ICC wants to tackle taboo topic of rape in Libya

Apr 21, 2012 - 11:39
  • International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo walks past an armoured vehicle during his visit to the War Museum on Tripoli Boulevard, in the town of Misrata. PHOTO/ AFP

International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said Friday that he wants to investigate rapes committed during the Libyan conflict last year in a way that respects local traditions.

"With the rape investigation, we decided to respect local traditions, to do it in a different way," Ocampo told AFP in an interview.

Ocampo travelled on Friday to the coastal city of Misrata to build support for his probe on sexual violence and discuss with community leaders how to collect evidence in a country where the subject of rape is beyond taboo.

"We are building a rape investigation without any victim of rape, so we do not present names or faces of victims of rape," he explained.

Instead, the probe will be "based on the testimony of doctors who received hundreds of victims, hospital records, video footage and confessions of soldiers in the army who can explain what happened."

Residents of Misrata, which suffered a brutal siege during the 2011 conflict, accuse the forces of slain leader Moamer Kadhafi of using rape as a "weapon of war."

During a meeting with local leaders, Ocampo urged them to help build up evidence against key members of the former regime who are outside Libya and beyond their reach.

"We would like to present a case of rape against top people, some of them who are outside Libya," he said without dropping names.

Libya, he said, could use the evidence collected by ICC investigators to prosecute culprits who are still in the country even if the top perpetrators ended up facing justice in The Hague.

Ocampo also appealed to local leaders to change public discourse on rape so that women and girls who have suffered sexual violence are not marginalised by their families or community.

"In the same way that Libya considers a martyr those who died, and a hero those who lost a leg, girls who were raped are also heroes," he said.

"We don't want to expose them... But we would like to prove the crimes," Ocampo said, stressing that the identities of the victims would never be revealed.

The prosecutor said last June that ICC investigators had evidence that Kadhafi had ordered his fighters to rape and supplied them with sexual stimulants like Viagra.

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