Gaddafi planned civilian killings, Hague court says

Tue Apr 5, 2011 1:47pm GMT

By Angus MacSwan

BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - The International Criminal Court has evidence Muammar Gaddafi's government planned to put down protests by killing civilians before the uprising in Libya broke out, the ICC's prosecutor said on Tuesday.

The peaceful protests that erupted on February 15 descended into civil war as Gaddafi's forces first fired on demonstrators, then violently put down the uprisings that followed in the west, leaving the east and the third city of Misrata in rebel hands.

NATO-led air power is now holding the balance in Libya, preventing Gaddafi's forces overrunning the seven-week old revolt, but unable for now to hand the rebels outright victory.

The United Nations Security Council, which on March 17 sanctioned air strikes on Libyan government forces to prevent them killing civilians, in February referred Libya to the ICC, the world's first permanent war crimes court.

Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo is to report back to the U.N. on May 4, and is then expected to request arrest warrants.

"We have evidence that after the Tunisia and Egypt conflicts, people in the (Gaddafi) regime were planning how to control demonstrations in Libya," Moreno-Ocampo told Reuters in an interview.

"The shootings of civilians was a pre-determined plan," he said, adding the plan started to be developed in January.

DEFECTOR SOUGHT   Continued...

<p>A rebel fighter gestures beside a Kingdom of Libya flag on a pick-up truck at a staging area to the east of Brega April 4, 2011. REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal</p>
Powered by Reuters AlertNet. AlertNet provides news, images and insight from the world's disasters and conflicts and is brought to you by Reuters Foundation.