The UN Security Council acted overnight to authorize — some say, belatedly — international action to protection of civilians and areas of civilian population that are under threat of attack in Libya, by adopting UNSC Resolution 1973.
It began by calling for an immediate cease-fire.
The text explicitly mentions Benghazi, which is was under imminent threat (until the Libyan Foreign Minister retracted the threat after accepting the resolution’s call for a cease-fire; earlier, members of the Qaddhafi family said troops loyal to them would be in Benghazi by nightfall
France has reportedly said that military action under this new UNSC resolution would begin within hours — see the report in The Guardian newspaper, here.
France seems to have taken the lead internationally. It was also France which put its foot down in UN Security Council deliberations on 26 February, insisting that a provision must be included in UNSC Resolution 1970, adopted unanimously that day, to refer violence against protesters to the International Criminal Court, or ICC.
Since then, ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has reportedly opened an investigation into events in Libya.
After the new resolution adopted last night, there were indications that NATO will reopen debate on its role in moves to protect civilian life and areas in Libya…
Within hours, Libyan authorities closed the country’s airspace, as Sky News reported here.
A short while later, the Libyan Foreign Minister announced a cease-fire and an end to military operations, saying that the country must obey the UNSC resolutions. He did express concern, however, that the new UNSC resolution envisaged military action against Libya. And he said that the no-fly provisions in the new UNSC resolution should not have included Libyan civilian flights.
The new resolution, in its fourth operative paragraph, ” Authorizes Member States that have notified the Secretary-General, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, and acting in cooperation with the Secretary-General, to take all necessary measures, notwithstanding paragraph 9 of resolution 1970 (2011), to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory, and requests the Member States concerned to inform the Secretary-General immediately of the measures they take pursuant to the authorization conferred by this paragraph which shall be immediately reported to the Security Council”…
“All necessary measures” has typically had a range of meanings when countries actually come to interpret the diplomatic language of UNSC resolutions. It means whatever the most powerful member states want it to mean. In Bosnia, and in its beseiged “safe haven” of Srebrenica, it meant very little, in fact virtually nothing, in 1993, when thousands of Muslim men and boys were massacred despite the presence of a Dutch battalion of UN Peacekeepers…)
Five countries abstained — including two of the UNSC’s five permanent members, Russia + China. Germany, India and Brazil abstained. No countries voted against the draft text, which passed with ten votes, one more than the absolute minimum needed for adoption.
The new resolution was adopted under what are often called (though see paras above) the “binding” and “obligatory” or even “mandatory” provisions of Chapter Seven of the UN Charter.
Indeed, the Arab League last week called on the UNSC to adopt a “no-fly zone” over Libya to save civilian lives.
The Qaddhafi family argues that it has made no air attacks on civilians or civilian areas in Libya. Tanks have indisputably been used against protesters.
The new resolution also “Decides to establish a ban on all flights [though not (a) flights whose sole purpose is humanitarian; or (b) flights evacuating foreign nationals; or (c) flights being undertaken by UN member states to implement paragraph four] in the airspace of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in order to help protect civilians”.
The new resolution also strengthens and gives specific ways to implement the previous UNSC decision (resolution 1970, adopted unanimously on 26 February) which authorizes an arms embargo against Libya, and imposed a freeze of assets of members of the family of Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qaddhafi, and a travel ban on a total of some 22 Libyans.
The new UNSC Resolution 1973, adopted overnight, establishes a sanctions committee, and also calls for the naming of an 8-member Panel of Experts to follow up the implementation of this resolution.