The International Criminal Court issues arrest warrant for Gadaffi. His regime is undoubtedly very nasty, says Lindsey German, but he has a long way to go before his crimes can match those of Blair and Bush.
It’s hard to take seriously some of the behaviour of the International Criminal Court.
Take the announcement today that it has issued an arrest warrant for Colonel Gadaffi on grounds of war crimes. This is because there are "reasonable grounds to believe" that Gadaffi and his son were "criminally responsible as indirect co-perpetrators" for murder and persecution of civilians.
According to the ICC chief prosecutor the court has evidence Gadaffi "personally ordered attacks on unarmed Libyan civilians and was behind the arrest and torture of his political opponents.’
It may be that Gadaffi has done all these things. But it is hard to escape the conclusion that this announcement is political, motivated not mainly by concern for Libyan civilians but by a need to maintain pressure on the Libyan leader when it is daily becoming clear that the military strategy put in place by Britain, France and the US 100 days ago is demonstrably failing.
That feeling was reinforced by William Hague’s immediate support for the arrest warrant, claiming that it showed Gadaffi had lost legitimacy.
Does it, though? Or does it demonstrate that ICC prosecutions are used in some circumstances and not others? Our government’s breathless support for the ‘Arab spring’ has not extended to criticism for the Middle east’s biggest recipient of western arms, Saudi Arabia, which is busy backing repression in Bahrain, Yemen and elsewhere in the region.
Surely former presidents Mubarak and Ben Ali could also be regarded as ‘criminally responsible as indirect perpetrators’ of murder and torture of their civilians?
But perhaps the greatest unease should be felt over the fate of western leaders. George Bush and Tony Blair have never suffered even the hint of an indictment by the ICC despite growing evidence that they wilfully and deceitfully took the world into a major war in Iraq, which left one million dead and four million refugees, widespread torture and killing in prisons, and a legacy of destruction.
Or what about the deliberate decision taken by the US military last year to increase its air strikes on Afghanistan, with no regard for how many civilians were killed?
Yet again it leaves the uncomfortable feeling that the ICC’s role is not to challenge the role of the great powers and their warmongering, but to back it up.