The Gadhafi arrest warrant: Does it matter?

An international court indicts the Libyan leader, but it has no power to go out and catch him

International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo discusses the arrest warrant issued for Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, but some argue that the warrant won't help catch the despot.
(Image credit: REUTERS/Jerry Lampen )

The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, accusing him of crimes against humanity. The court charged Gadhafi with orchestrating the killing and imprisonment of hundreds of civilians during the early days of the uprising against his regime. The court also ordered the arrest of one of Gadhafi's sons, Saif al-Islam, and his intelligence chief. But the ICC has no police force to make the arrests. Will the warrants make any difference?

No. The war will go on as before: "The Hague-based court can issue all of the warrants and indictments it wants," says Max Fisher at The Atlantic, but it has no hope of making an arrest in this case "as long as Gadhafi clings to power." The court indicted Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir in 2009, and he's still in office. At best, this will serve as "another bargaining chip in any negotiations over ending Libya's civil war," as immunity is an added incentive for Gadhafi to step down.

"Will ICC arrest warrants for Gadhafi make any difference?"

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If anything, this makes Gadhafi more dangerous: The arrest warrant "tightens and legitimizes the noose" around Gadhafi's neck, says Simon Tisdall at Britain's Guardian. That sort of pressure certainly won't hasten his removal from power. If anything, it could make things harder for Libya's rebels, because "the court's demarche may reinforce Gadhafi's determination to stay and fight to the bitter end."

"This arrest warrant could make Gaddafi more dangerous"

Actually, this is the first step toward justice: There's no way to make Gadhafi stand trial without capturing him first, says Mark Leon Goldberg at U.N. Dispatch, and that seems unlikely to happen anytime soon. But at least now all the documentation is in place, so "if he is ever captured alive, there is a jail cell far away with his name on it."

"ICC arrest warrant offers details of Gadhafi's apparatus to kill and torture dissidents"

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