- The Washington Times - Monday, May 16, 2011

The prosecutor for the International Criminal Court on Monday sought arrest warrants for Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, his son Seif al-Islam Gadhafi and his brother-in-law Abdullah Sanussi for crimes against humanity.

An ICC arrest warrant would add to the international pressure on Col. Gadhafi but could limit his exit strategy options. If he negotiated a truce that included his resignation, he could still face trial in The Hague.

A three-judge panel will decide whether to issue the warrants.

Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said he has evidence that Col. Gadhafi personally ordered attacks on unarmed civilians.

“His forces attacked Libyan civilians in their homes and in the public space, repressed demonstrations with live ammunition, used heavy artillery against participants in funeral processions, and placed snipers to kill those leaving mosques after the prayers,” he said.

The younger Mr. Gadhafi is acting as de facto prime minister in the regime, while Mr. Sanussi serves as the director of military intelligence.

“The office gathered direct evidence about orders issued by Moammar Gadhafi himself, direct evidence of Seif al-Islam organizing the recruitment of mercenaries, and direct evidence of the participation of Sanussi in the attacks against demonstrators,” Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said.

Libyan rebels welcomed the development.

“It increases the pressure on Gadhafi and those around him to make up their mind quickly on leaving Libya as their choices become limited,” Guma el-Gamaty, coordinator for the rebels Interim National Transitional Council in Britain, told The Times.

In Tripoli, Moussa Ibrahim, a Libyan government spokesman, said the regime would ignore any warrants. He denied that the government ever ordered the killing of civilians or the hiring of mercenaries.

Meanwhile, residents in Libyas Western Mountains region told The Times in Internet phone interviews that pro-Gadhafi forces were attacking their towns and cities with Grad rockets. The regimes siege has pushed towns like Yefren and Galaa to the brink of a humanitarian disaster, they said.

If the arrest warrant is approved, Col. Gadhafi will join Sudanese President Omar Bashir as the two sitting heads of state facing ICC warrants. Lt. Gen. Bashir was indicted for the massacre in Darfur.

Brett Schaefer at the Heritage Foundation said an arrest warrant for Col. Gadhafi would “complicate things enormously.”

“In the international realm, you cannot separate international justice from the political realities of international diplomacy. And therefore the idea that somehow the court can be isolated away from these political dynamics is idealistic and, I think, unrealistic,” he said.

However, a London-based Libyan lawyer welcomed Mondays development and said an arrest warrant would eliminate an exit as an option for Col. Gadhafi.

“Let us not forget that the regimes terror did not only target its own people but breached the sovereignty of many nations,” she told The Times on the condition of anonymity citing security concerns.

“It is not whether Gadhafi will now lose interest in a ‘peace deal’ or a ‘negotiated exit’ but whether there is a state that would be willing to accept him even if he was interested and whether that would indeed bring peace,” the Libyan lawyer said.

“The cards are no longer his to play.”