Friday, 12 May 2023 17:23

New arrest warrants seek justice for victims in Libya, ICC prosecutor says

UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
Karim Khan, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), briefs UN Security Council members on the situation in Libya.

New technology and strategies are helping to deliver justice to victims of grave violations of human rights in Libya, including fresh arrest warrants, but “we can do better”, the chief prosecutor of the UN-backed International Criminal Court (ICC) told the Security Council on Thursday.

ICC Prosecutor Karim A. A. Khan KC briefs UN Security Council on Situation in Libya, 11 May 2023

To date, four warrants have been issued and two others are in the application process, ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan said, highlighting this key step as recognizing the rights of victims to justice.


“If this Council’s referrals are to be vindicated, it requires everyone to step up,” he said. “Partnerships are key to justice.”

The Council had referred the case to the ICC in 2011, citing gross and systematic violations of human rights and expressing deep concern at the deaths of civilians.

‘Tangible steps forward’

Since then, the ICC has advanced along the road to justice, he said, providing an update on its activities over the past six months. “Tangible steps forward” ranged from engaging with Libyan authorities to collecting more than 500 items of evidence, including video and audio material, forensic information, and satellite imagery.

The ICC Libya team had also further increased its engagement with victims and civil society organizations, he said.

Many of the gains made resulted from innovative efforts his Office is harnessing, he said, pointing to its use of advanced technology and a new evidence management system that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to accelerate investigative and analytical activities.

“Technology is not a ‘flash in the pan’,” he said. “Technology is increasing the pace to deliver justice.”

Significant milestones

His Office has engaged with the Office of the Attorney General, the Military Prosecutor and the Minister of Justice of the internationally-recognized Government, to identify ways in which the ICC can further support and promote action in Libya in pursuit of accountability for international crimes.

In the coming weeks, he said his team will be liaising with Libyan authorities, also with respect to potentially establishing a field office in Tripoli.

“The hope must be that the Libyan authorities are increasingly behind the principle of justice at home,” he said, pledging his Office’s efforts in advancing accountability.

‘Vindicating survivors’ rights

At the heart of the matter are the victims and survivors, he said. Recalling a visit to Libya, he said his meetings with survivors of violence encapsulated the reason why the Security Council made its referral to the ICC.

In Tarhunah, a town where mass graves had been discovered, he said victims had described to him the calculated cruelty and tragedy behind the events that unfolded there. One man had lost 15 members of his family, he said.

Citing the words of a woman who shared her story of losing loved ones, he said “she said to me ‘the UN talks a good talk, but our lives don’t matter to you’.”

“If we feel that we can get things better, be more imaginative, and build partnerships together, I think this referral, which has seen such progress over the last six months, can go deeper,” he said.

“Most importantly, we can look at victims, like the victims I have seen in Tarhunah, and not feel ashamed, but feel finally, we are doing our best to deliver on their right to justice and accountability.”

For more details on this meeting, visit UN Meetings Coverage.