International Criminal Court Prosecutor Urges Security Council’s Proactive Support of Libya to Avert Pitfalls, Further Unravelling of Precarious Situation
Given the upsurge of violence in Libya and corresponding lack of progress on accountability for serious crimes, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court this morning urged the Security Council to take a more proactive stance in assisting the country to address those issues.
“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,” Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said, referring to the decree that established the Court.
For its part, “Libya must demonstrate its commitment to justice and accountability for mass crimes by fulfilling its obligations toward the Court and the Council,” she added. “We must not fail Libya, but Libya must also not fail itself.”
To help to focus attention on the problems facing Libyan authorities and assist States in coordinating their own efforts with the Court and the Government, she proposed exploring the formation of an international contact group on justice issues in the country.
She said that since her last report to the Council on Libya in May, the situation had deteriorated, with the country currently split between two Governments vying for legitimacy, amid ongoing assassinations and threats to human rights and legal and media personnel. “There are, indeed, indications that crimes that fall within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court are being committed,” she said.
While her Office remained steadfast in its commitment to pursue its mandate in Libya to investigate crimes committed since February 2011, she said the security situation had significantly hampered its operations. She urged the Libyan authorities to expend all efforts to ensure the necessary conditions, in close coordination with the United Nations.
She stressed, in that regard, the continued failure of the Government to surrender Saif Al-Islam Qadhafi, the son of the head of the former regime, to the Court’s custody. She called for immediate action to that effect.
In regard to the trial of Abdullah Al-Senussi in Libya, she said that the ongoing violence and alleged threats to judges, prosecutors and lawyers did not augur well for a fair proceeding. She would consider, in due course, whether to apply for a review of the judges’ decision upholding Libya’s request for the trials to be held within the country.
Similarly, her Office remained very concerned about the number of individuals in detention, some of whom reportedly lacked access to due process and might be subjected to torture and death in custody. It was incumbent upon the Government to ensure that detainees were either tried within a reasonable time frame, with full respect for their due process, or released, she stressed.
The time was also past due for redressing the displacement of the Tawerghans, she said, voicing hope that within the next six months, the representatives of Tawergha and Misrata would be able to update the Council on the issue.
Following Ms. Bensouda’s briefing, Council members took the floor, expressing concern over the resurgent violence in Libya, with many condemning ongoing assassinations and threats. Most speakers also called for close cooperation between the Libyan authorities and the Court, calling on them to surrender Mr. Qadhafi. Most also called for assurance that Abdullah Al-Senussi would be tried according to due process and that detainees from the 2011 conflict would either receive fair trials or be released.
The representative of the Russian Federation said that while efforts to bring about justice for members of the previous regime had made some progress, no real steps had been taken against insurgents. He also regretted that the Prosecutor had “distanced” herself from considering civilian victims of air strikes by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
The representative of Libya reiterated his Government’s determination to bring about justice in Libya. Justice, however, depended on security and State authority, and terrorist groups were dismembering the country, he said.
“We have come a long way through blood and civil war in Libya,” he said, stressing the commitment to restore legitimate control and ensure a fair trial for all, though hearings would have to be deferred until circumstances were more favourable. He pressed the Court to recognize Libya’s competence in the Qadhafi case and show prudence in other cases concerning public officials.
Also speaking were the representatives of Argentina, Luxembourg, Russian Federation, France, Nigeria, Chad, Lithuania, Republic of Korea, United Kingdom, China, Jordan, Rwanda, United States, Chile and Australia.
The meeting began at 11 a.m. and ended at 12:32 p.m.
MARÍA CRISTINA PERCEVAL (Argentina) said constructive dialogue with the Court continued to unfold, and since 2013, had become more fluid, as seen in the Memorandum of Understanding on workload distribution. Noting that Libya was obliged to cooperate with the Court, she said that body had made it clear in May that Libya should turn over to the court the accused in the case of Saif Al-Islam Qadhafi. The Prosecutor had addressed situations of cruel treatment and torture against 30,000 Tawergha people. The Justice Ministry had reported on those cases, but not all could be investigated, due to a lack of access. Libya must ensure that those were investigated. She questioned why the referral costs had been paid exclusively by States parties to the Rome Statute and not the United Nations, stressing that the Court should be provided with the resources required to carry out its mandate.
OLIVIER MAES (Luxembourg), while noting the difficulties of building a democratic Libya, nonetheless welcomed the measures taken to implement the protocol agreement between the Prosecutor and Libya to foster cooperation and task-sharing. A lack of resources had slowed evidence collection, he said, reiterating that the Court must have the necessary resources to fully discharge its functions. For its part, Libya was obliged to hand over Saif Al-Islam Qadhafi, release detainees against whom there was no evidence and submit to national tribunals the cases against those for whom there was evidence. Further, Libya must apply the law criminalizing torture and forced disappearance, resolve the situation for the 30,000 internally displaced Tawergha persons and redouble efforts to address the security situation. The international community must help Libya in that critical transition, he said, underlining also the importance of the Council’s support.
VITALY I. CHURKIN (Russian Federation) expressed concern over reports of illegal arrests, torture and murder of civilians in Libya. Those who had committed serious crimes there since 2011 should be brought to justice. Recalling that on 24 July, the Appeals Chamber had upheld a lower court ruling that Libya could carry out the investigation of Abdullah Al-Senussi, he said he had seen no “material” to justify that approach. The Court’s ability to impartially carry out investigations for all parties was vital, but there had been no significant progress in that regard. While sufficient information had been “assumed” in cases against representatives of the Qadhafi regime, real steps against insurgents had not been taken. There had been no news on the fate of 30,000 internally displaced persons. The Prosecutor also had “distanced” herself from considering civilian victims as a result of air strikes by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), breaching resolution 1973 (2011). Investigations of all cases of indiscriminate use of force during the conflict must be investigated.
PHILIPPE BERTOUX (France) said despite violence and instability, Libyans must show their determination and carry through its democratic transition. He urged inclusive dialogue without delay, stressing the importance of a political solution. Further, a national unity Government must be established and returned quickly to Tripoli. Citing the availability of sanctions for those who impeded a political transition, he said Ansar al Sharia was creating obstructions by seeking to hide moderate Islamists. Cooperation with the Court was vital in order to “close the chapter of impunity” in Libya, he said, noting that, in line with resolution 1970 (2011), Libya must comply with the decision on the Court’s competence to try the Qadhafi case. It also must respect its obligations under that resolution. Also, the Memorandum of Understanding on task-sharing must be pursued. He regretted that the return home of the Tawergha people had been delayed.
KAYODE LARO (Nigeria) urged Libya to continue to cooperate with the International Criminal Court. For that purpose, he looked forward to the technical meeting that could strengthen cooperation between the Court and the Government. He affirmed that Libya had an obligation to surrender Mr. Qadhafi. In order to send a message that impunity will not be tolerated, he called for the Government to continue to facilitate investigations and urged an immediate ceasefire between the parties to allow that to occur.
GOMBO TCHOULI (Chad), taking note of the dangerous situation in Libya and accompanying allegations of human rights abuses, said that the lack of resolution over the procedures in regard to Mr. Qadhafi added to a climate of impunity. He encouraged the Government to persevere in its desire to achieve justice and cooperate with the Court on that and other cases. He also urged the Government to either free detainees or judge them. Supporting further dialogue between the Government and the Court, he welcomed the proposal of the Prosecutor for the creation of a contact group.
RAIMONDA MURMOKAITE (Lithuania) stressed the importance of the Prosecutor’s work in continuing to investigate all crimes against humanity that might have been committed in Libya, noting the current challenges. She affirmed Libya’s obligation to surrender Mr. Qadhafi and expressed hope that a fair trial for Abdullah Al-Senussi could be assured. Expressing concern over continued human rights abuses in the country, she agreed that the handover of all detainees to the State was crucial. The return of the Tawerghans was also important, as was building capacity in the justice sector. Proper resources must be provided for the Prosecutor’s mandated activities, she added.
PAIK JI-AH (Republic of Korea) expressed the hope that Libya would fulfil its international obligations through full cooperation with the Court. Recognizing that the current situation was not conducive to either human rights or ending impunity, she urged a stronger engagement of the Security Council in the Libyan situation. She pledged her country’s commitment to work with the international community to make progress on stability and justice in the country.
HELEN MULVEIN (United Kingdom) said the recent Supreme Court ruling that the internationally recognized Government was unconstitutional highlighted Libya’s significant challenges. She voiced concern at reports that a car bomb had exploded in the eastern city of Shahat, pressing all actors to work towards political solutions and urging support for United Nations efforts to mediate a ceasefire and a lasting political settlement. A stable, democratic Libya was in everyone’s interests and the international community must support such efforts. She backed the call for all parties to refrain from targeting civilians and committing Rome Statute crimes. Those who had committed atrocities must be held accountable and Libya’s future must be built on a foundation that promoted and protected human rights for all. She encouraged Libya to continue to work with the Prosecutor, including by implementing the Memorandum of Understanding on burden‑sharing, saying that Libya was obliged to surrender Saif al-Islam Qadhafi to the Court.
CAI WEIMING (China) said his country was “deeply worried” at the worsening situation in Libya. The priority for the time being was for the parties there to place the interests of their country and people first, implement relevant Council resolutions, adhere to the commitments reached at the Ghadames dialogue, immediately achieve a ceasefire and resolve the differences through inclusive political dialogue aimed at Libya’s security and stability. That, he said, was the precondition for and the foundation upon which to achieve justice. China’s position on matters involving the International Criminal Court remained unchanged.
DINA KAWAR (Jordan) underlined her Government’s support for the Court based on its belief in the principles that had had established that body. She urged the Government’s full cooperation with the Court by facilitating logistical support for evidence collection, investigations, information exchange, detentions and extraditions. She stressed the importance of Libya’s continued work to establish the rule of law and bring to justice the alleged perpetrators. Indeed, criminal justice was the basis for stability and the guarantee that war crimes would not recur. Jordan was committed to comprehensive dialogue and to the political process in Libya, she said, urging support for legitimate Libyan institutions, the immediate halt of hostilities and the cooperation of all Libyans to enable the Government to extend its authority throughout its territory.
OLIVIER NDUHUNGIREHE (Rwanda) urged all parties to engage constructively towards building an inclusive Government in Libya, noting with concern that all sides continued to commit abuses such as indiscriminate shelling, the torture of detainees, abductions and the intimidation of judges. Libya should ensure that all perpetrators of mass atrocity crimes were brought to trial. Yet, security challenges had hampered the justice system, he acknowledged, emphasizing that insecurity could not be allowed to deny people of their basic rights. The Government should reiterate its commitment to transitional justice law, requiring that detainees from the former regime be charged or released. He stressed the importance of accountability for the most serious crimes through national or international jurisdictions. National sovereignty should never be a pretext to deny justice, he said, citing the Rome Statute’s complementarity clause.
ANN ELIZABETH JONES (United States) reiterated the call for accountability in Libya. She condemned the recent spate of assassinations and other abuses, and stressed that cooperation with the Court remained critical. For that purpose, she encouraged prioritization of the most serious crimes and for holding all defendants to account in a way that respected the rights of due process. She urged support for the Libyan Government to help it navigate its many challenges but stressed that success in overcoming them ultimately relied on Libyans working for the interest of the country as a whole.
CARLOS OLGUÍN CIGARROA (Chile), noting the precarious situation in the country, called for an inclusive political dialogue as well as cooperation with the Court, including on the case of Mr. Qadhafi. The thousands of uncharged detainees, many killings and the return of the Tawerghans must also be addressed. He condemned ongoing assassinations and stressed the importance of the Prosecutor’s work in ensuring accountability, including for those who carried out acts against minority groups in Libya. He asked the Government to share its plans for ensuring accountability.
GARY FRANCIS QUINLAN (Australia) urged all parties to commit to an unconditional ceasefire and political dialogue. Of notable concern were reported attacks on civilians in Tripoli and Benghazi, unlawful imprisonment and the situation of forcibly displaced Tawerghan civilians. Parties must adhere to their international humanitarian and human rights law obligations. “Justice is integral to public confidence in national institutions and leaders,” he said, urging Libya to cooperate with the Court and prosecute other serious international crimes committed in the country that fell outside the Court’s jurisdiction. Calling on States to deny safe haven to alleged perpetrators of serious international crimes during the 2011 violence, he supported the call for Libya to share its strategy for investigating and prosecuting such abuses. A key step in that plan must be the surrender of Saif al-Islam Qadhafi to the Court.
IBRAHIM O. A. DABBASHI (Libya) reiterated that successive Libyan Governments since 2011 had repeatedly expressed their determination to ensure justice and combat impunity, stressing that the cooperation between Libya and the Court was one example of that commitment. “Justice, wherever it may be, depends on security,” he said, which in turn, depended on State authority, which must be recognized and respected by all citizens. However, those conditions had not been met. Libya had been the victim of terrorist groups that sought to “dismember” the State and spread hatred. Whether dressed in “the banner of religion” or intrigue, they were driving people to die in fratricidal wars.
Indeed, he said, their leaders often left the country, taking State funds with them to countries like Turkey and Egypt. Their children studied in foreign schools. Their goal was to derail constitutional reform, tear apart State institutions and maintain anarchy. Stressing the need for a political solution that respected the law and the democratic rules of the game, he trusted that Libya would receive the necessary assistance to confront such terrorism. “We have come a long way through blood and civil war in Libya,” he said, expressing hope that the Secretary-General’s Special Representative would receive the Council’s report. Reiterating the challenge of upholding Government obligations in parts of the country that were outside its control, he agreed that Saif al-Islam Qadhafi should have a just trial.
He said the Libyan tribunal had deferred those hearings until circumstances were more favourable. To that end, Parliament sought to regain control of State institutions and do all that was necessary to ensure the rule of law, with a view to holding trials that were in line with international standards. He pressed the Court to recognize Libya’s competence in the Qadhafi case and show prudence in other cases concerning public officials. In sum, the Parliament and provisional Government were determined to meet their legal and judiciary commitments to combat impunity, render justice and try alleged criminals and human rights violators since 15 February 2011. Further, the Government was committed to guarantee reparations, the return of internally displaced persons and participation in political life without discrimination.
* The 7305th Meeting was closed.