TRIPOLI (AFP/TSR) – Two French lawyers said they planned to initiate legal proceedings against French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday for crimes against humanity over the NATO-led military campaign in Libya.
A Libyan justice ministry official Ibrahim Boukhzam told reporters in Tripoli that Jacques Verges and Roland Dumas had offered to represent families he said were victims of the NATO bombing campaign.
Two days after Russia said Gaddafi should leave Libya, the appearance of Dumas and Verges could be seen as an indication of the Libyan leader’s growing international isolation.
They came to the Libyan capital to take up a case against NATO on behalf of 13 families who say their relatives have been killed in alliance airstrikes. The pair said they were also ready to defend Libya’s leader at the International Criminal Court if needed and invited.
“The two lawyers are going to file a complaint in the French courts in the name of the Libyan families,” Boukhzam said, at a press conference on Sunday attended by 30 representatives of the families.
Verges, whose past clients include Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie and Carlos the Jackal, denounced a “French state led by hoodlums and killers.
“We are going to break the wall of silence,” he added.
Dumas, a former socialist minister, said the NATO mission, which was meant to protect civilians, was in fact killing them.
He denounced what he described as “a brutal assault against a sovereign country” and said he was ready to defend Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi should he ever be brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC).
If they do not succeed in winning a case against NATO in Europe, Dumas said, the men could take the case to a new “international law” court being set up in Bolivia in what may be a left-wing attempt to establish a rival to the ICC.
Earlier this month ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo asked for arrest warrants for Kadhafi, his son Seif al-Islam, and his brother-in-law Abdullah Senussi as part of an investigation into crimes against humanity.
On March 19, Sarkozy announced the launch of military action in Libya, backed by Western countries and Arab allies, as Kadhafi’s forces threatened the rebel-held city of Benghazi.
A French warplane was the first to enforce a UN resolution calling for a no-fly zone and protection of civilians in Libya.
Dumas and Verges were speaking at the end of a two-day visit to Libya. They said they would begin legal proceedings on their return to France on Monday.
FOR BACKGROUND ON LIBYA CONFLICT: