This is the story of two photos and what they reveal about the incoherence of so-called international criminal justice, as embodied in the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Here is a photo of the chief prosecutor of the ICC, Luis Moreno-Ocampo (left), shaking hands with Mahmoud Jibril, the chairman of the Executive Committee of Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC), on the steps of the court on June 29.
One day earlier, the ICC had issued an arrest warrant for the then Libyan leader Moammar al-Qaddafi on charges of crimes against humanity. The charges gave an obvious public-relations boost to the anti-Qaddafi insurrection in Libya, as well as to the Western countries intervening militarily in support of the rebellion. For the Western public, after all, the entire justification of the war rested on the supposed “responsibility to protect” Libyan civilians from a regime that was allegedly massacring them. The Qaddafi arrest warrant gave this justification the imprimatur of a seemingly authoritative international institution.
Jibril — who is commonly described as the “number two man” in the NTC after Mustafa Abdul Jalil — flew to The Hague to mark the occasion. His symbolically charged handshake with Ocampo on the steps of the court made clear that Jibril and the NTC — and, by extension, the rebellion as a whole — were on the side of the victims.
Here now is a second photo, which shows Mahmoud Jibril exactly three months later, on September 29, at a press conference in Tripoli. In the meantime, massive NATO bombing had paved the way for rebel forces to take control of the Libyan capital.
The man standing at the lectern next to Jibril is none other than the first vice president of Sudan, Ali Osman Taha: a leading representative of a government that the same International Criminal Court accuses not only of crimes against humanity, but indeed of committing outright genocide.
Taha had arrived in Tripoli to meet with NTC officials earlier in the day. Were it not for the general deficiencies of reporting on Libya in the mainstream Western media, his presence in Tripoli at Jibril’s side would have come as no surprise. As discussed in my recent NRO report, “Sudanese in Libya,” Sudan has in fact been an important ally of the Libyan rebellion. Indeed, in mid-June, Sudanese armed forces invaded Libyan territory and, in Mustafa Abdul Jalil’s appreciative words, “liberated” the strategic town of Kufra.
The same Sudanese armed forces are accused by Moreno-Ocampo and the ICC of combining with so-called Janjaweed militias to carry out genocide in Darfur. Vice President Taha has been accused by Moreno-Ocampo of playing an “important role” in that genocide: “in particular by assisting in the mobilization of Militia/Janjaweed.”