By issuing a warrant for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s arrest, the International Criminal Court (ICC) may have made it harder to end the Libyan conflict.
On Monday, the ICC issued warrants for the arrest of Gaddafi, his son Saif and Libya’s chief of military intelligence, for committing crimes against the Libyan people. While there’s little doubt that Gaddafi and his regime’s allies are monsters, how does the ICC suppose it will arrest them? Send in the police? The ICC has no means to enforce its own edict.
But the mere issuance of the arrest warrant could prolong the Libyan war, resulting in more death and mayhem, and more expenditure of American resources. Until the arrest warrant, it was very plausible that a deal could be struck granting Gaddafi and his family immunity so long as they gave up power and left the country immediately.
This is far from the most ideal situation, of course. In a perfect world, Gaddafi and his family would pay for the crimes they committed against their fellow Libyans and the crimes that were committed against Americans and others two decades ago. But justice isn’t always possible in our imperfect world, especially in the international arena.
Now that he is a wanted man on the international stage, with a warrant issued for his arrest, Gaddafi has more incentive to hold out and fight to the death. He can’t be sure that an agreement with particular countries giving him immunity will be followed — the ICC certainly won’t recognize such an agreement.
At the very least, the warrant limits the number of countries where Gaddafi might take refuge, since many countries have treaty obligations mandating that they surrender those wanted by the ICC. As for those who are not on board with the ICC, why would they want to alienate other countries by accepting a wanted man? While it is conceivable some would do it anyway, the ICC warrant makes such a scenario far less likely.
While universal justice may sound good, pursuing it often has horrific, unintended consequences. To achieve a more peaceful world in this life, sometimes justice has to be left to the Almighty in the next.
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