Politics & Policy

U.N. High Commissioner for Civil Rights Advises Intervention in Libya

The international community considers humanitarian intervention:


The world should intervene in Libya to stop the killings and bloodshed there, a senior United Nations official said Friday, as France and Britain called on the United Nations to approve an arms embargo and sanctions on Libya and NATO said it was ready to help to evacuate refugees.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said that “there’s a need for more state action and intervention for protection” of civilians. She told an emergency session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, “In brazen and continuing breach of international law, the crackdown in Libya on peaceful demonstrations is escalating alarmingly with reported mass killings, arbitrary arrests, detention and torture of prisoners.”

The French foreign minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, told French radio that “we cannot make do with speeches any more, we need to act,” while France’s president, Nicolas Sarkozy, visiting Turkey, has asked the United Nations Security Council to meet on Friday in special session to discuss Libya and the efforts of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi to hold on to power. He called on Mr. Qaddafi to resign.

The United States, France and other Western powers are trying to remove Libya from the 47-member Human Rights Council, which would require approval by two-thirds of the General Assembly.

The United Nations Security Council will discuss a proposal backed by France and Britain for sanctions against Libyan leaders, including a possible arms embargo and financial sanctions. No definitive action was expected until next week, and sanctions are unlikely to have any quick impact.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, has said the bloc should consider an arms embargo, travel restrictions and an asset freeze against Libya to try to halt the violence. Britain and Switzerland have frozen Colonel Qaddafi’s assets. But Ms. Ashton said she would wait for the Security Council’s decisions in order to coordinate any actions.

A “no-fly zone” over Libya, as some have suggested to prevent the use of military aircraft against demonstrators, would require a Security Council resolution first, diplomats said.

There was also discussion of bringing a case against Colonel Qaddafi and others in the International Criminal Court. The British prime minister, David Cameron, addressed Colonel Qaddafi in comments to reporters, saying, “The world is watching you, the world will hold you to account. International justice has a long reach and a long memory.”


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