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Call for Gadhafi arrest a step toward justice

By Marco Vicenzino, CNN
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Marco Vicenzino says move on Gadhafi is milestone for International Criminal Court
  • ICC's call for his arrest a diplomatic gain for opposition; black eye for regime, he says
  • Move should buoy uprising; world must call for pursuit of Gadhafi himself, he says
  • Vicenzino: Bringing Gadhafi to justice will elevate ICC's role in global affairs

Editor's note: Marco Vicenzino writes about geopolitical risk analysis for global media outlets and is director of the Global Strategy Project, a geopolitical research and analysis organization based in Washington

(CNN) -- The call by the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor for the arrest of Col. Moammar Gadhafi, his son and intelligence chief for crimes against humanity is a defining moment for the ICC -- a coming of age during a nine-year quest for broader international acceptance.

But it also provides an enormous breakthrough for the Libyan opposition's pursuit of greater diplomatic recognition and a huge moral boost for the international mission, its mandate and U.N. Security Council resolution 1973 authorizing action in Libya.

It's not valid to claim that the action of the ICC prosecutor complicates the possibility for a negotiated solution to the crisis or Gadhafi's voluntary exit from power.

Since the popular insurrection's start in February, Gadhafi has shown no serious intent to negotiate or step down. His answer has been unrestrained violence against his people leading to substantial loss of innocent life. Mounting evidence left the ICC prosecutor with no viable alternative.

By criminalizing Gadhafi and his cohorts, the chief prosecutor has effectively made them outcasts and further delegitimized the regime at home and abroad. The action provides further justification for ordinary Libyans to defy a wanted criminal and an additional pretext for nations to extend diplomatic recognition to the Libyan opposition.

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Nations must not deal with the outlaw leader of a rogue regime. The Libyan opposition must seize upon this to pursue with even greater vigor its campaign as legitimate representative of the Libyan people.

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What's more, the call for Gadhafi's arrest strengthens the international mission's ability to pursue him directly. Activities and operations must increase exponentially and include greater U.S. participation.

In its quest for greater international acceptance, the ICC has gradually developed a track record of modest achievements. The call for Gadhafi's arrest marks the second for a standing head of state.

The genocide charge against Sudanese President Omar Bashir over Darfur in 2009 was an historic step. But after a 42-year reign of terror, the Gadhafi brand name is far more global.

Pursuing Gadhafi and bringing him to justice presents the ICC with a groundbreaking opportunity to elevate its status to a remarkably higher level, consolidate its credibility and cement its role as a central institution in global affairs.

However, the ICC's present and future effectiveness will always remain dependent upon the ability and willingness of nation-states and the U.N. Security Council to pursue its agenda. The potential for effective international legal action largely increases whenever multilateral convergence of diplomatic and political interests prevails.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Marco Vicenzino.