sure we do not over step this mark. We must live up to our international obligations the same way the any other Government must. I do not believe that this development justifies any further increase in military operations – unlike some.