The Rome Contact Group And The ICC

Two imperialist-backed institutions are providing economic and pseudo-legal assistance for regime-change in North Africa

Abayomi Azikiwe. Pan-African News Wire

During the first week of May two significant developments occurred in the imperialist war against the oil-rich North African state of Libya. The convening of a meeting in Italy by the various governments and economic interests that are attempting to overthrow the Libyan state and the announcement that the International Criminal Court (ICC) based in The Hague would seek arrest warrants against high-level officials including Muammar Gaddafi and members of his family.

Italy is the former colonial ruler of Libya where an anti-colonial struggle fought in the early decades of the 20th century resulted in the deaths and displacement of nearly half the population of the territory. The fact that this European capitalist country, which is a large recipient of Libyan oil and natural gas, would be the host for such a gathering speaking volumes about the blatant efforts on the part of the western capitalist states to take control of Libya and its natural resources.

The proceeding of the so-called “International Contact Group” resulted in the announcement of the establishment of a fund to finance the counter-revolutionary rebel groups that are fighting at the behest of the western states to overthrow the Libyan government. Under the banner of the Transitional National Council (TNC), the rebels are slated to receive hundreds of millions of dollars from the imperialist states.

Media reports indicated that the TNC has requested $US2-3 billion in funding. The Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said at the conference that the creation of a fund for the rebels would “permit funds to be channeled effectively and transparently” to the opposition forces in Libya. Another important player in the military campaign against Libya, the British government, has also been cited as a major proponent of the creation of the fund to finance the rebels. (BBC, May 5)

British Foreign Secretary William Hague claimed that the monies contributed to the fund would not be used for military purposes. Hague stated that “This money will help them to keep basic services going…because in the east of Libya they still need to be educating people, to keep public services moving and they have to meet the expenses of all that and they don’t have much tax revenue at the moment.” (BBC, May 5)

Yet the British government has also placed special forces inside of Libya in order to train the rebel forces as well as identify targets for NATO’s ongoing bombing campaign against the country. Other reports have indicated that the British are placing military advisers inside Libya and on the border with Tunisia. According to the BBC, “The UK has already provided $21.5 million in aid to the rebels.”

The Obama administration in Washington has also pledged significant sums of money to the rebels inside eastern Libya including $53 million in so-called “humanitarian aid” and an additional $25 million to provide medical supplies, combat boots, rations and protective gear. Another shipment of U.S. aid was scheduled to arrive in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi during the second week of May.

Other pledges of assistance to the anti-Libyan forces came from the U.S.-backed monarchies in Qatar and Kuwait. Qatar said during the Rome Contact Group gathering that it would supply $500 million to the rebels while Kuwait offered $180 million.

In addition to discussions about providing financial aid to the rebels, there was also considerable deliberations on how to tighten the economic sanctions by the western imperialist states against the Libyan government. The Rome meeting reiterated its aim of preventing the oil-rich North African state from exporting crude oil or importing refined petroleum as well as other means to isolate Libya from world trade markets. In addition, there were plans to take the Libyan governmental funds frozen by the U.S. and the European states, reputed to be over $50 billion, to finance operations in the war against the North African country.

In a final statement at the Rome Contact Group meeting it emphasized that “The regime (Libyan government) must not be allowed any access to oil and gas revenues to support actions against the Libyan people.” Consequently the economic sanctions are designed to bolster the US/NATO military campaign of bombing from the sea and air along with the sabotage attacks by the rebels on the ground.

The Role of the ICC

Another controversial institution has weighed in once again as it relates to the situation in Libya and that is the International Criminal Court (ICC). Referred to by many as the “African Criminal Court,” the ICC has a reputation of only targeting and indicting states and individuals on the continent. In Sudan, the ICC has issued warrants against the President Omar al-Bashir and other leading figures within the oil-rich nation, Africa’s largest geographic nation-state.

With specific reference to Libya, the ICC Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, has already indicated that he will issue indictments against at least three Libyan officials. Such actions by this Court based in the Netherlands is designed to apply further pressure against the Libyan government.

On May 5, Moreno-Ocampo addressed the United Nations Security Council which passed the two Resolutions 1970 and 1973, which provided the legal rationale for the direct NATO military intervention in Libya. The ICC is claiming that there was a “pre-determined plan” to attack anti-government protesters.

Nonetheless, there is no reference to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency decades-long plans to assassinate and overthrow the government of Muammar Gaddafi. The ICC has never taken any action against the imperialist states of the U.S. and Britain for the crimes committed against the peoples of Iraq, Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine.

One U.S.-based organization, Human Rights Watch, has attempted to provide the cloak of independent legitimacy in making claims that Libyan governmental actions designed to defend its people, institutions and economy constitute a violation of international law. Interestingly enough, the HRW has not opposed the US/NATO intervention and bombing of Libya and is routinely neglecting the use by the Pentagon of Depleted Uranium weapons and the killing of civilians and other people inside of this North African country.

Such a group will remain suspect both inside and outside the United States as long as it neglects the gross human rights violations taking place daily within the country where they are based as well as almost exclusively focusing on purported human rights violations in post-colonial and developing countries which have been targeted by the imperialist states for destruction and regime-change.

Reinforcing the West’s aim of installing a neo-colonial regime in Libya, HRW has urged the United Nations Security Council to declare its support to the ICC indictments against Libyan officials. In a statement attributed to Richard Dicker, the director of International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch, “After setting the wheels of justice in motion, the council should back the court in ensuring the accountability for any grave abuses in Libya. The Security Council must stand by the strong action it took in February and reaffirm the court’s role in the fight against impunity.”

However, even the U.S. government is not a signatory to the Rome Statute which created the International Criminal Court. The North African state of Libya also does not adhere to the ICC and its assumed authority over the legal affairs of the continent.

Most African and Arab states have opposed the ICC warrants against the political leadership in Sudan. President Omar al-Bashir has traveled to numerous African and Arab states and is welcomed with full diplomatic decorum.

The indictments by the ICC and the HRW appeal to the Security Council to take further actions against Libya is clearly designed to coincide with the stated aims of the U.S., Britain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada and their allies within NATO and in other geo-political regions. These imperialist governments and the other U.S.-backed Middle-Eastern states, in conjunction with the rebels, have maintained that they do not want a negotiated settlement to the war but that the country must be totally transformed to an outpost for western military and economic interests.

As Diane Johnstone pointed out in a recent article published in Counterpunch in regard to the ICC that “the fact that the United States and its citizen are immune to prosecution, first of all because the United States has used its unprecedented economic and political clout to pressure countries into signing Bilateral Immunity Agreements (BIAs) that exempt Americans from prosecutions. One hundred and two countries have signed BIAs with the United States.” (Counterpunch, May 6-8)

Libya Continues to Resist Military Assault

Despite the NATO onslaught and the arming and financing of the rebels who are assisted by various intelligence agencies and special forces units, the Libyan government is mounting a defense of its territory and state. Efforts have been successful in preventing the arming of the rebels through the port at Misrata where Libyan forces have been targeted by NATO bombing raids.

The Libyan military is hampering the use of the border with Tunisia by the western-based forces and the rebels for the smuggling of weapons and other supplies to the areas around Misrata. The bombing by NATO has gone on for nearly two-months at great cost to the people of Libya as well as the two million guest workers that relied on Africa’s most vibrant economy for their livelihoods.

On May 8 NATO bombed western Tripoli and the city of Zintan located southwest of the capital. In Misarata on the previous day the Libyan military forces took out oil refueling facilities utilized by the rebels in their campaign against the central government.

Conditions for people inside the country have worsened since the beginning of the NATO bombing on March 19. Tens of thousands of Libyans and guest workers have fled the country.

Many others have been seriously injured and killed in unsafe boats that are ostensibly designed to take them to safe areas in other parts of the country or to Europe. A report on May 8 in the Guardian claimed that NATO had left over 70 African migrant workers to die of hunger and thirst. (Guardian, UK, May 8)

According to the Guardian article, “All but 11 of those on board died from thirst and hunger after their vessel was left to drift in open waters for 16 days. International maritime law compels all vessels, including military units, to answer distress calls from nearby boats and to offer help where possible.”

These incidents are coming to light on a daily basis in the Mediterranean as the US/NATO war continues its efforts to destroy Libya and subdue its people, resources and waterways. Finding a just peace will be crucial in any reconstruction and national reconciliation process.

As the 53-member African Union has emphasized repeatedly, there must be the implementation of the peace plan advanced by the continental organization on March 11. The AU plan calls for an immediate ceasefire, the withdrawal of foreign military forces, respect for the territorial sovereignty of the country, the protection of civilians and migrant workers and beginning of serious negotiations between the warring parties.

AU Commissioner Jean Ping told the Rome Contact Group meeting in Italy on May 5 that the failure of the gathering to move toward negotiations as opposed to aerial bombardments, business deals and support for the rebels, would only create further problems for Libya and its regional neighbors. Ping noted that “The AU has no agenda in Libya other than to facilitate the resolution of the crisis and a democratic transition in that country.” (Afrique en ligne, May 9)

At the same time, high-level meetings between Russia and China have taken place and a joint statement on the situation in Libya was released. Both governments say they hold identical positions on the situation in North Africa.

In the statement they point out that “every nation should determine its future independently without outside interference.” In a People’s Daily editorial several weeks ago it stated that “Libya was at a stalemate; the Muammar Gaddafi regime had proved resilient; and the Libyan opposition was overrated by the West.” (Asia Times, May 9)

All of the major western military interventions are exposing these countries to extreme economic crises as well as growing political opposition both domestically and internationally. There is no solution for the workers and oppressed of the capitalist countries outside the end of the imperialist wars of occupation.