Libyan Rebels Celebrate Gadhafi Arrest Warrant

June 27, 2011

Corey Flintoff

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Moammar Gadhafi's government angrily denounced an international arrest warrant for the Libyan leader, while Libyans opposed to his rule danced and celebrated in the streets Monday.

The International Crimian Court, which is based in The Hague, has no means of arresting Gadhafi, and the Libyan government says the court has no legal standing in Libya.

Still, Libyans in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, in the eastern part of the country, took to the streets by the thousands and cheered the court's ruling. They said the move put additional pressure on Gadhafi and could encourage more of his supporters to abandon him.

The International Criminal Court said the Libyan leader, his son Seif al-Islam Gadhafi and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Sanoussi should be tried for crimes against humanity, including murder and persecution of civilians.

The three-judge panel said there were reasonable grounds to believe that the trio had orchestrated the killings of protesters at the start of the uprising in February.

"Libya ... does not accept the decisions of the ICC which is a tool of the Western world to prosecute leaders in the Third World," Justice Minister Mohammed al-Qamoodi told a news conference in the Libyan capital Tripoli, according to Reuters.

An arrest warrant against Gadhafi could complicate any effort to negotiate an exile for the Libyan leader, since any foreign government willing to host him would theoretically be required to arrest him.

But Richard Dicker, the director of the international justice program at Human Rights Watch, says Gadhafi has made clear he has no intention of leaving his homeland.

"Moammar Gadhafi, who has gripped power for 40 years, has made clear his determination to hang on to it, and it defies belief, as some would suggest, that this arrest warrant will be an obstacle to any kind of negotiated settlement for the crisis in Libya," he said.

But Dicker stressed that the international court needs to show impartiality.

"It's imperative the prosecutor look at potential war crimes committed by all parties in the conflict, not only the Gadhafi government," he said, citing the Libyan rebels and NATO's air campaign.

The same court issued a similar arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in 2009, accusing him of crimes against the Sudanese people in the Darfur region.

Yet Bashir has still been invited to travel to some countries. He is currently visiting Iran and plans to continue on to China.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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