By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The International Criminal Court pleaded for stronger support from the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday to ensure states cooperate with its war crimes inquiries, complaining it had faced problems in cases on Darfur and Libya.
International Criminal Court President Judge Sang-Hyun Song said the court's follow-up to the only two cases referred to it by the Security Council had been problematic and that some countries had refused to cooperate.
"For the ICC to effectively deal with situations referred by the council ... it needs to be able to count on the full and continuing cooperation of all U.N. members, whether they are parties to (the court) or not," Song told the 15-member council.
He said this included cooperating with investigations and gathering evidence, arresting people charged by the court and tracing the assets of suspects.
"In making any future referrals, it would be very helpful if the Security Council could underline this obligation of full cooperation, without which it is very difficult for the ICC to discharge the mandate the council has given it," Song said.
The court, based in The Hague, began its work a decade ago and has the jurisdiction to investigate crimes in countries that have ratified its treaty. It can only pursue cases in non-member states if they are referred to it by the U.N. Security Council.
While Song did not give details on the problems faced by the court on Libya and Darfur, the challenges are widely known.
The court has indicted Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for war crimes in Darfur - charges his government says are politically motivated and baseless - but African heads of state voted in 2009 not to cooperate with the court on the case, saying it would hamper efforts to bring peace to Sudan.
ICC member states are obliged to arrest people indicted by the court, but Bashir has been able to travel freely to several African countries, including ICC members Kenya and Chad. Only Malawi stopped him from visiting earlier this year.
U.N. Secretary-General, who also addressed the Security Council, echoed Song's views: "The council, where it has referred a situation to the (ICC) prosecutor, can greatly assist the court by acting to secure the necessary level of cooperation from member states."
In Libya, the authorities have refused to extradite Saif al-Islam Gaddafi to face charges in war crimes committed during the NATO-backed revolt that toppled his father last year. Libya wants to try Saif al-Islam in its own courts, but judicial experts say he is unlikely to get a fair trial.
ICC judges will rule whether Libya is capable of properly trying the man once seen as Gaddafi's heir-apparent or whether it should extradite him to the Hague.
Earlier this year, a lawyer appointed by the ICC to defend Saif al-Islam was detained in Libya for three weeks on spying allegations and said her experience had shown it was impossible for him to get a fair trial in his home country.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols)