Prosecutors put final touches to Libya indictment

By Mike Corder

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, May 15 2011 7:45 a.m. MDT

Women march during an anti Moammar Gadhafi demonstration in central Benghazi, Libya, Saturday, May 14, 2011.

Rodrigo Abd, Associated Press

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Senior officials in the embattled government of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi have come forward to offer evidence to the International Criminal Court in its investigation of widespread murder and persecution, prosecutors said Sunday.

"During the last week, the Office of the Prosecutor received several calls from high-level officials in Gadhafi's regime willing to provide information," prosecutors said in a statement. They did not elaborate on the nature of the information or name the officials.

Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said he will file a 74-page document with nine annexes outlining allegations that the Libyan regime has systematically attacked civilians since launching a brutal crackdown on anti-government rebels in February.

The document will ask judges to issue arrest warrants for the three Libyan leaders considered most responsible for crimes against humanity.

Moreno-Ocampo has not revealed the names of the three, but Gadhafi is widely expected to be among them.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Thursday said he expected the ICC to ask for Gadhafi's arrest, which would complicate any suggestion of the Libyan leader accepting exile as a way to end the conflict in his country.

Judges will study the evidence presented Monday before deciding whether to issue arrest warrants for the suspects, a process likely to take weeks.

The prosecutor said in a statement Sunday his investigation already is so advanced he is "almost ready for trial."

Moreno-Ocampo paid tribute to his office for pulling together the case in just two and a half months — unusually fast for an international war crimes tribunal.

"The Office collected good and solid evidence to identify who bears the greatest responsibility; no political responsibilities but rather individual criminal responsibilities for crimes committed in Libya," he said.

Investigators from the Hague-based court have conducted 30 missions to 11 countries and have interviewed more than 50 witnesses, including "key insiders," as well as reviewing videos, photographs and other evidence, prosecutors said Friday.

The United Nations Security Council ordered Moreno-Ocampo to investigate atrocities in Libya and that means that if judges issue an arrest warrant for Gadhafi every U.N. member state will be obliged to arrest him.

The court, the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal, has no police force of its own and relies on other nations to execute warrants.

However, in the past some nations have been reluctant to act on such warrants. The court's judges have reported three countries to the Security Council for allowing Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to visit without arresting him. Al-Bashir has been indicted for crimes including genocide in Darfur in the only other International Criminal Court case ordered by the Security Council.

While prosecutors have been building their case, NATO has been intensifying airstrikes against Gadhafi's troops in several areas of Libya in a bid to weaken his brutal crackdown against the rebels.

Meanwhile, in Athens, the U.N. special envoy to Libya said he was planning to travel to Tripoli on Sunday aboard a Greek air force plane on his seventh trip to the North African country in an effort to end hostilities and work out a political solution to the crisis. The envoy, Abdelilah Al-Khatib, a former Jordanian foreign minister, met Saturday with Greece's Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas and Prime Minister George Papandreou.

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