Wanted: Qaddafi & Co.

Can the ICC Arrest the Libya Three?

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi waves from a car in the compound of Bab Al Azizia in Tripoli, after a meeting with a delegation of five African leaders seeking to mediate in Libya's conflict April 10, 2011. Louafi Larbi / Reuters

This week, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, asked a three-judge panel to issue arrest warrants for the Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi; his son Seif al-Islam; and his brother-in-law, the head of Libyan military intelligence, Abdullah al-Sanousi. Soon the ICC will likely issue warrants on charges that the three have committed crimes against humanity during their attempts to suppress Libya's ongoing revolt. 

But issuing warrants is one thing; getting custody of the accused is quite another. As I argued in the May/June issue of Foreign Affairs, the Security Council and other major players have not provided the kind of support the ICC needs to gain custody of those accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. How might the ICC get the Qaddafi clan to a courtroom in The Hague? The simplest answer, of course, is that Qaddafi, Seif, and Sanousi will surrender -- a far-fetched scenario unless they see such an outcome as preferable to being captured by the rebels. More plausible is that someone will arrest them. Barring action by Qaddafi's own forces (the best hope for their transfer to The Hague), the ICC will have to rely on the power of other states and international organizations to go after Qaddafi and his allies, as it has no police or army of its own. How can we expect those others -- especially the Security Council and NATO -- to respond to requests to enforce the warrants?

It is unlikely that the UN Security Council has the will to back up the arrest warrants with concrete action. Under Resolution 1970, by which the council referred Libya to the ICC for investigation, it has already imposed military and financial sanctions on Libya and instituted a travel ban on the Qaddafis and Sanousi. Some weeks later, the Security Council passed Resolution 1973, authorizing a no-fly zone and the use of force to protect civilians. What more can it do to support ICC arrest warrants?

First, the Security Council

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