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Libya officials could face prosecution for civilian attacks: ICC

International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official websites] warned Libyan government officials on Friday that war crimes prosecution could result for any indiscriminate attacks [video] against civilians in Benghazi. Last week, the UN was called upon to impose a no-fly zone [JURIST report] over Libya in response to reports that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] had been using aircraft attacks to combat civilian protesting. Prior to Thursday's UN vote authorizing the resolution, Gaddafi threatened an imminent attack on Benghazi [NYT report]. Moreno-Ocampo's warning follows an issuance of an ultimatum by Libyan government officials that all Benghazi citizens must leave the targeted areas which Libya plans to attack. According to Moreno-Ocampo, "the issuance of such a warning does not provide an excuse to attack civilians. ... The government can control rebellion but cannot attack civilians." Following Moreno-Ocampo's statement, the Libyan government declared a ceasefire to halt international intervention [AP report]. However, according to reports, attacks have reportedly not stopped, and Moreno-Ocampo maintains that there will be no impunity for attacks on civilians.

Earlier this month, the ICC launched a probe to investigate allegations of crimes against humanity [JURIST report] by the Libyan government. Moreno-Ocampo specifically identified Gaddafi, his sons and his political allies as targets of the investigation and warned Libyan officials that complicity in such abuses would result in prosecution. Additionally, the UN appointed a team of special prosecutors [JURIST report] to investigate allegations that Gaddafi ordered forces to torture and abduct opponents. Gaddafi is accused of ordering hospital patients' executions, firing on crowds of protesters and using other extreme tactics against his opponents. The UN General Assembly has voted to suspend Libya [JURIST report] from the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] in response to the violent suppression of peaceful protesters by forces loyal to Gaddafi. The ICC has also said that itwill not grant immunity [JURIST report] to any person perpetrating crimes against humanity in Libya.

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