Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for “immediate action” on the Security Council’s authorization of the use of “all necessary measures” to protect civilians in Libya, terming it a “historic” affirmation of the global community’s responsibility to protect people from their own government’s violence.
The Council yesterday passed a resolution permitting the use of all necessary measures, including the imposition of a no-fly zone, to prevent further attacks and the loss of innocent lives in Libya, where the regime of Muammar al-Qadhafi has conducted a military offensive against citizens seeking his removal from power.
Following the adoption of the resolution, media reports stated that Libyan authorities had declared a ceasefire. Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa was quoted as saying that the truce was intended to “to protect civilians.”
The Arab League last weekend requested the Council to impose a no-fly zone after Qadhafi was reported to have used warplanes, warships, tanks and artillery to seize back cities taken over after weeks of mass protests by peaceful civilians seeking an end to his 41-year rule.
Ban said that in adopting Resolution 1973, the Council had placed great importance on the appeal of the League of Arab States for action.
“Given the critical situation on the ground, I expect immediate action on the resolution’s provisions. I am prepared to carry out my responsibilities, as mandated by the resolution, and will work closely with Member States and regional organizations to coordinate a common, effective and timely response,” the Secretary-General said in a statement issued overnight.
The resolution requested Ban to inform the Council immediately of any actions taken by the Member States as well as to appoint an eight-member expert panel to monitor implementation of its terms, including an arms embargo.
“Once again, I join the Council in calling for an immediate cease-fire, a halt to all attacks on civilians and full humanitarian access to those in need. Our strenuous diplomatic efforts will continue,” Ban said.
He said his Special Envoy for Libya, Abdul Ilah Khatib, yesterday met with the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States in Cairo following his visit to Libya. Khatib was due to brief the Secretary-General at the weekend. “I myself will travel to the region to advance our common efforts in this critical hour,” said Ban.
Acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which provides for the use of force if needed, the Council adopted the resolution by 10 votes to zero, with five abstentions, authorizing Member States “to take all necessary measures… to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamhariya, including Benghazi, while excluding an occupation force.”
The abstentions included China and Russia, which have the power of veto, as well as Brazil, Germany and India.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) also welcomed the Council’s move, terming it an important manifestation of the international community’s commitment to the principle of responsibility to protect civilians.
“We are extremely worried about reprisals against opposition supporters by pro-Government forces and security agents in Libya. No one knows what has been going on in the towns that were first of all held by the opposition and then recaptured by Government forces,” Rupert Colville, the OHCHR spokesperson told reporters in Geneva.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), meanwhile, reported that the number of Libyans fleeing to Egypt has been on the rise over the past few days, with about 1,490 of the 3,163 Libyan refugees already in Egypt arriving on Wednesday.
The agency’s spokesperson in Geneva, Melissa Fleming, told reporters that UNHCR and its partners have done extensive contingency planning and are ready to work with the Egyptian Government to prepare for a massive influx of people fleeing the violence in Libya.
A total of 300,706 people, most of them foreign workers, had fled Libya to neighboring countries as of 16 March, according to UNHCR.
Earlier, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, expressed grave concern over reports of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas in Libya and called on the authorities to refraining from the use of such weapons in populated areas.