BENGHAZI, Libya – The International
Criminal Court has evidence Muammar Gaddafi’s government planned to put down
protests by killing civilians before the uprising in Libya broke out, the ICC’s
Protests against the government
that began on 15 February swiftly descended into civil war after Gaddafi’s
forces opened fire on demonstrators. He then put down uprisings in Libya’s
west, leaving the east and the city of Misrata in rebel hands.
NATO-led air power is now holding
the balance in Libya, preventing Gaddafi’s forces from overrunning the
seven-week old revolt, but unable for now to hand the rebels outright victory.
The United Nations Security
Council, which on 17 March sanctioned air strikes on Libyan government forces
to prevent them killing civilians, in February referred Libya to the ICC, the
world’s first permanent war crimes court.
Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo
is to report back to the U.N. on 4 May, and is then expected to request arrest
“We have evidence that after
the Tunisia and Egypt conflicts in January, people in the regime were planning
how to control demonstrations inside Libya,” Moreno-Ocampo told Reuters.
“They were hiding that from
people outside and they were planning how to manage the crowds … the evidence
we have is that the shooting of civilians was a pre-determined plan.”
“The planning at the beginning
was to use tear gas and (if that failed to work) …, shooting,” he added.
After more than two weeks of air strikes,
NATO said it had destroyed 30 per cent Gaddafi’s military capacity.
The rebels appear to be set for a
boost with the arrival of a tanker in one of their ports which can carry 1
million barrels of crude, worth more than $100 million, which would be their
first shipment since the fighting broke out.