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UN Week – 2/28/11

March 4, 2011

by John and Douglas Carey, editors,

Contents of this issue: UN responsibility to protect Libyans

            On February 26th the US Mission to the UN issued this fact sheet:

The UN Security Council has adopted a comprehensive resolution to respond to the outrageous violence perpetrated by Muammar Qadafi on the Libyan people. This resolution imposes immediate measures to stop the violence, ensure accountability and facilitate humanitarian aid.

The Security Council has demanded an end to the violence and urged Libyan authorities to respect human rights, ensure the safety of foreign nationals allow the safe passage of humanitarian supplies and lift restrictions on all forms of media.
Significantly, the resolution:

1) Refers the situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC)

  • The Security Council referral gives the ICC jurisdiction over crimes committed in Libya after February 15, the day of the first
  • protests in Benghazi. The ICC may investigate crimes including war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
  • A referral the ICC is necessary because Libya is not a party to the ICC Rome Statute.
  • The ICC Prosecutor will report regularly to the Security Council.

2) Imposes an arms embargo and other arms restrictions

  • All states are prohibited to provide any kind of arms to Libya.
  • All states are prohibited from allowing the transit to Libya of mercenaries.
  • Libya is prohibited from exporting any arms to any other state.
  • States are called upon to inspect suspicious cargo that may contain arms. When such arms are found, states are required to seize
  • and dispose of them.
  • All states are called on to strongly discourage their nationals from traveling to Libya to contribute to human rights violations.

3) Imposes targeted sanctions on key regime figures

  • Seventeen Qadafi loyalists are subject to an international travel ban.
  • Six of these individuals, including Qadafi himself and his immediate family members, are also subject to a freeze of their assets.
  • The Security Council commits to ensure that any frozen assets will be made available to benefit the people of Libya.
  • A Sanctions Committee is established to impose targeted sanctions on additional individuals and entities who commit serious
  • human rights abuses, including ordering attacks and aerial bombardments on civilian populations or facilities.

4) Provides for humanitarian assistance

  • All states are called upon to work together to facilitate humanitarian assistance and support the return of humanitarian agencies.
  • The Security Council expresses its readiness to consider additional measures to achieve the delivery of such assistance.

5) Commits to review the measures

  • The Security Council will keep these sanctions under review and strengthen, modify or lift them in light of the situation.

US Permanent UN Ambassador Susan Rice told the press that: “Tonight, the international community has spoken with one voice. Resolution 1970 imposes tough and binding measures that aim to stop the Libyan regime from killing its own people. We want to thank the delegation of the UK for its skillful leadership of this effort in the Council. And we’re very pleased with the outcome, and also with the unity of purpose that the Council has showed in acting quickly and decisively in accordance with its responsibility to protect.

“It’s worth noting that this is the first unanimous Security Council Resolution to refer a case of heinous human rights violations to the International Criminal Court. Finally, it’s also worth noting that the Security Council has not finished its business. It will keep these sanctions under review and strengthen or modify them as the situation evolves. * * *

“We are pleased to have supported this entire resolution and all of its measures, including the referral to the ICC. We are happy to have the opportunity to co-sponsor this and we think that it is a very powerful message to the leadership of Libya that this heinous killing must stop and that individuals will be held personally accountable. * * *

“I can’t remember a time in recent memory when the Council has acted so swiftly, so decisively, and in unanimity on an urgent matter of inter-national human rights. So this in itself is mightily important. Secondly the resolution puts in place some very concrete enforcement mechanisms, a sanctions committee, panels to enforce and review these measures which we have learned are effective in helping the Security Council ensure the effect-ive implementation of its resolutions. I think all members of the Security Council are united in their determination that these sanctions work, that they work as swiftly as possible, and that they have the intended effect of stopping the violence against innocent civilians.”

             On February 25th, the Secretary-General had told the Security Council, inter alia, that: “My Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to protect have reminded the national authorities in Libya, as well as in other countries facing large-scale popular protests, that the heads of State and Government at the 2005 World Summit pledged to protect populations by preventing genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity, as well as their incitement.

            The Security Council resolution pointedly cited not only UN Charter Chapter VII but specifically Article 41 thereof, which authorizes “measures not involving the use of armed force.” Article 42 goes the next step: “Should the Security Council consider that measures provided for in Article 41 would be inadequate or have proved to be inadequate, it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore interna-tional peace and security. Such action may include . . . operations by air, sea or land forces of Members of the United Nations.”

            In other words, the Council might decide in the next few days, if the killing of peaceful demonstrators does not cease, to call on States Members of the UN to volunteer their armed forces to land in Libya in order to protect the lives of innocent civilians.

            While the Secretary-General made only a fleeting reference to respon-sibility to protect (R2P), the extent of UN commitment to that principle needs to be understood. It was first developed out of Canadian dissatisfac-tion with the earlier principle of humanitarian intervention.

A Canadian group called the International Development Research Centre announced in 2002 that, “Following a formal presentation to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Canada recently launched The Responsibility to Protect, the report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS), which addresses the highly complex challenge of reconciling state sovereignty with the humanitarian imperatives stemming from genocide and mass atrocities.”

A supplementary volume to the report contained over 400 pages of research, bibliography and background. The Co-Chairs were Gareth Evans and Mohamed Sahnoun. Thus, if atrocities are still going on during the next few days, the Security Council may well consider military mobilization as a feature of R2P.

That’s all for this February 28th issue of United Nations Week: News and Views. We’ll be back with the next issue. Meantime, do send your own views on these or other UN-related issues to

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