In his first appearance in the Security Council today, the new Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court called for a more robust partnership between the two bodies towards ending impunity for atrocity crimes committed in Libya and elsewhere.
Karim Khan, who took office five months ago, stressed that the Rome Statute, which created the Court, is not the property of Italy, or of Europe or the West. “The values of the Rome Statute belong to humankind everywhere,” he said. Narrowing impunity for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes should be a cause that brings all closer together, he said, adding that the success of the Court’s mandate requires support from States, non-State parties and the Council, as well as international and regional organizations. He pledged to work for broader inclusivity.
He said he will give priority to cases referred to the Prosecutor’s Office by the Council, such as the situation in Libya. He called for a convergence between the work of the Council and the Rome Statute that permits no haven for atrocity crimes. A paradigm shift is needed to foster a new era of engagement between the two bodies. Drawing attention to the principle of complementarity on the issue of jurisdiction, he urged States to “step up” as they have a national responsibility to ensure accountability.
On Libya, he said instability has prevented the Office from conducting investigations on Libyan territory, but he intends to visit the country in early 2022 to meet with State officials and other stakeholders. The Office continues to gather evidence related to alleged crimes committed during the April 2019 attack on Tripoli. It has also collected credible information about past and ongoing serious crimes allegedly committed in official and unofficial detention facilities, including unlawful detention, murder, torture, rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence.
The situation of migrants in Libya and the region remains deeply troubling, he said, calling for investigations into reported cases of rape and excessive use of force. Given the scale of the problem, and the lack of dedicated resources, the Office has partnered with the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol), Italy, United Kingdom and the Netherlands — a collaboration that has led to the arrest of a suspect by the Netherlands in October in the context of national proceedings.
As that example attests, he said success should not only be measured by the number of trials and proceedings in The Hague, but by imaginative partnerships to end impunity. He asked the Council to facilitate United Nations support for at least the two cases it referred to the Office. “It will be money well spent,” he assured.
In the ensuing discussion, Mexico’s representative, Council President for November, spoke in his national capacity to stress that Libya is “at a crucial moment” with the upcoming elections. Combating impunity is a cornerstone in efforts to rebuild the social fabric. He urged Libya and other States to redouble their cooperation with the Court, including in the exercise of jurisdiction by national courts, based on the principle of complementarity.
Niger’s delegate supported the Prosecutor’s vision of forging partnerships, underscoring that those responsible for Rome Statute crimes can only be held accountable through cooperation and partnership among the Office, the Government of National Unity, States parties to the Rome Statute and the international community.
India’s delegate, pointing out that his country is not a party to the Rome Statute, argued that referring the situation in Libya to the Court did not have its intended effect. Subsequent events have only reinforced India’s view that, when cases are referred primarily for political reasons, the Court may not be best suited to serve the purpose of justice.
The Russian Federation’s delegate denounced the Court’s position on the Libyan file as “invariably selective”, placing all the blame on only one side of the conflict. The Court did not even try to investigate the illegal North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) air strikes on Libya’s territory, which resulted in numerous civilian casualties. He noted with regret that Libya’s statehood has been destroyed to satisfy the ambitions of Western countries.
Ireland’s representative highlighted the lack of cooperation with the Court in the execution of arrest warrants, urging Libya to arrest and surrender Saif al‑Islam Qadhafi as a matter of urgency.
Norway’s delegate meanwhile urged the Council to uphold its responsibility to support the Court, notably by ensuring adequate resources for cases it has referred to it.
The United Kingdom’s representative echoed the Office’s view that some of the crimes committed by foreign mercenaries fall within the Court’s jurisdiction.
Rounding out the discussion, Libya’s representative underlined the sovereignty of national judicial institutions, fully capable of delivering justice with integrity and holding fair trials in accordance with national legislation. Stressing that the Court cannot replace Libya’s judicial system, he welcomed cooperation with the tribunal.
Also speaking were representatives of Viet Nam, China, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, France, United States, Kenya, Estonia and Tunisia.
The meeting began at 3:04 p.m. and ended at 4:43 p.m.