The International Criminal Court's decision to issue an arrest warrant for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on charges of crimes against humanity is significant as it has the potential to assist in the swift resolution of the conflict in Libya. This is because it strengthens Nato's mission and could act as an accelerator for Libyan officials to defect thus pushing Gaddafi into further isolation.
Libya is not a signatory to the Rome Statute and therefore is not obliged to cooperate in its procedure, but the decision is indeed very symbolic. The UK, which has been a driving force behind military intervention in Libya, has hailed the ICC decision, with British Foreign Minister William Hague saying it demonstrates "why Gaddafi has lost all legitimacy and he should go immediately".
But there is a dangerous side to this latest development: referring the conflict to the ICC might complicate efforts to negotiate a peaceful end to hostilities. Moreover, with more questions being raised on Nato's success in Libya, there is an urgent need for a strategic review of the overall mission, without losing sight of the need to save civilian lives and support the Transitional National Council (TNC).
The ICC decision could also potentially push Gaddafi to adopt an even bloodier approach to the conflict or intensify his determination to ‘win'. This could be counterproductive for Nato's mission and the TNC. Another point of concern is the fact that the court issued the warrant very quickly, thereby raising questions about its independence as an impartial institution that is not susceptible to powerful nations' influence. It doesn't help that the ICC has focused on several African countries lately, including Sudan, while continuing to ignore war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Nevertheless, this latest development in the Libya story is bound to provoke reactions from Gaddafi's camp and it is hoped it will succeed in pushing him out once and for all.