UN Security Council slaps sanctions on Libya's Gaddafi

All 15 nations on UNSC also approve referring Libya to war crimes tribunal; council members freeze assets of Libyan leader and family.

UNSC 311 (photo credit: AP)
UNSC 311
(photo credit: AP)
The United Nations Security Council in New York late Saturday night unanimously approved an arms embargo against Libya, imposed a travel ban on the country’s leader and members of his family, froze their financial assets and referred to the matter to the International Criminal Court for investigation.
French Ambassador to the UN Gerard Araud told reporters after the vote that the Security Council actions went well beyond Libya and touched on the winds of change sweeping the Arab world.
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“It is a warning to all leaders who would be tempted to use repression against this wind of change and liberty.
“We felt it in the Security Council. You are feeling it in the corridors. There is an earthquake and this earthquake has reached New York,” he said.
In this new era, he said, the international community has the responsibility to protect defenseless people whose governments have acted against them.
“If a government is not willing or able to protect its own population, it means that the international community has the right and the duty to step in,” Araud said.
British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, whose country presented resolution 1970 to the Security Council on Friday, told reporters that the document involved four measures.
“An assets freeze on [Libyan leader] Col. [Muammar] Gaddafi and members of his immediate family, with the assurance that the frozen assets will be used in the support of the Libyan people.
“It includes a travel ban on Col. Gaddafi and members of his family and senior members of the regime. An arms embargo to ensure that no more arms flow to the regime in Tripoli and also to stop an inflow of arms, which might sustain a longer term conflict,” he said.
Click for full Jpost coverage of turmoil in the Middle East
Click for full Jpost coverage of turmoil in the Middle East
There is also, “an immediate referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court, with the international prosecutor reporting back to the Security Council within two months,” Grant said.
US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said that Saturday night’s vote was historic.
“I can't remember a time when the council has acted so swiftly, decisively and unanimously on an urgent matter of human rights,” she said.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that the resolution sent “a strong message that gross violations of basic human rights will not be tolerated, and that those responsible for grave crimes will be held accountable.”
Libyan Deputy Ambassador to the UN Ibrahim Dabbashi welcomed the vote.
“We owed this message to the Libyan people,” he said.
Council members, however, did not consider imposing a no-fly zone over Libya, and no UN-sanctioned military action was planned. NATO also has ruled out any intervention in Libya.
Indian Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri noted his country is not an ICC member, and would have "preferred a calibrated and gradual approach," but decided to accept the referral because other council members believed it would help end the violence in Libya.
There had been doubts that China, a permanent council member with veto power, would join the vote if the referral to the tribunal was included. But Chinese Ambassador Li Baodong said his country was concerned about the large number of Chinese citizens who work in Libya.
Earlier on Saturday, US President Barack Obama said in a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that Gadhafi needs to do what's right for his country by "leaving now."
The White House on Friday announced sweeping new sanctions and temporarily abandoned its embassy in Tripoli as a final flight carrying American citizens left the embattled capital. The US put an immediate freeze on all assets of the Libyan government held in American banks and other U.S. institutions. The sanctions also freeze assets held by Gadhafi and four of his children.
Britain and Canada, meanwhile, temporarily suspended operations at their embassies in Tripoli and evacuated their diplomatic staff after the Libyan uprising that began Feb. 15 swept over nearly the entire eastern half of the country, snatching entire cities in that region out of the government's grasp. Gadhafi and his backers still to hold the capital Tripoli and have threatened to continue to violently suppress protests.
There have been reports that Gadhafi's government forces have been firing indiscriminately on peaceful protesters. Estimates are that upwards of 1,000 people have been killedGadhafi is no stranger to international isolation.
UN sanctions were slapped on his country after suspected Libyan agents planted a bomb that blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988, killing 270 people, mostly Americans.
Libya accepted responsibility for the bombing in 2003 and pledged to end efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction. The US and Libya in 2009 exchanged ambassadors for the first time in 35 years, after Libya paid about $2.7 billion in compensation to the families of the Lockerbie victims.
In Geneva on Friday, the UN Human Rights Council called for an investigation into possible crimes against humanity in Libya and recommended Libya's suspension from membership of the world body's top human rights body. The United Nations General Assembly is due to debate that matter early this week.
AP contributed to this report.