ICC prosecutor to reveal details of Libya case

The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor will seek arrest warrants Monday for three senior Libyans he says are responsible for the murder and persecution of civilians during the crackdown by Moammar Gadhafi's regime on anti-government rebels.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo will hand a 74-page dossier of evidence along with nine annexes to a three-judge panel that will decide whether the case is strong enough for them to confirm crimes against humanity charges and issue international arrest warrants.

Monday's move is expected to further complicate international efforts to end the violence and oust Gadhafi after more than 40 years in power.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said last week he expected Gadhafi to be among the three suspects.

Moreno-Ocampo's investigators have conducted 30 missions to 11 countries and have interviewed more than 50 witnesses, including "key insiders," as well as reviewing videos, photographs and other evidence, prosecutors said last week.

In addition, several "high-level officials in Gadhafi's regime" also have called the court to say they are willing to provide information, prosecutors said Sunday. They did not elaborate on the nature of the information or name the officials.

Many of Gadhafi's senior diplomats and supporters have switched sides or defected since fighting broke out in February.

His U.N. diplomatic staff, including Ambassador Abdurraham Mohamed Shalgham, defected in February. Shalgham's replacement, Ali Abdessalam Treki, a former U.N. General Assembly president, defected himself in March and now lives in Cairo; Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa, one of Gadhafi's earliest supporters, fled to Britain and is now in Qatar.

Moreno-Ocampo says his team has gathered so much evidence that he is almost ready to go to trial. However any case is likely a long way off as the court has no police force to arrest suspects.

An international arrest warrant would however make it hard for Gadhafi to live in exile. Because the Security Council ordered the ICC investigation, all U.N. member states would be obliged to arrest him if he ventures into their territory.

Underscoring the difficulty the court has in getting hold of suspects, some nations have refused to act on arrest warrants. Three countries have let Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir visit without arresting him. Al-Bashir has been indicted for crimes including genocide in Darfur in the only other International Criminal Court case ordered by the Security Council.

The elusive Gadhafi has shown little appetite for going into exile to end the crisis gripping his oil-rich North African nation, vowing instead to fight to the end.

The Libyan conflict appears largely stalemated, with each side claiming gains one day, only to be turned back the next, despite NATO air strikes aimed at supporting rebels.

The head of Britain's armed forces, Gen. David Richards, in remarks published in The Sunday Telegraph in London, urged NATO to widen the range of targets the alliance's planes are allowed to hit in the effort to stymie the Gadhafi's regime's attacks on protesters.

Richards declared that "more intense military action" was needed or the conflict could end in stalemate.


Mike Corder can be followed at http://www.twitter.com/mikecorder