ICC judges to rule on Kadhafi arrest warrant

THE HAGUE, June 27, 2011 (AFP) - War crimes court judges are to decide Monday whether to issue an arrest warrant for Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi for crimes against humanity committed against opponents of his regime.

The decision by The Hague-based International Criminal Court comes on the 100th day of NATO's operations in Libya, with airstrikes having eased the siege of key rebel cities.

However Kadhafi is still in power and fears remain of a full-blooded civil war.

Libyan women and supporters of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi wear army fatigues and hold up weapons as they attend a women's forum in Tripoli on June 25, 2011. AFP

Judge Sanji Mmasenono Monageng is expected to read the decision of the three-judge bench at 1:00pm (1100 GMT) on the request by the court's prosecutor to have the Libyan strongman and two of his closest allies arrested.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo has asked for warrants for Kadhafi, 69, his son Seif al-Islam, 39, and the head of Libyan intelligence, Abdullah al-Senussi, 62, for murder and persecution since mid-February, when the bloody uprising started.

All three are charged over their roles in suppressing the revolt, in which civilians were murdered and persecuted by Libyan forces, particularly in Tripoli, Benghazi and Misrata, the prosecutor said.

Thousands have so far died in the fighting, while around 650,000 others fled the country. Another 243,000 Libyans have been displaced internally, according to UN figures.

The ICC judges will decide whether to issue the warrants, to decline the request or to ask for additional information before giving the nod.

On Sunday, the ICC prosecutor said the war crimes in Libya will not stop until Kadhafi is arrested.

"Crimes continue today in Libya. To stop the crimes and protect civilians in Libya, Kadhafi must be arrested," he said in a statement.

On the ground in Libya, rebel commanders said the fighting centered on Bir al-Ghanam, a strategic point on the road to the Libyan capital.

Prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo's investigation follows a referral by the United Nations Security Council on the Libyan conflict on 26 February. The prosecutor's office launched its investigation five days later. On May 16, Moreno-Ocampo asked the court for the warrants.

It will be the second time the ICC's top accuser has a country's head of state in his sights, after an arrest warrant for Sudan's Omar al-Bashir was issued in March 2009. That warrant is yet to be executed.

In his submission, Moreno-Ocampo said Kadhafi had a personal hand in planning and implementing "a policy of widespread and systematic attacks against civilians and demonstrators and dissidents in particular."

"Kadhafi's plan expressly included the use of lethal force against demonstrators and dissidents," the submission said.

The Libyan strongman also ordered sniping at civilians leaving mosques after evening prayers. His forces carried out a systematic campaign of arrest and detention of alleged dissidents, it said.

"Kadhafi's plans were carried out through his inner circle, which included Seif al-Islam, Kadhafi's de-facto prime minister and his brother-in-law Al-Senussi, considered to be his right-hand man," the submission said.

Established in 2002, the ICC is the world's first permanent, treaty-based court set up to try those accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide if the accused's own country cannot or will not do so.

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