A Benghazi-based psychologist will be asking the International Criminal Court (ICC) to issue arrest warrants against Muammar Gaddafi and his sons after collecting evidence of widespread rape.
Gaddafi’s sons led militias that conducted systematic rape
Seham Sergewa arrived in Malta yesterday on her way to the ICC at The Hague, where she will give testimony and present a dossier detailing countless stories of rape perpetrated by the former dictator and his sons.
On June 27 the ICC issued international arrest warrants for Col Gaddafi, his eldest son Saif al-Islam and the former head of military intelligence Abdullah al-Senussi, wanted for crimes against humanity. Speaking to The Sunday Times yesterday, Dr Sergewa said she would be asking chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo to press charges and issue arrest warrants against all Col Gaddafi’s sons and former Prime Minister al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, who was last week jailed for six months in Tunisia for trying to enter the country illegally.
“Gaddafi’s sons led militias that conducted systematic rape during the conflict,” Dr Sergewa said, reiterating that evidence suggests that thousands of women were raped by Gaddafi loyalists during the conflict.
Col Gaddafi’s other sons have fled to neighbouring countries or their whereabouts are unknown.
She said five women, who used to work as Col Gaddafi’s personal security guards, had now agreed to come forward and testify how they were systematically raped by the former dictator and his sons.
The Sunday Times broke the story of how Col Gaddafi’s female bodyguards were claiming they were abused after interviewing Dr Sergewa in Benghazi last month. They said they were discarded once the Gaddafi family were “bored” with them.
In Benghazi Dr Sergewa, who has documented thousands of rape cases, had told this newspaper that only eight women – none of whom included the bodyguards – were prepared to break the taboo associated with rape and testify.
‘Happy ICC is ready to look into case’
However, yesterday she said that international interest in the rape story and the fact that the ICC was prepared to receive her dossier persuaded the five female bodyguards to come forward. “I am happy for these women and the Libyan people that the ICC is ready to receive me,” Dr Sergewa said.
She spoke of her fear that the rape dossier may have been used at one point as a political tool when negotiations were ongoing to convince Col Gaddafi to give up.
“Before May 27 the rape file was delayed and I fear it was intended so to convince Col Gaddafi to leave. But now the whole world has listened to the rape stories and I will personally go to the ICC to testify.” Accompanied by her husband, Dr Sergewa came to Malta to obtain a visa that would allow her to travel to the Netherlands. She was met at the airport by a high ranking government official.
Asked whether her actions were supported by the National Transitional Council in Libya, Dr Sergewa said they encouraged her to continue with the job but did little else to help her.
She is expected to present the rape dossier at the ICC within the next fortnight.
Raped and blackmailed
Recounting the story of the five women who formed part of Col Gaddafi’s select unit of female bodyguards Dr Sergewa had told The Sunday Times last month that one of them was blackmailed into joining the bodyguard brigade.
The regime fabricated a story that her brother was carrying drugs on his way back to Libya from a holiday in Malta and the woman was told “you either become a bodyguard or your brother will spend the rest of his life in prison”.
The woman in question knew exactly what this meant, Dr Sergewa explained, because she had been raped a few weeks before by Col Gaddafi.
“She had been expelled from university and was told to seek Gaddafi’s intervention to be reinstated. She was told she had to undergo a medical test that included an HIV test that was administered by an east European nurse.”
Eventually she was taken to meet Col Gaddafi at his Bab Aziziya compound in Tripoli. She was led to his private quarters where she found him in his pyjamas.
“She could not understand because she saw him as a father figure, leader of the nation, that sort of thing. She refused his advances and he raped her,” Dr Sergewa said.
Where are the Gaddafis?
The three men wanted by the ICC – Muammar Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam and Abdullah al-Senussi – are still believed to be in Libya but their whereabouts remain unknown as rebels continue to fight pockets of resistance in Sirte and Bani Walid.
Three of Col Gaddafi’s children – Hannibal, Muhammad and their sister Aisha – together with his second wife Safia fled to Algeria soon after the rebels overran Tripoli.
Another son, Saadi Gaddafi, fled southward and was given protection in Niger while the whereabouts of former national security adviser Mutassim Gaddafi and his brother Khamis, who led the feared 32nd Brigade, are unknown.
The least known of his sons, Saif al-Arab, was reported to have been killed in a Nato air strike on the Gaddafi compound on April 30.