Libyan Leader Moammar Gadhafi gestures to supporters in March as he speaks in Tripoli, Libya. The International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants Monday for Gadhafi, his son and his intelligence chief for crimes against humanity in the early days of their struggle to cling to power.
The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant Monday for Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, his son and the country's intelligence chief, saying the three committed crimes against humanity while cracking down on an uprising against the government.
Presiding judge Sanji Mmasenono Monageng said there were "reasonable grounds to believe" that Gadhafi, his son and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Sanoussi are "criminally responsible as indirect co-perpetrators" for the murder and persecution of civilians in the early days of the uprising.
"The arrest of Moammar Gadhafi and Seif al-Islam Gadhafi appears necessary at this stage," said Monageng, who leads a three-judge panel.
The court had been ordered to investigate the bloodshed in Libya by the U.N. Security Council. Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said Gadhafi and his forces opened fire on demonstrators, shelled funeral processions and used snipers to kill people leaving mosques in the early days of the crackdown on rebels fighting to topple Gadhafi after four decades in power.
They now believe those early attacks were just the start of atrocities by pro-Gadhafi forces.
"Crimes continue today in Libya," Moreno-Ocampo said in a statement. "To stop the crimes and protect civilians in Libya, Gadhafi must be arrested."
The arrest warrant will be sent to Libya, but it is largely symbolic — at least for now — because the court has no police force and a patchy record on detaining suspects.
In March, just weeks after the uprising against Gadhafi's regime began, a coalition including France, Britain and the United States began striking Libyan government forces under a U.N. resolution to protect civilians. But the bombing campaign has drawn increasing international criticism.
Libyan officials rejected the court's authority before the decision was read out in a Hague courtroom. They said the court was unfairly targeting Africans while ignoring what they called crimes committed by NATO in Afghanistan, Iraq "and in Libya now."
"The ICC has no legitimacy whatsoever. We will deal with it. ... All of its activities are directed at African leaders," government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim told reporters Sunday.
It is unclear how the warrant could restrict Gadhafi's travels within Africa, since many African states are not ICC signatories and others have declined to act on an ICC arrest warrant for another African leader, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. The Sudanese leader was on his way to China at Beijing's invitation when the warrant was announced for Gadhafi.
The warrants turn the three men into internationally wanted suspects, potentially complicating any efforts to mediate an end to more than four months of intense fighting in the North African nation.
Gadhafi appeared to make a significant concession Sunday when African Union leaders meeting in Pretoria, South Africa, said he has agreed not to take part in negotiations to end the turmoil.
However, in Tripoli, Gadhafi's regime remained defiant. Government spokesman Ibrahim said Gadhafi is in "high spirits" and remains in day-to-day control of the country. He insisted Gadhafi will remain in Libya.
Teri Shultz in Brussels, NPR's Philip Reeves in London and The Associated Press contributed to this report.