The Libyan liberation fighters who captured Moammar Gaddafi in October could face their own trials and tribulations now that the International Criminal Court (ICC) is discussing filing war crimes charges against them.
ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said on Thursday that the manner in which Gadhafi and his son Motassim died has raised suspicion among the court and other international agencies.
I think the way in which Mr. Gaddafi was killed creates suspicions of... war crimes, Ocampo told reporters in The Hague.
I think that's a very important issue, he said. We are raising this concern to the national authorities and they are preparing a plan to have a comprehensive strategy to investigate all these crimes.
When Gaddafi was captured, a number of revolutionary fighters took out their cell phones and shot video of their former-leader being dragged from his hiding place and savagely beaten. At least one soldier hit Gaddafi with the butt of a pistol, while other punched, kicked, and allegedly stabbed the deposed dictator.
Two doctors later confirmed that Gaddafi had died from gun shots to the head and chest, likely done in an execution-style shooting, which belied original claims that Gaddafi was hit by bullets from his own supporters who had opened fire on the convoy taking him to Misrata.
Ocampo added that he was also investigating claims that anti-Gaddafi fighters and even NATO troops committed war crimes during the eight-month Libyan uprising.
After the fall of Sirte, the city where Gaddafi was eventually captured, Human Rights Watch reportedly discovered the remains of dozens of pro-Gaddafi soldiers who appeared as if they had been captured and then executed.
“We found 53 decomposing bodies, apparently Gaddafi supporters, at an abandoned hotel in Sirte, and some had their hands bound behind their backs when they were shot,” Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at Human Rights Watch, said in October.
“This requires the immediate attention of the Libyan authorities to investigate what happened and hold accountable those responsible.
“The evidence suggests that some of the victims were shot while being held as prisoners, when that part of Sirte was controlled by anti-Gaddafi brigades who appear to act outside the control of the National Transitional Council (NTC),” Bouckaert added.
Additionally, mass rapes conducted by Gaddafi loyalists were reported during the civil war, but the ICC will investigate if both sides committed similar atrocities.
On Thursday, Ocampo also gave the NTC the deadline of Jan. 10 as the last day to hand over Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, to the court for his own war crimes trial. If the Libyan government refuses, it will have a much more tempered effect on the relations with the court and the international community than the war crimes allegations made this week, if it has any effect at all.
In November, Ocampo gave Libyan leaders his blessing on a domestic trial for Saif al-Islam. While the gesture was unnecessary from any legal standpoint, it was a vote of confidence from the court that Libya's new government could act in a fair and balanced matter.
In May, we requested an arrest warrant because Libyans could not do justice in Libya. Now, as Libyans... decided to do justice, they could do justice and we'll help them to do it – that is the system, Ocampo said during a visit to Tripoli.
Our international criminal court acts when the national system cannot act. [The Libyans] have decided to do it, and that is why we are here -- to learn and to understand what they are doing and to co-operate.
Significantly, Libya's current legal code authorizes the death penalty while the ICC does not, meaning that Saif al-Islam will likely be executed sometime next year.