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ICC Issues Sealed Arrest Warrants for Libya Crimes

FILE: Public Prosecutor Karim Khan prepares for the trial of Mahamat Said Abdel Kani at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022.

THE HAGUE — The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) told the United Nations Security Council on Thursday that the court has issued four new secret arrest warrants for crimes allegedly committed in Libya since 2011.

"I can announce today that four warrants were issued by the independent judges of the International Criminal Court," Karim Khan said in presenting his half-yearly report on Libya to the U.N. body.

He added that his office in the last few weeks had applied for two more arrest warrants, but judges have not yet ruled on those applications.

The warrants are currently under seal so it is not clear who is targeted or what crimes specifically the ICC prosecutor is charging. Khan has asked judges for the warrants to be unsealed and a decision is pending.

the ICC prosecutor said that "the warrants are of course a first step," adding "we need to work more closely with the independent judicial authorities of Member States of the United Nations."

In response, Libya’s Permanent Representative to the U.N., Taher Elsonni, said that "administration of justice on Libya territories is a sovereign prerogative... and the Libyan judiciary is committed to conduct a fair and impartial trial."

"This does not mean in any that the ICC is an alternative to the Libyan judiciary," Elsonni said.

The situation in Libya was referred to the ICC by the U.N. Security Council in 2011 and on its website, the court says the focus of the investigation is alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in the country since 15 February 2011.

Libya has known little peace since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising and split in 2014 between warring eastern and western factions. Major fighting ended in 2020, but there has been little progress to a political solution and armed factions dominate on the ground.