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FYI..A comprehensive and balanced view of the Libyan crisis
Reprinted from Caribbean News Now!
caribbeannewsnow.com Commentary: Libya, by what right? Published on
April 1, 2011
By Sir Ronald Sanders
There has been a great debate over the military action in Libya by several
Western governments, supported by some Arab governments. The central
question has been: by what right are these governments intervening in the
internal affairs of a state?
Some context is necessary for the intervention that has been authorised by
the UN Security Council. Sir Ronald Sanders is a
business executive and
former Caribbean diplomat
who publishes widely
on small states in the global
community. Reponses to:
An uprising in Libya against its tyrannical leader Muammar Gaddafi came in
the wake of similar rebellions against the autocratic leaders of Tunisia
and Egypt. It coincided with what appeared to be a sweeping movement in
Yemen, Bahrain and Syria which have now experienced unrest by large numbers of
people who want regime change and greater freedom in their societies.
When the rebellion in Libya started, Gaddafi was merciless in using the
military to try to stifle it. He even recruited mercenaries from African
states in the event that, as had occurred in Egypt, the military showed
reluctance to use violence against their own people. Many hundreds were killed
from the very outset. While the blood of Libyan people was being spilt, the
world was treated to the farce on television of Gaddafi declaring: “My people
love me. My people, they love me”. Gaddafi then went on to claim that the
unrest was created by al Qaida. He did not claim that it was fomented by
Western nations, nor did he assert that the uprising was the work of Western
oil companies intent on seizing Libyan oil.
Apologists for Gaddafi, and those who benefit from his financial help,
close their eyes to decades of despotic rule, brutal human rights abuses,
repression of dissent and murderous adventures in other countries. In trying to
stamp out this rebellion he set upon the populations of Brega and Zawiya
and terrorized the people of Misrata including by using military planes to
Members of both the Arab League and the African Union expressed great
alarm at the extent of force used by Gaddafi and they joined Western states at
the United Nations to call for action to try to stop him. On 27 February
the UN Security Council agreed Resolution 1970 which condemned the actions of
the Libyan authorities, demanded an end to violence, access for
international human rights monitors and the lifting of restrictions on the media.
As the situation continued to deteriorate with more civilians being killed
and Gaddafi’s failure to comply with Resolution 1970, the Security Council
met again and on 18 March adopted Resolution 1973 which called for an
immediate ceasefire and authorised “all necessary measures to protect civilians”
including the imposition of a no-fly zone. It did exclude a foreign
occupation force in Libya.
Resolution 1973 was supported by 10 members of the Security Council with 5
others abstaining. The 5 countries that abstained were China, Russia,
India, Brazil and Germany. Under Article 27 of the UN Charter, decisions of the
Security Council have to be made by an affirmative vote of nine members
including the concurring votes of the permanent members. In this case, 3
permanent members concurred and 2 did not. But, none of the permanent members
cast a veto which could have blocked the resolution, and since an abstention
is neither an affirmative nor a negative vote, it is not sufficient to
prevent action. All the permanent members would be aware of this procedure,
therefore it has to be assumed that Russia and China – the two permanent
members that abstained, but did not cast a veto, had decided it was in their
interest not to oppose the Resolution.
What was behind the Resolution and what further validates the intervention
in Libya is a decision taken by representatives of all governments at the
2005 World Summit. Governments agreed that where an individual state
subjects its people to genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against
humanity, the international community has “the responsibility to act”, and
“in this context”, to take collective action, in a timely and decisive
manner, through the Security Council “should peaceful means be inadequate and
national authorities manifestly fail to protect their populations”.
By his own actions of choosing to respond to the unrest by violence and
killing, Gaddafi set the stage for the intervention that followed based both
on the UN Charter and the decision of the 2005 World Summit on the
international community’s “responsibility to protect” people whose own state turns
At the time of writing, it is by no means clear how events in Libya will
end. Gaddafi and his ruling clique have shown no willingness to engage the
dissenters in a dialogue; if anything they have intensified their military
offensive. Meantime, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) has been
given leadership of the UN Security Council resolution to enforce a no-fly
zone and to protect the lives of civilians. Without committing ground
troops themselves in aid of the poorly-armed and militarily-untrained rebels,
the most that NATO can hope for is the isolation of the Gaddafi regime and
its eventual collapse.
What was the alternative? US President Obama summed it up on March 28 in
an address to the American people when he told them: “There will be times
when our safety is not directly threatened, but our interests and our values
are. Sometimes, the course of history poses challenges that threaten our
common humanity and our common security -– responding to natural disasters,
for example; or preventing genocide and keeping the peace; ensuring
regional security, and maintaining the flow of commerce. These may not be America’
s problems alone, but they are important to us. They’re problems worth
Obama’s words to the American people hold validity for people all over the
world who cherish freedom and uphold the values of human and civil rights.
The world has shrunk in many ways through air travel, instant
communication, interaction between civil society organisations, and a growing sense
that mankind inhabits one planet. Only autocratic regimes still cling to the
notion that ruling regimes must act brutally against their own people to
keep themselves in power.
The “responsibility to protect” proclaimed by the World’s leaders in 2005
– whether all of them meant it or not – is now a principle whose time
shows every sign of having arrived and which a conscientious Security Council
should uphold whenever it is clearly necessary.