UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The International Criminal Court is still investigating war crimes in Libya despite a clash with the country’s government over who has the right to try former leader Muammar Gaddafi’s son and his spy chief, the court’s prosecutor said on Wednesday.
The Hague-based court wants to try Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam and Gaddafi’s former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi on war crimes, but Libya wants the pair to face justice in the North African state.
ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told the U.N. Security Council that while investigations into Saif al-Islam and Senussi had been suspended until a decision was made on where to try them, her office was continuing to probe other crimes in Libya.
“My office is aware of allegations of serious crimes committee by former Gaddafi officials, some of who are now outside of Libya,” she told the 15-member council.
“We are currently engaged in the process of documenting the most serious of those crimes and documenting the current activities of those officials who were most responsible for them,” Bensouda said.
She said her office will decide whether to pursue a new case “in the near future” and would then consider additional cases. She gave no details on the possible new case.
Libyan lawyer Ahmed al-Jehani, who acts as a liaison between the ICC and the Tripoli government, has said he expected the ICC to decide this month if Libya can conduct Saif al-Islam’s and Senussi’s trials or whether they should be tried in The Hague.
The court began its work a decade ago and can investigate crimes in countries that have ratified its treaty. It can only pursue crimes in non-member states if authorized by the Security Council, which was the case with Libya.
Libya has challenged the court on the admissibility of Saif al-Islam’s and Senussi’s cases.
“A state seeking a finding of inadmissibility of cases before the ICC must satisfy the judges that it is genuinely investigating and prosecuting the same persons for the same conduct as that under investigation by ... the prosecutor, that is the law and nothing short of that will suffice,” she said.
Bensouda said she plans to travel to Libya shortly for talks with the “highest political authorities.”
An uprising in Libya sparked nine months of fighting that ended in October 2011 when rebels captured and killed Gaddafi. Since then, Libyan authorities have struggled to control armed groups who are now competing for power.
“Given the extensive crimes committed in Libya and the challenges facing the new Libyan government, the ICC’s mandate is still essential to ending impunity in Libya,” she said.
“What happens with Libya’s perpetrators is a page in the history books of international justice, no matter where those investigations and prosecutions take place,” Bensouda said. “They must be a shining example of what can be achieved through human endeavors to seek justice.”
Libya’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi said that his government viewed the ICC as a “necessary and important partner in this stage to achieve justice and prevent impunity.”
“Libya hopes that all states will cooperate with legal Libyan authorities as well as with the ICC in conducting investigations and helping bring the accused to justice,” he told the Security Council.
Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Xavier Briand