ICC Prosecutor: ‘Justice and accountability ‘critical components’ for lasting peace in Libya’

Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), speaks to journalists after briefing the Security Council at its meeting on the situation in Libya. UN Photo/Loey Felipe


26 May 2016 – Justice, accountability and the deterrent effects of the law remain “critical components” for achieving lasting peace in Libya, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) told the United Nations Security Council today, encouraging the country’s Government to give priority to devising effective plans and strategies to address atrocity crimes, and to invest in the relevant national institutions responsible for such work.

“This will demonstrate, in concrete terms, that justice and accountability constitute key Government priorities underpinning efforts to ensure peace and stability in Libya, and that the victims will have the opportunity to seek redress through the Libyan courts,” said ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, as she presented her latest report on the situation in the country to the Council.

Ms. Bensouda said that the past six months had witnessed significant developments in Libya’s “slow and difficult” process towards the establishment of a unity Government, and that her office hoped that the signing in December 2015 of the UN-brokered agreement “marks the beginning of the end of the long period of turmoil and conflict in Libya.”

For its part, her office stood ready to work collaboratively with the Government of National Accord in its efforts to build a secure, peaceful and prosperous Libya for all Libyan people, she said.

Over the same period, her office’s investigation into the Libya situation had progressed, albeit at a slower pace than it would have liked due to lack of sufficient resources and the prevailing precarious security situation in the country, the prosecutor said.

Despite such challenges, her office’s investigations were continuing to yield positive results, in large part due to the cooperation of the Libyan Prosecutor-General’s office.

Her office was continuing to carefully analyse and assess the evidence in its possession to determine whether the requisite legal standards were met to request additional arrest warrants, the prosecutor said.

Turning to the situation in Libya, Ms. Bensouda said it requires collaboration and coordination between all relevant actors at the national, regional and international levels, as well as the support of the Council.

“Success in Libya therefore depends on the collective determination and will of all relevant actors to meaningfully contribute to the course of bringing perpetrators to justice and by so doing, help deter the commission of future crimes,” she said.

The threat of Da’esh or other groups proclaiming allegiance to Al-Qaida remained real and the consequences were too costly to be ignored, the prosecutor said. Such consequences included instability and the dire humanitarian situation in Libya, which in turn result in mass migration and the spread of terrorism in the country and the region.

In that vein, the prosecutor reiterated calls to all national and international law enforcement agencies working on Libya to contact her office and join in its efforts to strengthen the network of law enforcement agencies that “aim to contribute to bringing an end to civilian suffering and destruction in Libya.”

“I remain convinced that increased cooperation between and amongst relevant actors as well as coordinated investigative activities are key for tackling national, transnational and international crimes that continue to plague Libya and for ensuring that those responsible for committing these crimes have no safe haven anywhere,” she said.

In that regard, Ms. Bensouda said she was particularly pleased with the interest and efforts thus far by national law enforcement agencies to coordinate with my office, with each other and with Libyan authorities.

The prosecutor also urged the Government of National Accord to prioritize the transfer of Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi to its own custody and facilitate his surrender to the ICC. It was also important for the Government of National Accord to consult with the Pre-Trial Chamber on issues relating to the surrender of Mr. Gaddafi, and to seek assistance from the international community on how best to facilitate his surrender to the Court without further delay, she said.

Emphasizing that Libya had submitted to the ICC that Mr. Gaddafi continues to be in custody in Zintan and is presently “unavailable” to the Libyan State, the prosecutor noted that her office had recently filed a request with the Pre-Trial Chamber for an order directing the Registry to transmit the request for arrest and surrender Mr. Gaddafi directly to Mr. al-‘Ajami al-‘Atiri, the commander of the battalion that is detaining Mr. Gaddafi in Zintan.

Regarding Abdullah Al-Senussi, Ms. Bensouda said her office had received a copy of the written judgment of the Libyan court in relation to his case, and had conducted a preliminary review of the judgment.

“At this time, the office is not in possession of facts which would satisfy it that new facts have arisen which negate the basis on which Pre-Trial Chamber I found Mr. Al-Senussi’s case inadmissible,” she said, adding that the office would continue to review its assessment if and when new relevant facts become available.

In addition, Ms. Bensouda said her office remained concerned about ongoing civilian deaths, with reported executions by Da’esh accounting for the majority of those, although civilian deaths continue to also result from the Libya Dawn-Libya National Army conflict. Abductions, detentions and ill treatment in detention centres continued to be reported on all sides of the conflict, she said.

The Mediterranean-Libya migratory route to Europe remained a popular option among refugees and migrants who were particularly vulnerable to violence, sexual violence and ill treatment in Libya, the prosecutor also said. Detention of thousands of migrants continued to be a source of financing for many militant groups in Libya, she added.

“We, as the international community, must take a closer look at who profits from criminal activity in Libya, and take coordinated steps to prevent further violations,” said Ms. Bensouda. “This must be a priority for all who are affected by the criminal trafficking of human beings.”

For its part, she said her office continued to carefully evaluate how to best utilize its limited resources to maximize its impact on the present situation in Libya. While the office was continuing its investigations into officials linked to the former reign of Muammar Mohammad Abu Minyar Gaddafi, it was also focused on ongoing crimes in Libya.

Her office was also optimistic that, in the coming months, it would be able to resume its functions in Libya, and accelerate efforts to bring to justice those responsible for Rome Statute crimes, in coordination with key partners in and outside of Libya.

“I must reiterate that until my team is able to carry out investigations in Libya, and until the issue of resources is resolved, the Office will simply be unable to advance the investigations as rapidly as desired,” the prosecutor stressed.

In conclusion, Ms. Bensouda urged the Council and the international community to stay committed to Libya and “help it emerge triumphant in the face of adversity.”“Libya and the Libyan people deserve peace and stability on which to secure and build their future; they deserve the rule of law and by the law rather than lawlessness and the current climate of perpetual insecurity and influx,” she said.

“Nations are not built overnight, but to last and to withstand the challenges of the 21st century they must be built on strong foundations. Justice will always serve as a central pillar,” she concluded.