The International Criminal Court's roadmap for Libya: a promising first step?

LFJL reflects on the opportunities and limitations of the ICC's updated roadmap on Libya set out by the Prosecutor.

May 13, 2022

Read LFJL's statement outlining five pillars for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to consider in its Libya roadmap, published ahead of the Prosecutor's report.

In his 23rd report to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan presented an “updated roadmap” for accountability in Libya. This comes after more than ten years of the UNSC’s referral of the Libya situation to the ICC and concerns expressed by civil society and others about the Court’s lack of impact so far. Following the report’s release, LFJL reflects on whether the roadmap goes far enough to create a tangible impact in Libya.

The issuance of new arrest warrants within the next 1-2 years and the establishment of a “field presence” in the immediate region within the next 3-9 months are positive “landmarks” in the strategy. This could go a long way in addressing the concerns highlighted by LFJL regarding the Court’s, including the Office of the Prosecutor's (OTP’s), lack of engagement with victims, affected communities and civil society in Libya. A coordinated outreach strategy with the Registry – one of the ICC’s organs – as highlighted in the roadmap should aim at increasing engagement with victims and affected communities, not only as witnesses, but also as rights holders before the Court.  

For the first time, the OTP publicly also confirmed in a “preliminary assessment” that crimes against migrants and refugees committed in Libya “may amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes.” This is in line with LFJL’s research summarised in an Article 15 communication submitted to the OTP, together with the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). The OTP should now confirm an investigation into these crimes with a view to prosecuting those most responsible before the Court, irrespective of national authorities in several countries investigating these crimes.  

The roadmap also highlights the importance of engaging Libyan authorities and Libyan civil society organisations (CSOs). The report states, “partnerships with victims and their families, non-governmental organisations and national authorities have been critical in advancing investigative work in this situation.” However, the roadmap fails to emphasise the crucial need for Libyan CSOs to carry out their work without fear for reprisals from authorities and others. The OTP must ensure clear and tailored protection measures for CSOs that engage with the Office. As the OTP also strengthens its engagement with Libyan authorities, it must call on them to respect civil and political rights.  

LFJL believes that the ICC can be a critical instrument for advancing accountability in Libya. The roadmap constitutes an important first step to turn this potential into reality. For this to be realised, the OTP should ensure that the needs and concerns of victims, affected communities, and civil society in Libya are central in its implementation.

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