The warrants are "for crimes against humanity," including murder and persecution, "allegedly committed across Libya" from Feb. 15 through "at least" Feb. 28, "through the state apparatus and security forces," the court said in a news release.
However, Libya is not a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the international court's authority, and the court does not have the power to enter Libya and arrest the leaders.
The three-judge Pre-Trial Chamber I at The Hague found "reasonable grounds to believe that the three suspects committed the alleged crimes and that their arrests appear necessary in order to ensure their appearances before the court," the written announcement said. The court also believes the warrants are needed to ensure that the three "do not continue to obstruct and endanger the court's investigations; and to prevent them from using their powers to continue the commission of crimes within the jurisdiction of the court."
The U.N. Security Council referred the matter to the ICC through a resolution Feb. 26, following widespread complaints about Gadhafi's efforts to crush a rebellion. The resolution said that while "states not party to the Rome Statute have no obligations under the statute, the Security Council urged all states and concerned regional and other international organisations to cooperate fully with the court and the prosecutor."
Naturally, Gadhafi has made clear he would not recognize the court's authority. Libyan government spokesman Musa Ibrahim has previously denied the allegations and criticized what he said were incoherent conclusions of the prosecutor's office.
Authorities believe Moammar Gadhafi ordered attacks on unarmed civilians and al-Sanussi is "his right-hand man, the executioner."
A report issued in early May found the alleged crimes against humanity include the alleged commission of rape by supporters of Gadhafi's government, as well as the deportation or forcible transfer of citizens during the civil war in the country.
The issue of Libyan casualties led the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution in March authorizing force by whatever means necessary, with the exception of a ground invasion, to protect civilians. NATO began bombing military targets a short time later.
The court's decision Monday came as fighting raged between Gadhafi's troops and opposition forces just 100 kilometers (62 miles) southwest of Tripoli in a see-saw battle that has brought the rebels to the doorstep of the Libyan leader's stronghold.
Casualty reports were not immediately available in the battle near the town of B'ir al Ghanam, though the majority of the fighting by both sides was being waged with heavy artillery.
The International Criminal Court action comes a day after the African Union announced Gadhafi will not be part of its next attempt to map out a peace deal in Libya.
It was unclear who would represent the Libyan government in negotiations, or when negotiations would occur. Journalists were not allowed to ask questions at a news conference following Sunday's meeting of the African Union's special committee on Libya in Pretoria, South Africa.
Members of the committee have met with Gadhafi and opposition leaders over the past three months. Another African Union-led attempt to broker peace between Gadhafi and the rebels fell through in April. The committee repeated calls Sunday for a cease-fire between the Libyan government and rebels. "Only a political solution will make it possible to sustainably settle the current conflict," the statement said.
It also urged NATO to temporarily suspend its bombing campaign to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid.
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