POST WRITTEN BY: Prof. Peter Widulski, Assistant Director of the First Year Legal Skills Program and the Coach of International Criminal Moot Court Team at Pace Law School.
On November 12, 2014, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda presented the U.N. Security Council with a report on “the deteriorating situation” in Libya, calling the Council’s attention to several disturbing matters that the OTP is confronting in its work in Libya.
The Security Council referred the situation in Libya to the ICC in 2011, pursuant to the authority accorded to it by Article 13(b) of the Rome Statute and by Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter. This was the second time the Council referred a situation of violent internal conflict to the ICC; the first time was in 2005, with respect to the violence in Darfur, Sudan. The ICC Prosecutor has been pursuing cases against several suspects in both of these situations.
In both, the ICC has encountered severe difficulties in carrying out its responsibilities. With respect to the Darfur situation, four of the suspects subject to ICC arrest warrants remain at large. As noted here, earlier this year the Prosecutor asked the Council for further assistance in dealing with the failure of several countries to execute the ICC arrest warrant for Sudan President Omar al-Bashir. As noted here, in April 2014 the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber issued a rebuke to the Democratic Republic of the Congo for failing to arrest al-Bashir when the Chamber, having advance notice of al-Bashir’s visit to the DRC, issued a request to the DRC for his arrest. The DRC is a State Party to the Rome Statute; Article 86 of the Statute requires that “State Parties shall … cooperate fully with the Court in its investigation and prosecution of crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court.”
With respect to the Libya situation, Prosecutor Bensouda advised that despite elections in Libya in June 2014, political instability is increasing as two governments vie for legitimacy. She also noted that there have been several assassinations and numerous threats made against human rights workers, judges, prosecutors, and others. She reported that the deteriorating security situation in the country is making it very difficult for her Office to pursue its work, including, among other matters, the Office’s ability to investigate “new instances of mass crimes allegedly committed by the rebel forces.”
The Prosecutor expressed her Office’s “great concern” regarding “the continued failure of the Government of Libya to surrender Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi to the custody of the International Criminal Court.” On June 27, 2011, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi on two counts of crimes against humanity but he remains at large. Regarding Abdullah Al-Senussi, whom the ICC previously sought for prosecution, the Prosecutor stated that because of the on-going violence in Libya that may endanger the possibility of a fair trial for Al-Senussi, she may apply for review of decisions by ICC courts deferring to Libya’s prosecution of him.
Prosecutor Bensouda called upon Libya for cooperation, and she stated that “the international community could be more proactive in exploring solutions in order to tangibly help restore stability and strengthen accountability for Rome Statute crimes in Libya.”
The Prosecutor’s October 23 and November 12 statements to the Security Council suggest that ICC prosecutions of cases following a Security Council referral are encountering difficulties that go beyond those encountered by prosecutors authorized to prosecute cases in the ad hoc tribunals established through Security Council resolutions prior to the Rome Statute’s entry into force in 2002. If the ICC is to be able to carry out its responsibilities – especially with regard to Security Council referrals – the Prosecutor seems to be correct that additional support for the ICC will be needed from the Security Council, from States affected, and from the international community in general.