INTERNATIONAL war crimes prosecutors have demanded the arrest of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam, and Libya's head of internal security, saying there is evidence the Libyan leader was directly involved in war crimes against his own people.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague, in The Netherlands, said Gaddafi "personally ordered attacks on unarmed civilians".
"He ordered attacks on Libyan civilians in their homes and in public spaces. He shot at demonstrators using live ammunition, used heavy weaponry against funeral processions and placed snipers to kill those leaving mosques."
Mr Moreno-Ocampo yesterday warned Gaddafi there was nowhere in the world for him to "fly or flee" to because the case against him had been initiated by the United Nations Security Council. ICC judges must now decide whether or not to issue the arrest warrants.
The ICC prosecutor said the Libyan leader enforced his "absolute authority" with the help of his son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and Abdullah al-Senussi, his security chief.
"[We] gathered direct evidence about orders issued by Gaddafi himself, direct evidence of Saif al-Islam organising the recruitment of mercenaries and direct evidence of the participation of al-Senussi in the attacks against demonstrators," he said.
Mr Moreno-Ocampo refused to give details of evidence against Gaddafi because, he said, witnesses would be killed, but he hinted that prosecutors had been helped by officials from within the regime. He said the three held meetings to plan and direct operations in which people were seized, imprisoned, tortured or killed, and armed force was used to suppress demonstrations.
William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary, welcomed the indictments as a reminder that Gaddafi's "crimes will not go unpunished and the reach of international justice will be long".
Libyan rebels said the warrants would accelerate Gaddafi's end.
"This sends a very clear signal to all those around Gaddafi that no one is exempt. It will speed defections and desertions, and minimise deaths," said Jallal al Gallal, a spokesman for the Transitional National Council.
Khaled Kaim, Libya's deputy foreign minister, dismissed the move and accused Nato of breaking international law by targeting Gaddafi and civilians in air strikes. "The ICC is not important for us. We will not show any attention to the decision," he said.
The ICC, the world's first permanent tribunal set up to deal with war crimes, has been dogged by the refusal of some of the world's most powerful countries to recognise its jurisdiction. The US, Russia, China, India and all Middle Eastern countries, including Libya, are not signatories to the ICC treaty.
In 2009, the ICC became the first war crimes tribunal to demand the arrest of a serving national head of state, Omar Al Bashir, the president of Sudan. Despite ICC warrants against him for war crimes and genocide committed against rebels in Darfur, south Sudan, Mr Bashir has remained in power for the last two years.
Syria's president, Bashar-al-Assad, could be referred to the ICC with Gaddafi, according to Nick Harvey, the British Defence Minister. (© Daily Telegraph, London)