|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference by Prosecutor of International Criminal Court Concerning Libya
At a press conference at Headquarters today, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Prosecutor for the Hague-based International Criminal Court, said that the Libyan case had set “new standards” for international procedures and investigations.
At his meeting with the Security Council on Libya today, he had informed the Council that the Court was trying to ensure that Saif al Islam Gadhafi and Abubdullah al Senussi appeared before the Court to answer to charges of war crimes. In the past week, the Court had been contacted by someone connected to Saif asking about the legal conditions of his surrendering to the Court. As well, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo had received information that mercenaries were offering to help Saif escape. He reported to the Council on the investigations that were being conducted, noting that his Office was completing the first case against Saif and Senussi. (See Press Release SC/10433.)
He said his Office was also investigating reports of rapes in Libya, serious crimes in Libya which were “not just against the victim, but crimes against the family and the community”. The investigation, which needed to be conducted very carefully as to not expose the victims and in order to avoid retaliation, had garnered “very interesting information” from a variety of sources about hundreds of women being raped. Some of the victims had informed investigators that they had been raped in secret detention centres.
The issue for him, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo stated, was identifying who had perpetrated these crimes and who had issued those orders. All allegations would be investigated, including allegations against North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces, rebel forces, and foot soldiers. The new Libyan authorities had just informed him that they would be establishing an investigatory system to deal with these crimes. As his duty was to respect national investigations, he “would see how far they can go”. He also noted that the United Nations National Commission of Inquiry was conducting an inquiry as well, and would report in March of next year. He hoped that by May he would have a comprehensive report for the Security Council on all allegations and investigations. The caveat, he said, was the discussions on budget this year, and he would have to find out if there was a budget to conduct these investigations.
He noted that several Ambassadors in the Council had stated that the Libyan case had set new standards in international relations. This procedure unfolded quickly, he said, from the adoption of the Security Council’s resolution to the Court’s decision to issue warrants. This new standard wasn’t just for the Libyan case but also “pretty impressive for future cases”.
Responding to a question on what allegations existed for NATO forces, he said that he could not speak of a specific incident as he was not investigating those allegations; they would be in the report of the United Nations National Commission of Inquiry that would be issued in March. The Court would wait for that report before making a statement on those allegations.
On the question of where Saif could be located, he said that, although he had some information, he could not provide a public statement on that. Further, he “had no army forces” to know such information. He discussed with States what could be done and dealt with the information received. However, his Office could not organize an arrest operation. In the recent visit by his Office to Libya, investigators worked with national groups who were conducting investigations and collected much more evidence than in the past. This was all in preparation for a much stronger case.
A reporter asked for the specific charges against Saif. Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said that Saif was accused with his father of orchestrating murder and persecution against political dissidents, which was part of a widespread and systematic campaign against civilians in the crime against humanity, as noted in the Rome Statutes. Senussi was charged as well, since he had commanded the operation of shooting and killing civilians.
When asked if he believed Saif and Senussi were together, he said that his Office did not know about Senussi. In response to what kind of “sources” were reporting the rapes, he explained that different sources collected different types of evidence, allowing his Office to not expose individual victims.
When a reporter asked about Saif’s capabilities to finance mercenaries, since his assets were not yet frozen, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said that in fact Saif’s accounts in London in the amount of $50 million had been frozen and that his Office was looking for more of Saif’s holdings. However, Saif also had large amounts of gold and cash which as moveable assets could not be frozen, thus allowing him to have financial mobility.
Responding to whether Saif could manage to get into Algeria or Sudan, as one country had not ratified the Rome Statues and the other’s President, President Omer al-Bashir, was wanted by the Court, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo noted that where Saif might go was, in fact, more complicated than what met the eye. Sudan was supporting the new Government and he did not think Sudan would be a good place for them to seek asylum.
When the reporter asked if Sudan was supporting the Court, he recalled that three years ago President Al-Bashir had complained that Gadhafi had been financing the rebels in Sudan, although Gadhafi denied being involved. Sometimes the relations were more complicated and different from the superficial show of shaking hands, he wryly noted. He thus didn’t believe Saif would go to Sudan. This made surrender to the Court possible. He also pointed out that the Court guaranteed the rights of suspects, not just the right to present evidence, but the right to be alive. This was explained to Saif and he was offered safe transfer to the Court.
When asked how negotiations were initiated and if they had been done by e-mail, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo reminded the correspondents that the Court did not negotiate; it just implemented criminal law. It offered Saif a legal system of a lawyer, a safe transfer to The Hague, to be in prison, and the right to present evidence.
He then responded to a question about an investigation on Nigeria, which the Court had launched a year ago, stating that they were assessing allegations of the crimes committed there to see if they were crimes against humanity. It was, however, still in preliminary stages. Information was being requested and Nigeria was providing information.
In terms of when he could initiate an investigation if, as in the investigation of Saif by the National Transitional Council, a Government was investigating, he stated that the Rome Statutes provided the global system for interaction between national authorities and the Court. In terms of the National Transitional Council, they were conducting their investigation and he would have to wait and see. In order to intervene, it was not enough that the crime occurred; it depended on whether or not the national authorities were conducting an investigation. In the case of Libya, it was a new situation where national and international actors were collaborating to do justice there and for him it was a new standard.
When asked about the investigation of allegations of crimes committed by the new authorities in Libya, he said that, when investigations started in February of this year, the first investigations found evidence on Gadhafi’s killing of political dissidents. He then investigated the allegations of massive rapes. As the process unfolded, he would see what the new Libyan authorities were doing, as well as what the United Nations National Commission of Inquiry was doing, and then begin his inquiries at that time.
A reporter then asked if Mr. Moreno-Ocampo was surprised when a member of Saif’s entourage contacted him with regard to a possible surrender. Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said that nothing surprised him, and that, in fact, nothing in his job surprised him. He assured a correspondent that the Court would never take a suspect to The Hague without the cooperation of the national authority. In this case, the new Libyan Ambassador had stated a few days ago that Libya supported the Court in its efforts.
The Libyan case was “incredible”, he told the correspondents, and he stressed how quickly the process had unfolded. “In some ways, for me it is still not perfect, but it’s showing [that] the world is evolving”, he said in conclusion.
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