The International Criminal Court prosecutor is to seek arrest warrants in the coming weeks against three Libyans who appear to bear "the greatest criminal responsibility" for crimes against humanity in the current uprising.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo told the UN Security Council yesterday that his office had established "reasonable grounds" to believe widespread and systematic attacks had been and continued to be committed against civilians.
The Security Council voted unanimously on 26 February to refer the Libyan crisis to the International Criminal Court and asked the prosecutor to report in two months.
Mr Moreno-Ocampo said the evidence showed that Muammar Gaddafi's security forces had been systematically shooting at peaceful protesters, using the same tactics in multiple locations. Information also showed that civilians in Tripoli and other government-controlled areas were subject to arrests, torture, killings and enforced disappearances.
The prosecutor did not identify the three individuals deemed to bear the greatest responsibility for the crimes. He said on Monday that he would identify the Libyans for whom he was seeking arrest warrants when he presented the case to the court's pre-trial chamber. It must then decide whether to issue arrest warrants, reject his application or ask prosecutors for more evidence, he said.
"In all the incidents to be presented to the judges, the victims who were shot at by the security forces were unarmed civilians and there is no evidence of any attack against the security forces," Mr Moreno-Ocampo said. "There are at least two eyewitnesses for each incident, documents and, in many cases, corroboration of details by pictures or video."
Colonel Gaddafi has fought fiercely to put down an uprising against his regime that began with protests inspired by a wave of Middle East unrest and escalated into armed rebellion.
Mr Moreno-Ocampo said that since the end of February there had been an armed conflict in Libya and his office had also received "relevant information on the alleged commission of war crimes". It was continuing investigations on the use of cluster bombs, the targeting of civilian areas and allegations of rape.
Sources had also reported the unlawful arrest, mistreatment and killings of "sub-Saharan African civilians wrongly perceived to be mercenaries", he said, in rebel-held Benghazi and other cities.