December 8, 2023

Breaking news: UNSC unaminous referral of Libya to the ICC

Late this evening (Saturday Feb. 26) the UN Security Council unanimously referred the situation in Libya to the International Criminal Court. The full text of Resolution 1970 is not yet available, but the unanimous referral marks an unprecedented show of international support for the ICC, with the U.S. and China – for the first time – – voting in favor of the ICC’s involvement.

Under the Rome Statute, the ICC Prosecutor acting of his own accord can only try to initiate cases in situations involving states that have joined the ICC. Libya is not a member of the ICC, which is why the ICC couldn’t touch it without a referral from the UN Security Council.

The only other time the UN Security Council has made such a referral  – authorizing the court to get involved in a situation involving a state that was not signed up to the court – was with Sudan back in March 2005 when the council referred the situation in Darfur to the ICC. But that 2005 resolution only passed with abstentions – including from UN Security Council permanent members the U.S. and China. Without unified international backing the court struggled to get access into Sudan to investigate, despite the resolution’s wording that Sudan “shall cooperate fully” with the court.

P.S. How long until the debate starts on whether the ICC referral will encourage Qaddafi to cling onto power for longer than he otherwise would have?? I’m giving the blogesphere 24 hours and counting . . .

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