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The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor's request for arrest warrants for serious crimes in Libya is a first step in achieving justice, Human Rights Watch said. On May 16, 2011 the ICC prosecutor asked the judges of the court to issue arrest warrants for three suspects for crimes against humanity, including Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
"The ICC prosecutor's request acts as a warning bell to others that serious crimes will not go unpunished," said Richard Dicker, international justice director at Human Rights Watch. "It's a message to those responsible for grave abuses that they will be held to account for their actions."
The prosecutor is seeking arrest warrants for Muammar Gaddafi, his son Seif al-Islam and Abdullah Sanussi for crimes against humanity.
Anti-government protests began in Libya's east on February 15, following the widespread pro-democracy protests that led to changes of government in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt. Libyan government security forces responded with arrests and attacks against peaceful demonstrators in the cities of Benghazi, Derna and Tobruk, and then in the capital, Tripoli, and some cities in the west. Human Rights Watch documented the arbitrary arrest and disappearance of scores of people, as well as cases in which government forces opened fire on peaceful protesters.
"Libyan civilians who have lived through a nightmare over the past months deserve redress through an independent and impartial judicial process," Dicker said. "Today's announcement offers them that chance."
Criminal liability before the ICC can apply to both those who physically commit the crimes, and to senior officials, including those who give the orders and those in a position of command who should have been aware of the abuses but failed to prevent them or to report or prosecute those responsible. The Rome Statute, the court's founding treaty, applies equally to all persons, including heads of state and government officials regardless of any immunity they might claim.
Should the court issue an arrest warrant for Gaddafi, it would not be the first warrant for a sitting head of state by an international court. In 1999, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia issued its first indictment against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Kosovo. In 2003, the Special Court for Sierra Leone unsealed its indictment of Charles Taylor, then President of Liberia. Most recently, the ICC has issued two arrest warrants for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.
"Seeking an arrest warrant for Muammar Gaddafi for crimes in Libya shows that no one is above the law," said Dicker. "It is the prosecutor's job to follow the evidence wherever it leads, even to a head of state."
The prosecutor's request comes about two-and-a-half months after the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed resolution 1970 referring Libya to the ICC. Following the council's referral on February 26, the ICC prosecutor announced on March 3 that he would open an investigation into potential crimes against humanity committed in Libya since February 15.
The ICC's Pre-Trial Chamber must now review the information submitted by the prosecutor to determine whether to grant the request. The Pre-Trial Chamber judges will issue warrants if they are satisfied that there are "reasonable grounds to believe" that the persons have committed the crimes alleged.
If warrants are issued, any suspect who is arrested or who surrenders to the court has an opportunity to object to the charges and to challenge the evidence in a "confirmation of charges" hearing. At that point, the Pre-Trial Chamber must decide whether enough evidence exists to establish "substantial grounds to believe" that the person committed each of the crimes charged in order to move forward to trial.
While the first warrant requests are considered by the court, Human Rights Watch urges the ICC prosecutor to continue to investigate serious crimes that may have been committed by all parties in Libya, including war crimes committed during the armed conflict. Security Council Resolution 1970 gives the ICC ongoing jurisdiction over war crimes and crimes against humanity committed on the territory of Libya since February 15, 2011.
"Accountability for Libya should include investigating possible crimes committed by both government and opposition forces," said Dicker. "We look to the prosecutor to implement his mandate impartially so that those responsible for grave abuses face justice, regardless of their political allegiances."
Human Rights Watch has documented serious violations of the laws of war by Libyan government forces, including repeated indiscriminate attacks into residential neighborhoods in Misrata and towns in the western Nafusa mountains.
The ICC must rely on state cooperation to further its investigations, including by facilitating evidence collection and preservation, as well as assisting with the execution of arrest warrants. Security Council resolution 1970 obligates the Libyan authorities to cooperate fully with the court. In April, the self-appointed opposition authority in Libya, the Interim Transitional National Council, promised to cooperate with the ICC in a letter to the Prosecutor's Office.
Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.
"The Supreme Court once again reaffirms the rights of legislators and local officials to pass gun safety laws," said one advocate.
State and local laws banning the sale of assault weapons will stand in Illinois for the time being, following the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal on Wednesday to temporarily block the measures while pro-gun groups appeal them in lower courts.
The high court did not disclose how each justice voted or explain their reasoning for the decision, releasing only a brief statement saying that the request for an injunction was denied.
A gun store in Naperville, Illinois joined the National Association for Gun Rights in challenging a local ordinance that blocks the sale of assault weapons, defined as 26 firearms and other weapons that meet certain criteria. The law went into effect in January after being passed last August, a month after seven people were killed and nearly 50 were injured in a mass shooting in Highland Park, 35 miles away from Naperville.
The lawsuit also challenges the Protect Illinois Communities Act, which also went into force in January and bans the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines across the state.
The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals has taken up the case and is scheduled to hear arguments on June 29.
"This is an important victory in the fight to end gun violence as the U.S. continues to deal with multiple mass shootings."
The gun store and pro-gun group cited two landmark rulings by the Supreme Court, including District of Columbia v. Heller, which held that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to possess a firearm for "lawful purposes," independent of serving in a militia; and New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, which held that courts must consider the gun regulations that were in effect when the Constitution was written when they decide whether a gun law should stand.
The latter ruling expanded access to firearms last year even as gun violence surpassed vehicle accidents as the leading cause of death among children in the United States.
The plaintiffs claimed that "there is no historical analogue to such a ban" as the ones passed in Illinois. State Attorney General Kwame Raoul countered in a court brief that the types of guns targeted by the laws, such as one used by the shooter in Highland Park, fall well outside the Constitution's protections for "firearms that are 'commonly used' for self-defense."
The gun control group Brady said Wednesday's development at the Supreme Court, while not the final word on the case, was "an important victory in the fight to end gun violence."
\u201c\ud83d\udea8BREAKING: The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to block Illinois' and Naperville's assault weapons ban from being enforced. \n\nThis is an important victory in the fight to end gun violence as the US continues to deal with multiple mass shootings.\nhttps://t.co/U8Z3AeJK3Q\u201d— Brady | United Against Gun Violence (@Brady | United Against Gun Violence) 1684340876
"This is a great victory for Americans and all of us working to protect our children from the gun violence epidemic facing our nation," said Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, senior adviser to advocacy group Giffords. "With this ruling the Supreme Court once again reaffirms the rights of legislators and local officials to pass gun safety laws."
The "growing experimental use" of ChatGPT and similar tools in medical contexts should be halted until pressing concerns are addressed and "clear evidence of benefit" is demonstrated, said the United Nations health agency.
The ongoing failure to adequately regulate artificial intelligence-generated large language model tools is jeopardizing human well-being, the World Health Organization said Tuesday.
The WHO lamented that precautions typically taken with regard to any new technology are not being applied consistently when it comes to large language models (LLMs), which use AI to analyze data, create content, and answer questions—often incorrectly. Accordingly, the United Nations agency called for sufficient risk assessments to be conducted and corresponding safeguards implemented before LLMs become entrenched in healthcare.
The "meteoric public diffusion and growing experimental use" of LLMs—including ChatGPT, Bard, Bert, and other platforms that "imitate understanding, processing, and producing human communication"—in medical settings "is generating significant excitement around the potential to support people's health needs," the WHO noted. However, "it is imperative that the risks be examined carefully when using LLMs to improve access to health information, as a decision-support tool, or even to enhance diagnostic capacity in under-resourced settings to protect people's health and reduce inequity."
"Precipitous adoption of untested systems could lead to errors by healthcare workers, cause harm to patients, erode trust in AI, and thereby undermine or delay the potential long-term benefits and uses of such technologies around the world," the agency warned.
Specific concerns identified by the WHO include:
"While committed to harnessing new technologies, including AI and digital health to improve human health, WHO recommends that policymakers ensure patient safety and protection while technology firms work to commercialize LLMs," the agency added. "WHO proposes that these concerns be addressed, and clear evidence of benefit be measured before their widespread use in routine healthcare and medicine—whether by individuals, care providers, or health system administrators and policymakers."
The agency reiterated "the importance of applying ethical principles and appropriate governance, as enumerated in the WHO guidance on the ethics and governance of AI for health, when designing, developing, and deploying AI for health."
The WHO expressed its worries just days after an international group of doctors warned in the peer-reviewed journal BMJ Open Health that AI "could pose an existential threat to humanity" and demanded a moratorium on the development of such technology pending robust regulation.
"While artificial intelligence offers promising solutions in healthcare, it also poses a number of threats to human health and well-being," the physicians and related experts wrote. "With exponential growth in AI research and development, the window of opportunity to avoid serious and potentially existential harms is closing."
Fears of the negative implications of AI in healthcare and other arenas appear to be well-founded. As Common Dreams reported in March, progressives urged the Biden administration to intervene after an investigation showed that Medicare Advantage insurers' use of unregulated AI tools to determine when to end payments for patients' treatments has resulted in the premature termination of coverage for vulnerable seniors.
"Robots should not be making life-or-death decisions," health justice advocate Ady Barkan wrote on social media at the time, as he shared a petition imploring the White House to stop #DeathByAI.
To "avoid economic catastrophe," said Democratic Rep. Brendan Boyle, "we must try whatever it takes."
House Democrats on Wednesday formally launched a longshot bid to raise the debt ceiling through a procedural maneuver known as a discharge petition, which would force a floor vote on a debt limit increase without the approval of Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
The move came after McCarthy and other congressional leaders sat down with President Joe Biden at the White House on Tuesday, a meeting that did not yield an agreement as Republicans continue to push for steep spending cuts and work requirements that Democratic lawmakers say are cruel nonstarters.
Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.), the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, filed the discharge petition on Wednesday morning, tellingThe Wall Street Journal that "we must raise the debt ceiling now and avoid economic catastrophe."
“We only have two weeks to go until we may hit the X-date," said Boyle, referring to the Treasury Department's warning that the federal government may no longer be able to pay its bills by June 1 if Congress doesn't increase the debt limit, raising the possibility of a default.
A discharge petition requires at least 218 signatures to force a floor vote, meaning a minimum of five House Republicans would need to join every Democrat in supporting the effort. In a letter to his caucus on Wednesday, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) wrote that it is "imperative that members make every effort to sign the discharge petition today."
"In the next few weeks, at the reckless urging of former President Trump, we confront the possibility that right-wing extremists will intentionally plunge our country into a default crisis," Jeffries wrote. "Emerging from the White House meeting, I am hopeful that a real pathway exists to find an acceptable, bipartisan resolution that prevents a default."
Citing a former House parliamentarian, the Journal noted that "if Democrats gather all the signatures in one day, the earliest the bill could come to the House floor is June 8, assuming the House keeps its current schedule."
"The Senate would then have to pass it, too," the Journal added.
It's not yet clear what legislative language House Democrats intend to attach to the discharge petition.
\u201cNEW: Dems will gather signatures today on the \u201cdischarge petition,\u201d their backup plan to raise the debt ceiling. @RepBrendanBoyle will file the petition at 10am. \n\n@RepJeffries encourages Dems to sign it today. It needs 218 supporters, so at least 5 GOP would need to back it.\u201d— Kyle Stewart (@Kyle Stewart) 1684329222
Boyle acknowledged the discharge petition is "not a high probability move" but said that "we must try whatever it takes."
"I urge my Republican colleagues, especially those who like to call themselves moderate at election time, to join us and ensure America pays its bills," Boyle added.
House Republicans have pushed the U.S. to the brink of default by using the debt ceiling as leverage to pursue sweeping spending cuts to key safety net programs, a massive giveaway to Big Oil, and other right-wing policy goals.
Congressional Democrats and the White House have called for a clean debt ceiling increase, but in recent weeks the president has shown an openness to negotiating with the GOP on spending and work requirements, alarming progressives who say any concessions to hostage-taking House Republicans would be met with backlash.
"Democrats cannot give ground on work requirements in the debt ceiling talks," Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, tweeted Tuesday. "All work requirements do is limit the availability of food aid for families and hurt poor, marginalized communities—the very people we were elected to defend."
Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) said Tuesday that he could not "in good conscience support a debt ceiling proposal that pushes people into poverty."
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) echoed that position, calling the GOP's proposed work requirements "despicable" and saying she "cannot support a deal that is only about hurting people."
In remarks on Wednesday, Biden said he is "not going to accept any work requirements" that impact "medical health needs of people," an apparent reference to Medicaid.
But the president, who is facing growing pressure to act unliterally to raise the debt limit, added that "it's possible there could be" work requirements for other programs in a possible deal with Republicans, who have advocated additional work mandates for recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits.
Analysts have warned that the work requirements put forth by the House GOP would strip food aid from millions of people, including many children.
Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) toldSemafor on Tuesday that "we're giving credibility to the Republican Party as hostage-takers by even having these meetings and saying publicly... that we're willing to negotiate on something like SNAP benefits."
"Why are we even giving credibility to a party that has not negotiated anything in good faith?" Bowman asked.