NIAMEY (Reuters) - Niger would respect its commitments to the International Criminal Court if Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi or his sons entered the country, the head of President Mahamadou Issoufou’s cabinet told Reuters on Friday.
“We are signatories of the Rome Statute (of the International Criminal Court), so they know what they are exposed to if they come. Niger is a country of rights but we will also respect our international commitments,” cabinet director Massaoudou Hassoumi said.
Britain and other countries in the international coalition backing Libyan insurgents against Gaddafi have said this week they would expect any ICC signatory country to hand him over to the Hague-based court.
Hassoumi also confirmed that General Ali Kana, a Tuareg who was in charge of Gaddafi’s southern troops, and General Ali Sharif al-Rifi, the commanding officer in his air force, were the latest senior Libyan officials to flee the country.
“They are in Agadez under control,” he said of the regional hub of the northern zone through which the head of Gaddafi’s security brigades, Mansour Dhao, passed earlier this week en route to the capital Niamey.
“We are taking them in on humanitarian grounds. No one has told us that these are wanted people. We are keeping a watch on them but we cannot detain them over nothing,” said Hassoumi.
Hassoumi said Niger, which only this year returned to civilian rule and is fighting a new threat from al Qaeda-linked groups in its desert north, was taking measures to ensure it was not destabilised by the conflict in Libya.
“We have prepared for a worst case scenario, for example if Bani Walid and Sirte were to fall by force, it could cause a massive stampede of armed groups into Niger. We have taken that into consideration and planned accordingly,” he said without giving details.