As part of the UN action against the Qaddafi regime in Libya, the International Criminal Court (ICC) was urged to investigate war crimes by Qaddafi and his inner circle. The ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo is investigating (only?) six incidents of violence against civilians and said that he was 100% sure that his investigation would result in charges being filed against the Libya leader, with warrants being issued as soon as May. The threat of indictment could hasten the collapse of the Qaddafi regime, encouraging others to defect from Qaddafi’s inner circle. Of course, indictment could force all the remaining moderates (relatively speaking) to jump ship, leaving the remaining government to be manned by the most extreme. Moreover, an ICC indictment could simply harden Qaddafi’s stance and completely block the possibility of a negotiated exile for the leader.
The idea of a negotiated exit for Qaddafi is popular because it would provide an immediate and less chaotic end to the conflict. Although it may seem unlikely that Qaddafi leave prematurely (in his opinion), such a move would allow the rebel movement and the west to end the bloodshed early while cooperating to build a functional government. An ICC indictment could make this more difficult though, as all signatories of the ICC are required to apprehend those with ICC warrants. There are loopholes that could be used to avoid this conundrum – notably a secondary UN resolution – the easiest way to avoid the ICC is to go into exile in a state that does not recognize the Court. The United States, for example. I suppose being a possible destination for those avoiding the ICC is a consequence of not recognizing its authority. Of course, the US would need to allow such an exile (an unlikely but interesting thought) and there are other exile options; Sudan, Morocco, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Iran, Saudi Arabia and India – as well as China and Russia – do not recognize the authority of the Court.
But would an ICC indictment help end the conflict? Juan Cole thinks so:
The International Criminal Court has been charged by the UN with looking into whether Qaddafi can be charged with crimes against humanity (and if not he, who could?) The ICC seems likely to return an indictment before too long. Such indictments have powerful real-world effects, as seen with Milosevic. Although this development might make it more difficult to find a place of exile for the Qaddafis, it would almost certainly hasten the fracturing of the Tripoli elite and an end to the conflict.
Cole has a point, though I can’t help but worry that the ICC indictment will have little effect on a man like Qaddafi or those who have not yet defected. With Qaddafi telling the world that he is going to stay ‘until the end,’ I am unsure that the threat of the ICC will convince him to give up. Rather, I would think that an indictment would harden his stance and determination to come out of this conflict victorious. In my opinion, the ICC is a good institution, though in cases like Libya, it will only complicate efforts to end conflicts. Qaddafi will not step down without guarantees of immunity and the ICC cannot offer such a deal.
That being said, I do hope that a negotiated settlement can be found despite the inevitability of an ICC warrant. It would undoubtedly bring a quicker end to the conflict and save many lives. Plus, it would be an interesting story to meet Qaddafi while in line for the chairlift at Vail. I wonder what his ski outfit would look like?
Photo from Banana Q8