The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, his son and his intelligence chief for crimes against humanity in the early days of their struggle to cling to power.
Judges in the Hague announced that Gaddafi is wanted for orchestrating the killing, injuring, arrest and imprisonment of hundreds of civilians during the first 12 days of an uprising to topple him from power after more than four decades, and for trying to cover up the alleged crimes.
The warrants turn Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Sanoussi into internationally wanted suspects, potentially complicating any efforts to mediate an end to more than four months of intense fighting in the country.
Presiding judge Sanji Monageng of Botswana said there were "reasonable grounds to believe" that Gaddafi and his son are both "criminally responsible as indirect co-perpetrators" for the murder and persecution of civilians.
Libyan officials rejected the court's authority before the decision was read out, claiming the court had unfairly targeted 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," a government spokesman said.