June 27, 2011
The international arrest warrant issued against Libya’s Muammar al-Gaddafi by the International Criminal Court (ICC) will add a new complexion to the Libyan crisis. The stalemate that the military option has caused isn’t going away soon nor will Gaddafi’s overthrow happen soon, given the dogged determination with which his forces are fighting despite the damaging airstrikes by NATO.
Now that the ICC has declared Gaddafi a “wanted man,” the stage has been set and the stakes raised higher for him to adopt hitherto unused strategies to prolong the fighting and avoid playing himself into the hands of his enemies. Any such new move to intensify his resistance will annoy NATO into ramping up its devastation, regardless of where it occurs.
We expect some unorthodox approaches to be used by the pro-Gaddafi forces and NATO’s desperate airstrikes that will definitely hit civilians and cause hue-and-cry from the public all over the world.
Here is what we have had so far. While the African Union is pursuing peaceful, negotiated means to resolve the crisis—even if it has been unsuccessful so far—the West and their internal collaborators operating under the guise of rebels are bent on the military campaign as their preferred option, working hard to achieve either of two objectives: to assassinate Gaddafi or physically get hold of him and do to him whatever they deem fit. This latter option is a pipe dream because Gaddafi is no pushover.
The former objective seems more likely, given the pinpointed airstrikes that NATO has carried out wherever Gaddafi is suspected to be. They’ve bombed buildings close to the Libyan state TV, his son’s residence, his camp ground in the desert, and his vast al-Aziziya compound and missed him so far, although they are collaborating with all their sources (including news reporters and members of the Tripoli cells that the rebel leaders have boasted of contacting) to gather appropriate intelligence that will help them end it all for him. If they succeed in assassinating him, he would have achieved his desire to die as a martyr, even though his death won’t mean an end to the country’s political crisis.
Those at Gaddafi’s heel are desperate and will do anything at all to get at him. That’s why the ICC’s decision may come to them as an additional poisoned arrow to aim at him. But enforcing the ICC’s arrest warrant will not be easily done, at least, now that Gaddafi isn’t poised to leave his country.
Furthermore, the ICC’s decision has come at a time that the African Union is raising its voice again to be heard as it seeks non-violent means to resolve the Libyan crisis. One of such means might be to prevail on Gaddafi to relinquish power and proceed to a safe haven outside Libya. With this international arrest warrant, however, no such move will succeed.
First, it will make it clear to Gaddafi that whether he does what the AU suggests or not, he will not be free from danger, which means that he will now be forewarned to act decisively and he will choose to spurn any suggestion for him to leave the country. Second, it will toughen him to fight to death, knowing very well that whether alive or not, his future is bleak. The ICC’s decision, therefore, blights the AU’s political roadmap for Libya.
I hope as the AU Heads of State meet in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, the implications of this ICC’s decision will dawn on them well enough for them to speak out. But I doubt whether they will ever do anything of the sort, having all along remained in the shadows and portrayed themselves as spineless stooges of the West.
To me, this decision by the panel of judges of the (ICC) to declare Libya’s Gaddafi a “wanted man” is not surprising. Every intelligent person who knows the history behind the ICC itself and how it functions can tell that what its judges did today was a foregone conclusion even long before the decision had been taken to investigate allegations of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and others that Gaddafi’s opponents had levelled against him, his son (Saif al-Gaddafi) and his brother-in-law and intelligence chief (al-Sanussi).
For whatever this decision by the ICC may mean, it comes across as nothing but the input that the West is looking for to enable it go after Gaddafi from more than one angle. The game plan is simple: to use the military campaign to physically destroy anything considered as an asset to him and his government (thanks to the UN Security Council’s Resolution 1973) as the first step toward getting rid of him from power; then, to use the ICC as the judicial means to entrap him if he decides to relinquish power voluntarily and escapes the military trap.
In either approach, Gaddafi will have no escape route. Every intelligent observer of the developments taking place can’t miss this two-pronged approach by the West to eliminate Gaddafi. To the Gaddafi haters, therefore, the ICC’s verdict is a fait accompli.
This decision, however, keeps the lid open on the ICC’s credibility. To me, the ICC is just part of the huge contraption that the powerful voices in the UN have designed to hound those they consider as obstacles. We can tell from what the ICC has done so far that it is selective in those it goes after and closes its eyes to others whose acts of commission or omission make them liable to investigation and prosecution on the very charges that have been used as the basis for the trial of all those who have appeared before the ICC or those against whom the ICC has initiated action to be arrested and brought before it.
Of course, the ICC has had to deal with some intriguing cases concerning war situations that have occurred in some countries, which created humanitarian crises of enormous proportions; and the main political or military figures who came to attention as playing pivotal roles within the circumstance have had to face the ICC. Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic, Liberia’s Charles Taylor, Kenyan politicians, and some figures associated with the 1994 Rwandan genocide have been put before the ICC. I don’t sympathize with them so as to blame the ICC for doing what it can to serve as a deterrent for others in the future.
Sudan’s al-Bashir is on the ICC’s “Wanted” list but he has escaped arrest so far. The international arrest warrant issued against him hasn’t been effected by the countries that he has visited so far. He is slated to visit China soon despite the hue and cry from the ICC and its backers. Serbia’s General Mladic has been arrested and is awaiting formalities to be hauled before the ICC.
Those critical of the ICC’s modus operandi have given reasons to suggest that the ICC isn’t acting with propriety when it comes to those it chooses to investigate and prosecute on crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide, rape as a political weapon, etc. Comments have been made to the effect that the ICC doesn’t act on cases involving citizens of the US (soldiers and politicians) whose conduct is in consonance with the subject-matter that falls within the purview of the ICC. The ICC has been accused of letting them off the hook even though they are complicit in the unnatural deaths of thousands of people as a result of the war that they declare or fight in others’ countries.
Taking, for instance, the role of the former US President, George Walker Bush, and his henchmen who authorized the US’ war-machine to be sent to Iraq, Afghanistan, and other parts of the world where human lives were destroyed with impunity, the critics of the ICC are unhappy that no action has been taken against such people. The ICC has closed its eyes to such instances and raised doubts about its principles and moral justification for the decisions and actions that it takes in pursuit of justice.
Of course, the US has refused to ratify the act establishing the ICC because it won’t allow any of its citizens to be either investigated or tried by the ICC; yet, the US is all over the place, rolling head-over-heels in pushing the ICC around to go after other people. So far, the ICC has been accused of going after citizens of the African continent, leaving others elsewhere untouched over similar allegations concerning crimes of the sort that interest the ICC. Why is the ICC being selective and unfair in this case?
Here is a glaring case of imbalance in the ICC’s work. The kinds of crimes that Gaddafi is accused of are being committed by the leaders of Syria and Yemen, or others affected by the spill-over effect of the “Arab Spring” uprisings. Why is the ICC not going after the Presidents of those countries as it has done Gaddafi since in all these cases, official action led to needless deaths of civilians protesting against their leadership?
I also have in mind happenings in Algeria, Morocco, Bahrain, Jordan, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, etc., that resulted in atrocities traceable to the political leadership’s repressive measures. In one way or the other, the repressive measures are being used purposely to silence the citizens or to crack down dissension. Yet, the ICC hasn’t begun any action to investigate these acts of repression. It has, however, moved with lightning speed to take on Gaddafi for reasons that we have already adduced.
The ICC, thus, acts hypocritically and doesn’t command respect in any way. It seems to be overzealously pursuing those in countries who are strong enough to confront the power structures of the West only to make themselves enemies to be snuffed out.
Continued in the next installment…