TRIPOLI, Libya – Thousands of jubilant Libyans danced and cheered in the streets of the rebel stronghold of Benghazi after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant Monday for Moammar Gadhafi, accusing him of crimes against humanity for killing civilians who rose up against his rule.
The court order raised pressure on the Gadhafi regime, already targeted by daily airstrikes, and NATO clearly hopes it will encourage key allies to abandon him. But it also gives Gadhafi less incentive to accept a peaceful settlement that would see him leave power – something he has shown no indication of doing – because of the subsequent threat of arrest.
The court in The Hague, Netherlands, lacks police powers, and the force most likely to arrest Gadhafi appears to be the rebels battling to oust him.
At the United Nations, political affairs chief B. Lynn Pascoe said the rebels now hold a tenuous military advantage over Gadhafi’s forces. The rebels have failed to penetrate the Libyan leader’s center of power in Tripoli and conceded Monday they are unlikely to detain Gadhafi on their own.
Warrants were also issued for Gadhafi’s son Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, whom he has groomed as his successor, and for Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah al-Sanoussi. All three men were accused of orchestrating the killing, injuring, arrest and imprisonment of hundreds of civilians during the first 12 days of an uprising to topple Gadhafi from power, and for trying to cover up their alleged crimes.
Presiding Judge Sanji Monageng of Botswana said Gadhafi had “absolute, ultimate and unquestioned control” over his country’s military and security forces.