ICC prosecutor wants probe of ISIS in Libya

The U.N. said it is actively considering the investigation of new cases but has been ‘hampered’ by the insecurity in Libya

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The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said Tuesday her office wants to investigate alleged crimes by groups claiming allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other extremist groups in Libya.

Fatou Bensouda said in a briefing to the U.N. Security Council and an interview with The Associated Press that her office is actively considering the investigation and prosecution of new cases but has been “greatly hampered” by the insecurity in Libya and a lack of funds. She said she requested $11 million for her office this year but the court’s 123 member states authorized less than $7 million.

The overthrow of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 has spawned chaos in Libya. Militant groups operate freely in the country, which is torn between a militia-backed government in Tripoli and an internationally recognized government in the east.

Bensouda said the Security Council resolution approved unanimously in March 2011 referring the situation in Libya to the ICC gives her office jurisdiction to investigate alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity “up to the present day” - and this includes alleged crimes against civilians and civilian institutions by groups aligned to the Islamic State.

She said her office also “continues to be concerned about alleged indiscriminate attacks in heavily populated areas by both Libya Dawn and Operation Dignity forces, resulting in civilian casualties, in particular in Benghazi, Tripoli, Warshefana, and in the Nafusa Mountains.”

“Libya Dawn” was an offensive launched last year by Omar al-Hassi’s rival government in the capital Tripoli and “Operation Dignity” is the name of the offensive launched by renegade Gen. Khalifa Hifter, who is based in Benghazi.

Bensouda again called on all parties fighting in Libya to stop targeting civilians and civilian institutions “or committing any other crime that may fall within the ICC’s jurisdiction.”

The ICC charged Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, the ousted dictator’s son, and former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senoussi with crimes against humanity during the 2011 rebellion that eventually toppled Gadhafi. ICC appeals judges ruled last year that authorities in Libya could try al-Senoussi instead of prosecuting him at The Hague and Bensouda told the council it has not received sufficient new facts to ask the court to review this decision.

By contrast, ICC judges have ordered Seif al-Islam, his father’s one-time heir apparent who is being held by a militia in Zintan, to be turned over to the court for trial, but Libya has refused. The ICC referred Libya’s failure to surrender Seif al-Islam to the Security Council and Bensouda urged its 15 members to issue an appeal for him to be handed over to the court.

Richard Dicker, director of international justice at Human Rights Watch, said “it’s time for the prosecutor to move beyond exclusive focus on ex-Gadhafi officials.”

“Victims of recent crimes in Libya need redress from the ICC,” he told AP. “The Security Council should back her up in pursuing the task they unanimously gave her to bring justice for serious crimes in the country.”

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