War crimes are likely being committed in war-torn Libya, but limited access to information is hindering investigation, International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor, Fatou B. Bensouda, told Al Arabiya’s Diplomatic Avenue on Friday.
Although the ICC does not have detailed information due to difficulties of ground access in Libya, “it is clear from all the public reports that are available that the crimes of torture, of killings, these are crimes that could potentially fall within the jurisdiction of the ICC,” Bensouda said.
The numbers of alleged victims of tortures – reportedly in thousands – is of “of grave concern” to the ICC, she said. “They’re staggering.”
“I think it is high time that these detainees are brought to justice or they are released.”
The issue of resources is something the ICC has been facing for a long time especially in a country like Libya, said Bensouda. “Certainly I would need more resources to be able to do my investigations as it should be done, effectively.”
“As you have seen, the security situation has deteriorated. The political instability is there to the extent that it is having an impact on my investigations,” she said.
“The information that we are collecting on Libya is not only from within Libya; we are also trying to arrange to get information from outside,” Bensouda said.
There should be some coordination between Libya’s “friends” to be able to deploy adequate resources, garner valid information and give support to Libyans, she added.
The ICC and the United Nations can for instance work on “the justice issues that the people of Libya certainly deserve to have.”
Bensouda said members of the Security Council welcomed and supported the idea to set up an international justice issues “contact group.”
“There was an overwhelming support by states, members of the Security Council, who feel that, think that, who support the idea that this contact group should be formed and that it will be useful for us to be able to work to bring back justice and rule of law to Libya,” she said.
Having two parallel governments and parliaments operating in war-entrenched Libya is another obstacle the ICC is facing.
“It’s very complicated because we have to be able to know what is the legitimate government of Libya that we should be dealing with,” she added.
“This has posed some problems I think as it has posed some problems for everybody who is trying to bring a solution to the Libya crisis.”
“But we are trying to work with what we have, as much as we can, and at least [with] those who have been recognized as the legitimate government of Libya.”
Speaking about Libya’s reluctance to surrender of later Muammar Qaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, to the ICC, Bensouda said: “It’s the legal obligation that Libya should respect.”
“I have been very consistent in the calling for the surrender, the immediate surrender of Saif al-Islam to the ICC,” she added.
Libya has plunged into full-fledged war since the NATO-backed ouster of Qaddafi in 2011, with Islamist extremists setting up a rival government and parliaments in Tripoli with the support of armed and powerful militias.