UN prosecutor seeks arrest warrant for Kadhafi

UN prosecutor seeks arrest warrant for Kadhafi

Tripoli: The UN war crimes court’s chief prosecutor applied on Monday for a warrant for Moamer Kadhafi’s arrest for crimes against humanity, a day after his regime offered truce in return for a halt in NATO air strikes.

NATO, meanwhile, conducted fresh air raids on an outlying suburb of the capital Tripoli, destroying a radar base, the state news agency JANA and residents said.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the International Criminal Court prosecutor, said warrants were also sought against three Kadhafi sons, his intelligence chief Abdullah Senussi and other officials.

“Today, the office of the prosecutor requested the International Criminal Court arrest warrants," Moreno-Ocampo told a press conference in The Hague, where the court is based.

The Argentine prosecutor said there was evidence “that Moamer Kadhafi personally ordered attacks on innocent Libyan civilians".

Moreno-Ocampo said on Sunday that his office was “almost ready for trial" and had “collected good and solid evidence to identify (those) who bear the greatest responsibility."

A panel of ICC judges will now decide whether to accept or reject the prosecutor’s application.

Protests against Kadhafi’s four-decade rule began on 15 February with Moreno-Ocampo saying thousands of people have been killed in the violence and around 750,000 people forced to flee.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague called on the international community to “fully support" the UN war crimes court.

“I welcome this announcement. The human rights situation in western Libya and the behaviour of the Kadhafi regime remains of grave concern," Hague said.

“The request for these warrants is a reminder to all in Kadhafi’s regime that crimes will not go unpunished and the reach of international justice will be long. Those responsible for attacks on civilians must be held to account."

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said the days of Kadhafi’s regime were “numbered" and that some Libyan officials were looking for a way for their leader to go into exile.

“Messages have been arriving from the regime’s restricted circle," Frattini said in a Channel 5 television interview.

“Certain (members) have spoken under cover and are beginning to say that Kadhafi is looking for an honourable way out," he added.

Since the Libyan conflict began, thousands of refugees and migrants from North Africa have fled in rickety fishing boats to Italy’s southern shores, sparking consternation over a possible mass exodus to Europe.

On Sunday, Kadhafi’s prime minister Baghdadi Mahmudi offered a truce to UN special envoy, Abdul-Ilah al-Khatib, in return for an immediate NATO ceasefire.

Mahmudi said after meeting Khatib that Libya wants “an immediate ceasefire to coincide with a stop to the NATO bombardment and the acceptance of international observers," JANA reported.

He accused the Western alliance, which is leading the enforcement of a UN-mandated no-fly zone over Libya, of “abuses and violations" including “political assassinations, the unjust maritime siege, bombing of civilian sites and destruction of infrastructure."

Britain’s chief of the defence staff, General David Richards, told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper that more military action was needed against the Libyan strongman.

“The vice is closing on Kadhafi, but we need to increase the pressure further through more intense military action," he said.

The general said he wanted NATO member states to support the targeting of Kadhafi’s regime, not just targets which pose an immediate threat to civilians, such as tanks and artillery.

“The military campaign to date has been a significant success for NATO and our Arab allies. But we need to do more. If we do not up the ante now, there is a risk that the conflict could result in Kadhafi clinging to power," Richards said.

On Monday, NATO carried out strikes at a radar station in an outlying suburb of Tripoli, while state news agency JANA quoted a military source as saying that “civilian and military sites" had been targeted in Tajura east of the capital causing “human and material losses."

The rebellion against Kadhafi has claimed thousands of lives while seeing much of eastern Libya fall into the hands of insurgents who have vowed to march on Tripoli and topple him.

In the main eastern city Benghazi, rebel spokesman Jalal al-Gallal touted the uprising’s achievements.

“These three months have been very long," Gallal told AFP. “But we managed to secure the eastern areas, free Misrata and the mountainous regions in the west."

He added: “Kahdafi’s isolation is irreversible. And most importantly, we achieved freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of movement. Kadhafi’s biggest mistake was failing to understand how important these were for us."