In the past week, NATO significantly picked up the pace of air strikes in an attempt to further pressure Gaddafi to surrender. The military made this move after carefully considering other ongoing efforts to end the conflict; the escalation is an integral part of a multilateral decision under Security Council Resolution 1973 to protect Libyans.
NATO and coalition forces realize that peace will not be achieved while Gaddafi remains in power. Instead of settling for a stalemate, coalition powers have used controlled military strikes, rebel efforts, and now, arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam, and his intelligence minister. These ICC warrants are well within the means of the Security Council Resolution, which provides the conflict's legal framework, giving Libya the opportunity to have lasting peace.
Many claim these warrrants are just more examples of the ICC blatantly targeting African leaders. The ICC actually provides an important outline of how overseas interventions should be executed. On February 26, the U.N. Security Council issued Resolution 1970, a call for the ICC to investigate the Libyan government's actions since the protests began. This is the first time that all 15 members of the Security Council unanimously voted to refer a case to the ICC. This accomplishment, in itself, should highlight the multilateral efforts pursued to protect Libyans.
Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo concluded, in the first round of warrants, that Gaddafi and his allies orchestrated crimes grave enough to be brought before the Hague. While critics accuse the West of using the ICC as a tool for regime change, the Security Council's unanimous approval shows a much wider support-base for these actions. Arrest warrants fall underneath "allnecessary measures ... to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack," as described in Resolution 1973. Not only is there Security Council support for military action to protect Libyans, there is now a legal framework, provided by the ICC, to further isolate Gaddafi and his closest allies.
These warrants could convince those still operating within the Gaddafi regime to turn on these individuals and arrest them. It is significant that Moreno-Ocampo has only issued one list of warrants; as a result, those in the regime who feel their name will appear next may turn in others. As of Monday, eight Libyan military officials and their troops have defected to Italy. Any arrests will most likely come from within the Libyan regime or from the Libyan people, as those in the coalition have vehemently opposed putting any “boots on the ground.” At any rate, the Security Council should reaffirm its support for the ICC’s endeavors. Nothing more than a non-binding statement can be expected from the Council, as China and Russia have already recanted on their approval of action in Libya.
Many skeptics point to the ICC's lack of success in bringing sitting leaders, like Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, to justice and fear this warrant will only cause Gaddafi to further dig in his heels. However, it is important that the ICC continues to strive for justice, even though it has not yet succeeded in all standards. A successful arrest and trial of any of these three war criminals would greatly legitimize the ICC and provide a serious deterrent for those considering violent repression in the future. Furthermore, Gaddafi isn’t going anywhere. There can be no peace with him in office; every promise to cease hostilities comes up empty. Pursuing a legal answer to this problem, as the Security Council has done through the ICC, is a commendable attempt to bring Gaddafi to justice.
Justice and peace are inherently intertwined when seeking solutions to conflict, and this is evident in Libya. Many point to the alleged hypocrisy of Western governments' pursuing Gaddafi, while letting other regimes slide. This has not been the case; France and Britain have been pushing for a multilateral engagement in Syria as well, but have been met with resistance from other nations. These nations, primarily Russia and China, are concerned with overreach and lack of results in Libya.
Multilateral success in Libya, through action approved by both the Security Council and the ICC, would provide legitimacy for the organizations' future operations against leaders who violently repress their people. Even though it will be difficult, the international community, through the Security Council, should not stop until justice in Libya has been achieved. That is a precedent that does not need to be set.