ICC’s Libyan warrants

The arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court at the Hague against Col. Muammar Gaddafi, his son and an aide for crimes against humanity have been spurned by the Libyan leader.

Rejecting the move, Gaddafi questioned the authority of the ICC to do so in the first place. Even though the development may seem surreal at the moment given the extremity of the situation in the country, it does set the pace for prosecution of the accused in the future.

The move is also aimed to encourage dissent within Gaddafi’s inner circle and those supporting him to persuade the suspected criminals to step down at the earliest. Even so, its impact may not be as hoped given the complexity of Libyan politics. The ICC’s past record of bringing to justice international criminals has not been every fruitful with most of the indicted at large. Take for example Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir, who though indicted by the Court in 2009 for genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur, remains free to date though unable to travel to the West and some other parts of the world.

For Gaddafi, he probably has bigger concerns than worrying about a possible future trial at The Hague. Caught in the thick of war, his primary objective would naturally be to roll back the rebels’ control of territory and ousting the rebellion at whatever cost. The fact that the rebels have gained international recognition and are being aided militarily by NATO member states has brought the Libyan ruler to an entirely new course in his chequered rule. Obdurate to an extreme and to the detriment of his own people and country, Gaddafi’s refusal to step down has been disastrous to say the least. Every day brings reports of fresh NATO strikes, infighting between rebels and Gaddafi’s forces and civilian killings. The ensuing humanitarian crisis does not need retelling as reports of bombings of civilian areas, mass displacement and a serious refugee crisis serve a grim reminder of the escalation of crisis.

In the face of the growing resolve to rid the country of Gaddafi’s tyrannical rule, an intensification of force and hectic diplomatic efforts to chalk out a post-Gaddafi strategy have been on the agenda of the allied states. So even if the ICC move is considered a mere cosmetic exercise by many it may prove useful at a later point if the Libyan leader is brought to his knees.

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