Int'l court warns Gadhafi not to attack civilians

AP News
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Posted: Mar 18, 2011 12:04 PM
Int'l court warns Gadhafi not to attack civilians

The International Criminal Court prosecutor said Friday his first Libyan war crimes investigation could be completed in May, and he will discuss with the U.N. Security Council how to execute arrest warrants.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo also put Libyan military leaders on notice again that they could be prosecuted for indiscriminate attacks on civilians.

His comments came shortly before Libya's foreign minister announced a cease-fire and halt in military operations the day after the U.N. authorized a no-fly zone and "all necessary measures" to prevent the regime from striking its own people.

Rebels dismissed the cease-fire announcement, claiming Moammar Gadhafi's forces were still attacking key cities.

Moreno-Ocampo said he would brief Security Council members in May on progress in his investigations into possible crimes against humanity in Moammar Gafhafi's five-week crackdown on anti-government rebels.

"I hope to be almost ready to have an arrest warrant (in May) and then would be a good moment to discuss how the Security Council will enforce the arrest warrants the court will issue," the Argentinian prosecutor said.

The world's first permanent war crimes tribunal has no police force of its own and has to rely on cooperation from other countries to have indicted suspects arrested.

As the international community geared up to enforce a no-fly-zone over Libya, Moreno-Ocampo said Western pilots patrolling Libyan air space would not face prosecution for accidentally causing casualties.

"I will not investigate a pilot who makes a mistake, but when there's a policy to commit war crimes against civilians this is my case," Moreno-Ocampo told a small group of reporters at the court's headquarters. "So you have to make a distinction here. Mistakes are not my business; policy to commit war crimes, this is my business."

The U.N. Security Council, in a unanimous decision Feb. 26, instructed the court to look into the Libyan crisis for possible crimes against humanity by the regime against unarmed civilians. With unusual speed, Moreno-Ocampo announced within a week that he had launched an investigation and had identified several suspects.

Among them are Gadhafi and three of his sons, as well as top security officials and Libya's foreign minister.

Moreno-Ocampo said Friday a Libyan Defense Ministry warning Thursday to civilians to leave the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi ahead of an attack would not absolve military commanders of blame if civilians are killed.

"Such a warning does not provide an excuse to attack civilians," he said.