Libya: International court to investigate Qadhafi regime for crimes against humanity
The International Criminal Court (ICC) will investigate Libyan President Muammar Al-Qadhafi’s regime for crimes against humanity in repressing peaceful protesters, as a top United Nations official today called for global action to avert a humanitarian disaster inside the country. ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said today preliminary examination of available information shows that an investigation is warranted after the Security Council last week asked him to look into the violent repression in which more than 1,000 people are reported to have been killed and many more injured as Mr. Qadhafi’s loyalists opened fire on peaceful civilians demanding his ouster.
Mr. Moreno-Ocampo will present an overview of the alleged crimes committed in Libya since 15 February and information on the entities and persons who could be prosecuted at a news conference in The Hague tomorrow.
After his investigation he will present his case to ICC judges who will then decide whether or not to issue arrest warrants based on the evidence. Only one sitting head of State has so far been indicted by the ICC and slapped with an arrest warrant – Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who was charged in March 2008 with war crimes and crimes against humanity in the strife-torn Darfur region.
The General Assembly yesterday suspended Libya from the UN Human Rights Council for “gross and systematic” human rights violations because of the violent repression.
Meanwhile, UN agencies on the ground are gearing up to provide humanitarian aid for the more than 150,000 people who have already fled to neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt and the many more who remain within Libya, with the World Food Programme (WFP) launching a $38.7 million emergency operation to provide food aid to 2.7 million people in the three countries.
“We are planning for a three-month emergency operation that will help shore up Egyptian and Tunisian food safety nets and will also purchase food from the region to help ensure that recovery from the disruption can begin immediately,” WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said today in Tunisia, where she visited the border with Libya to see first-hand the crisis sparked by the influx of refugees, already nearing 100,000 there alone.
“We call upon the world for immediate support for this appeal,” she added. “I was surrounded by tens of thousands of people fleeing violence. It is clear the world must increase humanitarian action to prevent a disaster inside Libya. We call for safe humanitarian access, especially to western Libya. Cutting off food supplies must not be used as a weapon,” she added.
In New York, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos allocated $5 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), which provides immediate aid for sudden-onset crises, to help those fleeing violence in Libya. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has also appealed to Governments to urgently supply massive financial and logistical assets, including planes, boats and expert personnel.
Beyond the urgent need to feed those crossing into Tunisia and Egypt, Ms. Sheeran cited the threat to food distribution systems, especially in Libya, where stocks are being depleted, and supply chains are disrupted.
WFP, the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger globally, is already distributing the first airlift of 80 metric tons of high energy biscuits, flown in on Monday, at Tunisian-Libyan border crossing points.
“As part of our contingency planning we have also re-routed shipments of wheat and wheat flour to the Tunisian border and the Libyan port of Benghazi where it will be pre-positioned to meet immediate humanitarian needs that may arise,” Ms. Sheeran said, referring to the eastern Libyan city where anti-Qadhafi forces are in control.
“WFP has a strong presence inside Libya and we are currently making assessments that will allow us to quickly direct life-saving food assistance towards those who are most vulnerable.”
Nearly 100,000 people are also reported to have fled into Egypt. Many of the refugees are migrant workers and male.
Yesterday, UNHCR voiced concern that a large number of sub-Saharan Africans were not being allowed entry into Tunisia, and the Geneva-based UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today called on the international community to seek urgent measures to protect non-citizens, migrant populations, migrant workers, refugees and other minority groups in Libya.
In a related development, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced today that it is halting all cooperation with the Libyan authorities.
UNESCO has been involved in a range of activities in Libya, notably in the areas of science, culture and communication, according to a news release issued by the Paris-based agency. Many of these activities have been funded under a partnership agreement with the Qadhafi International Foundation for Charity Associations, signed in 2001.
This partnership has now been terminated, UNESCO stated, adding that cooperation with Libya will resume as soon as the rights of the Libyan people are fully respected.