Ending Impunity - the Importance of Public Warrants of Arrest
On 24 April 2017, Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC or Court) unsealed the warrant of arrest for Al-Tuhmany Mohamed Khaled. Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL) welcomes the news, as it confirms the ongoing nature of the ICC’s efforts to end impunity in Libya. LFJL urges the ICC to take steps to ensure future arrest warrants are made public to deter further war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The warrant of arrest for Al-Tuhamy details charges of four crimes against humanity (imprisonment, torture, persecution, and other inhumane acts) and three war crimes (torture, cruel treatment and outrages upon personal dignity) allegedly committed in Libya during 2011. The warrant of arrest was issued under seal on 18 April 2013 and as a result its existence was not publicly known for the past four years. The Prosecutor requested that the warrant of arrest be reclassified as public as she believed it may facilitate Al-Tuhmany’s arrest and surrender.
The unsealing of the arrest warrant sends a message that the international community will not allow impunity to reign unchecked. LFJL Director, Elham Saudi remarked “Al-Tuhamy’s arrest warrant is extremely welcome news. It is the strongest statement in five years that the international community has not forgotten the abhorrent acts that have taken place in Libya. It offers new hope that those responsible for international crimes will not enjoy impunity forever.”
LFJL, however, requests that Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) make future warrants of arrest public, wherever possible, in the shared understanding that their existence may deter the commission of additional international crimes.
LFJL recalls that additional arrest warrants are likely to have been issued, or will be issued in the near future, for additional individuals. In the twelfth report of the Prosecutor to the UN Security Council in November 2016, she stated her intention to “apply for new warrants of arrest under seal as soon as practicable and hopes to have new arrest warrants served in the near future”.
These new warrants of arrest may consider the crimes that are alleged to have been committed following the 2011 uprising. As a result the ICC has the potential to play a vital role in facilitating justice in Libya and challenging the ongoing impunity enjoyed by individuals who remain in positions of responsibility and command.
Saudi noted “The Prosecutor has regularly acknowledged the ongoing atrocities occurring in Libya. To help end them, she should seize the opportunity to publicly announce arrest warrants wherever possible. This will shatter the belief that those who commit violations are above the law, in turn contributing to the prevention of future acts of such cruelty and indignity.”
LFJL requests all State Parties to the Rome Statute and all other actors with knowledge of Al-Tuhamy’s whereabouts play an active role in facilitating his arrest and surrender to the Court.