A few hours ago, the United Nations Security Council unanimously referred the situation in Libya to the International Criminal Court. Here is the text of the Security Council press release. The measure is likely to have an important deterrent effect on the crumbling regime in Libya. Even if Gaddafi himself is not chastened by the threat of prosecution, those that remain around him will be. It is a great development for the Court, but also a test. Now it must inspire confidence in its ability to provide a meaningful, significant and above all prompt response to the crisis. In the past, for example when the Security Council referred the situation in Darfur (in March 2005, Resolution 1593), the Prosecutor took nearly two years before laying charges. I think that something more immediate is expected.
The people of Libya cannot wait two years for the wheels of justice to start turning. Let it be recalled that in 1999, as war raged in Kosovo, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Louise Arbour, made an application for an indictment against Serb President Milosevic within a matter of a few weeks. And the Tribunal issued the indictment within a day or so, together with an order freezing his assets. This is the sort of urgency that the International Criminal Court now needs to display.
Today's Resolution is significant because the United States voted in favour. In 2005, it abstained in the vote.
But if the Security Council will move in this way given reports of devastating attacks on civilians, why did it not move in the same way the last time there were such attacks in the same region? I'm referring to Gaza and operation Cast Lead which took place only two years ago, and only hundreds of kilometres away from where Gaddafi is currently massacring his own people.