ANTI-GADDAFI UPRISING AND CIVIL WAR
In 1969, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi got to power and ruled the country in an autocratic regime until 2011, when anti-authoritarian protests swept through the Arab world and his government was overturned. On 15 February 2011, Libyan human rights campaigners were arrested in Benghazi (Eastern Libya), sparking clashes with security forces, which rapidly spread throughout the country resulting in an uprising against the Gaddafi regime. Many were killed and injured as the government forcefully tried to suppress the revolt. In March 2011, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution establishing a no-fly zone over Libya and authorizing air strikes to protect civilians, of which NATO assumed command. The main opposition group, the National Transitional Council (NTC), was recognized by some Western nations as the legitimate government of Libya. In August 2011, a major offensive by the rebels enabled them to enter the capital Tripoli. Gaddafi was forced to go into hiding, while his wife and three children fled to Algeria. On 20 October 2011, Colonel Gaddafi was captured and killed. The NTC took control of the country and in August 2012, handed over power to Libya’s newly elected parliament, the General National Congress. In November 2012, the new government was sworn in and started preparing the country for a new constitution and parliamentary elections.
HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES, VIOLATIONS OF INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW AND INTERNATIONAL CRIMES
Many abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, such as targeting civilians or paramedics, torture and enforced disappearances, were reported during the uprising. On 25 February 2011, the Human Rights Council established the International Commission of Inquiry to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law in Libya. The Commission reached the conclusion that international crimes, specifically crimes against humanity and war crimes have been committed in Libya by both the Government and the rebel forces.
The UN Security Council referred the situation in Libya to the International Criminal Court (ICC), which sought the arrest warrant of the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, his son Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi and intelligence chief Abdullah Al-Senussi for crimes against humanity. However, Libya’s cooperation with the ICC remains limited. In May 2012, Libya filed an admissibility challenge to the ICC’s jurisdiction requiring the pending cases to be transferred to its domestic judiciary. The ICC has yet to decide upon the referral of the cases to Libya.
In May 2013, the ICC pre-trial chamber I rejected the objection of inadmissibility regarding Al-Islam. The Court has reaffirmed its competence to judge Gaddafi’s son for crimes against humanity, arguing that current investigations by the national Libyan authorities were not covering the same facts and behaviours as those under the ICC’s mandate. Today, Libya has not made any steps towards the surrendering of Al-Islam to the Court.
In October 2013, the Court has nonetheless decided that Al-Senussi will be judged in Libya. It has indeed considered that the current investigations in front of the Libyan tribunals are in accordance with the principle of complementarity.
Challenges also arise in relation to domestic prosecutions of persons suspected of having committed crimes against humanity or war crimes. On 2 May 2012, the Libyan authorities adopted a blanket amnesty law granting immunity to former rebels who fought to oust Gaddafi’s regime. The immunity covers military, security or civilian acts undertaken by revolutionaries with the aim of ensuring the revolution’s success and its goal, thus applying to everyone from the rebel forces and for every crime. This effectively bars any prosecution of international crimes committed by the opposition and is debatable in light of the findings of the International Commission of Inquiry about the commission of international crimes by both parties.