UN Security Council backs sanctions against Libya

Saturday, February 26, 2011

NEW YORK - The UN Security Council late Saturday unanimously approved sanctions against Libya, including an arms embargo and the referral of the situation to International Criminal Court.

The council voted 15-0 to adopt Resolution 1970 imposing a comprehensive arms embargo, a travel ban and freeze of assets on the Gaddafi regime.

Council members called for the full implementation of the sanctions in an effort to stop Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi from further killing civilian protesters seeking his ouster.

Some council members, including the US, Britain,

Germany and France, spoke in favour of the move to refer to the International Criminal Court the killing of civilians by Gaddafi’s forces in the repression of pro-democracy protesters. It was the first time a country has been unanimously referred to the court by the council.

The sanctions are imposed under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, allowing use of force to implement the sanctions. Chapter 7 has in the past been used to deploy peacekeeping missions and conduct military operations in Iraq and Somalia.

Libya’s UN Ambassador Abdurrahim Shalgham welcomed the resolution as a “moral support” for the protesters.

“The regime no longer has credibility,” Shalgham told the council. “This resolution will be a signal to end the fascist regime. I urge the Libyans to renounce Gaddafi and denounce his criminal behaviour.”

Shalgham asked the council not to apply sanctions against those who have resigned their positions or abandoned Gaddafi.

Council members said in speeches following the adoption of the resolution that they welcome the swift response in reaction to the killing in Libya by Gaddafi’s forces. They said the sanctions were a “clear signal” of the unity of the council in opposing the use of force against civilians.

The UN estimates more than 1,000 protesters have been killed by forces loyal to Gaddafi since pro-democracy demonstrations erupted Feb 15, emulating the events in Tunisia and Egypt, which ended with the overthrow of presidents who had held power for decades.

The resolution demanded an “immediate end to the violence and for steps to address the legitimate demands of the population” in Libya.

It called for Libyan authorities to act “with restraint, respect human rights and international humanitarian law”, and facilitate immediate access for international human rights monitors.

The council called for an immediate lifting of restrictions “on all forms of media” and for the safety of foreign nationals to be assured and their departure facilitated.

Under the arms embargo, UN members will take immediate and necessary measures to “prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to Libya … of arms and related material of all types, including weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment”.

Libya would be prohibited from importing all arms and related material and all UN members should prevent their nationals from exporting them.

Germany’s UN Ambassador Peter Wittig praised the council’s “swift and decisive” adoption of the resolution.

“This council and the international community will not tolerate the gross and systematic violations of human rights by the Libyan regime,” Wittig said. “We owe this message to the Libyan people. This is why we impose strong sanctions.”

Wittig said the crimes committed against the Libyans will “not go unpunished”.

US Ambassador Susan Rice echoed remarks by President Barack Obama earlier in the day, calling for Gaddafi to step down.

“The Security Council has come together to condemn violence and pursue accountability,” she said. “This resolution sends a clear signal to the Libyan regime that it must stop the killing of innocent people.”

She said the US supports the referal of “egregious human rights violations” in Libya to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The reference was a sticking point in the resolution because it had been opposed by China and some other council members. Diplomats said that as a compromise the referal would not be undertaken immediately.

Shalgham had signed a letter to the council confirming that the Libyan delegation in New York supports move, helping to sway support for the resolution. But some diplomats warned that the letter may not have any legal impact until the situation in Libya is clarified.

Shalgham said he supports the council’s resolution to “hold to account those responsible for the armed attacks against the Libyan civilians, including through the ICC”.

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