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ICC chief prosecutor seeks arrest warrants over Libya

International Criminal Court chief prosecutor says he is seeking arrest warrants for crimes against humanity in Libya, as Muammar Gaddafi’s forces continue bombardment of Misrata’s lifeline port.

Libya warrants 2011 5 4Enlarge
Libyan medic celebrates as they arrive in the port of Misurata after days of waiting out at sea on May 4, 2011, to evacuate civilians and wounded from this restive city being pounded by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's forces. (CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images)

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor told the UN Security Council on Wednesday that he is seeking arrest warrants related to war crimes against Libyan civilians, while Muammar Gaddafi’s forces continued a heavy assault on the besieged city of Misrata’s key port.

ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said he would seek arrests warrants for three people for crimes against humanity in Libya, but did not name them. He said he planned to submit the arrest warrants in the next few weeks.

Moreno-Ocampo told the UN Security Council in New York that “thousands” have died in Libya in the insurrection against Gaddafi, including between 500 and 700 people killed in February alone, AFP reports.

He said that the Libyan government had started preparing to shut down protests weeks before they began on February 15, after having followed the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.

"As early as January, mercenaries were being hired and brought into Libya," Moreno-Ocampo said. "Widespread and systematic attacks against the civilian population have been and continue to be committed in Libya, including murder and persecution as crimes against humanity.”

Moreno-Ocampo said he was also investigating the deaths of dozens of sub-Saharan Africans in Benghazi by an “angry mob” who thought they were mercenaries paid by Gaddafi.

The United States has appealed to Gaddafi’s regime to stop shelling the port in the rebel-held city of Misrata, and to allow international organizations to send in aid and evacuate wounded civilians.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner issued an appeal for the Gaddafi regime "to cease hostilities in Misrata port."

An aid ship chartered by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) managed to bring in 180 tons of food and medicine to Misrata during a lull in the shelling, following a four-day delay caused by fighting near the port, the BBC reports.

However, Gaddafi’s forces targeted the ship as it was trying to evacuate hundreds of foreign migrants and injured Libyan civilians, killing five members of a sub-Saharan African family, the Guardian reports.

"It was a very dangerous situation, and the captain wanted to leave when the attack started. But we had to take the risk of staying because it was impossible to leave behind the migrants and the medical cases,” Othman Belbeisi, the head of mission for the IOM, told the Guardian.