The ICC investigation focuses on alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Libya since the overthrow of the government of Muammar Gaddafi in February 2011. The investigation also includes three outstanding arrest warrants issued by the ICC. The ICC opened its investigation in March 2011. Libya is not a party to the Rome Statute. Therefore, the ICC derives its jurisdiction for this investigation from a unanimous reference by the Security Council.
In March 2022, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Express concern over “increasing repression” against civil society in Libya, including arbitrary arrests and smear campaigns on social media. OHCHR noted a “serious chilling effect” on human rights defenders, aid workers and other civil society actors. The United Nations Independent Fact Finding Mission on Libya found in its March 2022 Report that human rights and international humanitarian law are violated in Libya.
The new investigative strategy unveiled by the ICC prosecutor focuses on survivors. First, it prioritizes referrals made by the Security Council by authorizing additional resources and increased financial investigation, particularly for sexual and gender-based crimes. The prosecutor’s office is also leveraging new technologies, including artificial intelligence and machine learning, to speed up investigations.
The second pillar is to empower witnesses and survivors to participate in the investigative process. The prosecutor seeks to work with Libyan states wherever possible and establish a strengthened regional presence in Libya.
The third pillar is to improve engagement with Libyan national authorities. The prosecutor pointed out that the Rome Statute, based on the principle of complementarity, requires his office to support national accountability efforts. However, if national authorities appear unwilling or unable to conduct investigations, his office will continue its work. The prosecutor hopes to create a more systematic and structured approach to working with the Libyan authorities, including developing a memorandum of understanding.
The fourth pillar is to increase opportunities for accountability through better cooperation with third states, international and regional organizations, including the UN Special Mission in Libya and the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Libya.
The ICC Prosecutor concluded by stating that cooperation is a “two-way street” and that his office will be a beneficiary of cooperation and contribute to national accountability processes.