UNSC deliberates referring Libya to Int'l Criminal Court

Security Council meets to discuss sanctions against Tripoli; members disagree over proposal to refer Gaddafi to war crimes tribunal.

February 26, 2011 23:17
2 minute read.
The United Nations Security Council (AP).

UNSC 311. (photo credit: AP)

The UN Security Council met urgently Saturday to consider new sanctions against Libya to halt a violent crackdown on anti-government protesters, but members disagreed over a proposal to refer Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and top aides to an international war crimes tribunal.

There was broad consensus among the council's 15 members on some sanctions, including an arms embargo as well as a travel ban and asset freeze directed at Gadhafi, his family and other key regime members, said diplomats who spoke on background because the session was closed.

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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging council members to take immediate action to protect civilians in Libya where some estimates indicate more than 1,000 people have been killed in less than two weeks. Many people in Tripoli and other areas where Gaddafi remains in control cannot leave their homes for fear of being shot.

The major sticking point in council deliberations was language in the proposed draft resolution that refers those responsible for the violent crackdown in Libya to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, or ICC, for investigation of possible crimes against humanity.

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The sanctions being considered do not include a no-fly zone over Libya and no UN-sanctioned military action was planned. NATO has also ruled out any intervention in Libya.

Backers of the proposal circulated by France, Germany, Britain and the United States insisted the reference to the international court is necessary.

But diplomats consulted outside the closed-door session said Portugal was worried that the referral could endanger Portuguese citizens still inside Libya. They added that Brazil, which like Portugal is an ICC member, also opposes the referral to the court, as do China and India, which are not parties to the permanent war crimes tribunal. China as one of the permanent council members has veto power.

France's UN Ambassador Gerard Araud said his country was still working to get consensus, and that "it may all be in the language."

Otherwise, "I have been quite surprised by the commonality of support on the sanctions," Araud said before the midday meeting. "We'll see if it lasts."

The Libyan mission to the UN, run by diplomats who now have all renounced Gadhafi, told the council in a letter that it supports "the measures proposed in the draft resolution to hold to account those responsible for the armed attacks against the Libyan Civilians, including through the International Criminal Court."

The embattled Libyan regime passed out guns to civilian supporters, set up checkpoints Saturday and sent armed patrols roving the terrorized capital to try to maintain control of Gaddafi's stronghold and quash dissent as rebels consolidate control elsewhere in the North African nation.

Residents of its eastern Tajoura district spread concrete blocks, large rocks and even chopped-down palm trees as makeshift barricades to prevent the SUVs filled with young men wielding automatic weapons from entering their neighborhood — a hotspot of previous protests.

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