Are Qaddafi’s Killers War Criminals?

Alexander Miridonov/Zuma

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Was Moammar Qaddafi—who was wanted by the International Criminal Court for committing war crimes—himself a victim of a war crime? Amnesty International thinks it’s a good possibility:

Video footage which emerged yesterday appears to show that Colonel al-Gaddafi was alive when he was captured by anti-Gaddafi troops in Sirte yesterday.

“If Colonel al-Gaddafi was killed after his capture, it would constitute a war crime and those responsible should be brought to justice,” said Claudio Cordone, Senior Director at Amnesty International.

Killing a combatant after he’s surrendered is a violation of both the International Criminal Court’s statutes and the Geneva Conventions. But as Foreign Policy‘s David Bosco points out in this excellent analysis, the fact that Qaddafi’s death likely was a war crime probably doesn’t matter.

The choices of the prosecutor and the rulings of the ICC judges in recent years have made abundantly clear that the court prioritizes large-scale crimes that form part of a broad pattern or practice. Given that emphasis, it is unlikely the court will ultimately prosecute anyone for Qaddafi’s killing unless they decide that there existed within the anti-Qaddafi forces a broad practice of war crimes or crimes against humanity and that the Qaddafi killing was a manifestation of that.

What’s more, the new Libyan authorities could foil any ICC investigation by carrying out their own investigation. With  a national investigation underway, the ICC must yield unless it determines that the investigation is a sham. To the chagrin of many (mostly outside Libya, it seems), Qaddafi will never now see a courtroom in the Hague; neither will whoever killed him.

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Fact:

In-depth journalism that investigates the powerful takes real money and is so damn important right now.But it doesn’t take a Mother Jones investigation to know that billionaires and corporations will never fund the type of reporting (like they do politicians) we do that exists to help bring about change. Instead, our mission-driven journalism is made possible by people power, and has been for 46 years now since our founding as a non-profit.

In “TITLE TK” Monica Bauerlein writes about the perilous moment we’re in, and why it’s so important that we raise $325,000 by the time November’s midterms are decided so we can be ready to throw everything we have at the big issues facing the nation no matter what happens. Please help MoJo’s people-powered journalism with a donation today.

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