The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, is opening a formal investigation into recent crimes against humanity in Libya.

“Following a preliminary examination of available information, the Prosecutor has reached the conclusion that an investigation is warranted,” a statement from The Hague-based ICC said.

More than 1000 pro-democracy protesters are believed to have been killed in a brutal crackdown orchestrated by the Libyan regime led by Muammar Qadhafi, who has been in power for more than 40 years and refuses to leave.

Mr.Ocampo is liaising with the United Nations, the African Union, the Arab League, Interpol as well as States, his office said in a statement.

“The Prosecutor will act independently and impartially,” it said.

On Saturday, the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution slapping sanctions on the the Libyan regime, which includes a complete arms embargo, an asset freeze, a travel ban and an immediate referral to the ICC.

Susan Rice, US envoy to the UN, had pointed out that this was the first time a resolution referring a case to the ICC had passed unanimously.

“This is a clear warning to the Libyan government that it must stop the killing,” said Rice, noting that those responsible for the killing would be held “personally accountable.”

In 2005, the Security Council referred the situation in Darfur to the ICC, but Algeria, Brazil, China, United States abstained on the resolution.

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