On Thursday, May 26, the Chief International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda presented to the UN Security Council her office’s 11th report on their investigation into ICC violations in the current state of Libya. In light of the ICC’s “slow and difficult,” yet “positive” investigations in Libya, Bensouda called upon all relevant international, national, and regional actors, but first and foremost the Government of National Accord, Libya’s interim government, to collaborate and coordinate to bring the nation’s criminals to justice.
Since the ousting of Libya’s previous dictator in 2011, Muammar Gaddafi, the country has been in a state of chaos with no fully authoritative government . Numerous militias have taken control of vast amounts of the country, destabilizing the North African region and breeding Islamist extremism and safe havens for terrorists and other war criminals. Ansar al-Sharia and the Islamic State are of the most notorious militant terrorist groups functioning in Libya.
The ICC is an intergovernmental organization and international tribunal. Established in 1998 and implemented in 2002 by the Rome Statute, an international treaty, the court was founded to complement national courts unable or unwilling to address crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes, and crimes of aggression by individuals, not groups, in a given nation. The ICC normally has jurisdiction within countries that have signed the Rome Statute, but an exception was given to the UN Security Council to refer the tribunal to situations in places otherwise not in its jurisdiction. This is case with the ICC’s investigations in Libya.
Bensouda asserts that the unstable security situation in Libya has hindered their progress to indict criminals and bring Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, Muammar Gaddafi’s son, into custody, but additionally that the ICC has not received the resources necessary to investigate sufficiently. If the Libyan government provides adequate resources and collaborates with necessary national institutions, Bensouda contends, “This will demonstrate, in concrete terms, that justice and accountability constitute key Government priorities underpinning efforts to ensure peace and stability in Libya, and that the victims will have the opportunity to seek redress through Libyan courts.”
Saif Gaddafi is currently detained by a battalion lead by Mr. al-‘Ajami al-‘Atiri in the city of Zintan. Bensouda urged the Libyan government to focus on transferring Gaddafi to their own national custody and that if the state, collaborating with the ICC, cannot strike a deal of surrender with Gaddafi’s holders, the Security Council should consider “adopting appropriate measures” to make his arrest.
The chaotic state of Libya has plunged the nation into a massive refugee crisis, with militants taking advantage of the migrants escaping from the country through the Mediterranean route. Many militant groups detain and exploit migrants as a financial source, subjecting them to violence, sexual violence and ill-treatment. 40,500 migrants have made the dangerous voyage across the Mediterannean to Italy this year and this week alone more than 10,000 Libyan refugees have been rescued by international agencies .
La Voce asked Bensouda during her press conference outside the Security Council whether or not the ICC is going after smugglers of immigrants trying to escape through the Mediterranean. She replied that the smuggling of individuals “is not a crime per se that we will look at, but depending on the elements of those crimes we can see whether it is any of the crimes that will satisfy the Rome Statute criteria and then we will look at it.”
The prosecutor concluded her report by emphasizing the significant role of the ICC in Libya’s development: “Nations are not built overnight, but to last and to withstand the challenges of the 21st century they must be built on strong foundations. Justice will always serve as a central pillar.”