For the past several weeks, NATO has dropped bombs on his head and his own people have risen up in revolt against his dictatorship — but now Moammar Gaddafi really has a problem. The Washington Post reports that the International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam, and Gaddafi’s spymaster Abdullah Senussi for “crimes against humanity”:
Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court requested arrest warrants Monday for Moammar Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah Senussi, saying all three had committed crimes against humanity in the killings of Libyan protesters over the past three months.
The request, accompanied by a 74-page dossier detailing the alleged crimes, was bolstered by information from “high-level officials in Gaddafi’s regime” who contacted The Hague in the past week, prosecutors said.
“The evidence shows that Moammar Gaddafi personally ordered attacks on unarmed Libyan civilians,” chief prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo said. “We have such strong evidence, direct evidence of their involvement in the crimes,” he said of Gaddafi, his son and the intelligence chief. He called Senussi an “executioner.”
This demonstrates the absurdity of the Western approach to conflict. First, the NATO forces that have been attacking Gaddafi have been doing so by bombing civilian areas of Tripoli, as well as the front lines of Gaddafi’s armies in Misrata and Ajdabiya. Will the ICC charge NATO commanders, too? I’m not sticking up for Gaddafi on this point, but demonstrating the hypocrisy of the “arrest warrant” approach to warfare. NATO’s mission was to protect civilian populations from Gaddafi attacks, but Tripoli wasn’t getting attacked at all at that time, except by NATO. NATO has acted to decapitate Gaddafi’s regime, a perfectly legitimate strategy for war, but NATO claims it’s not at war with Gaddafi but an independent guardian against potential genocidal attacks from both sides.
However illegitimate Gaddafi’s rule might have been in the moral sense, the governments of the world recognized it as the legitimate government of Libya when rebels took up arms against Gaddafi and based themselves in cities like Misrata. Legitimate governments have the right to defend themselves from rebellions. If Gaddafi wasn’t the legitimate leader of Libya, why did the world recognize him as such until after the rebellion started? One word: oil.
Next, the ICC “arrest warrant” requires the use of force somewhere to properly execute it. Even traveling outside of Libya wouldn’t mean an arrest for Gaddafi or his goons. As the Post points out, Sudan’s Omar Bashir has an outstanding ICC warrant, but Bashir travels freely in the region even to ICC signatory nations and has never been detained. If the West wanted to “arrest” Gaddafi in Libya, then they should have staged an invasion in force to topple him in Tripoli. They’re not going to do that now just because the ICC issued its arrest warrant.
In fact, the warrant might make it more difficult to oust Gaddafi in a negotiated settlement. Despite Bashir’s experience, Gaddafi might face arrest if he accepted exile to a nation that later became less friendly to a former murderous tyrant. Gaddafi hasn’t shown any signs of leaning towards exile in wealth and comfort, but this won’t help move the conflict in that direction. And if he survives the rebellion, the oil that made him indispensable to Europe will keep him from having to ever worry about the ICC.
If Gaddafi is a criminal — and there’s really no doubt on that score — then the proper venue for adjudication is in Libya itself. If the West wants Gaddafi out of power, they’re going to have to do better than an arrest warrant.