THE HAGUE (Reuters) – The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor said on Monday military attacks against civilians in Libya could be a crime against humanity and warrant the launch of a full investigation within days.
The United Nations Security Council on Saturday imposed sanctions on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and his family, and referred Libya’s crackdown on anti-government demonstrators to the International Criminal Court.
“We have to decide whether to open an investigation … and I hope we can move very fast. Within a few days,” ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told reporters in his offices in The Hague.
He said anyone who attacked civilians would be investigated and prosecuted and that military commanders could be held accountable for the actions of their troops.
“If people were on the square and they were attacked by soldiers, tanks or airplanes, in a widespread and systematic way, it’s a crime against humanity,” he said.
Moreno-Ocampo said an investigation team had been put together in The Hague to collect information and his office was in contact with Libyan officials and army staff to understand command structures and how the Libyan military system worked.
The office of the prosecutor was also liaising with an African Union investigation team and the Arab League with the aim to move as swiftly as possible, Moreno-Ocampo said.
When the office of the prosecutor receives a Security Council referral, the statute requires that prosecutors first carry out a preliminary examination to see whether there is reasonable basis to proceed with a full investigation.
This is only the second ICC probe to be triggered by a U.N Security Council referral.
When the Security Council referred the Darfur crisis in Sudan to the ICC on March 31, 2005, it took two months for the prosecutor to open an investigation.
Should an investigation be launched, prosecutors may ask an ICC pre-trial chamber to deliver arrest warrants or summonses for those deemed most responsible for the alleged crimes.