Statement on the Western-led military operation in Libya
1 On 17 March, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1973 by a vote of 10 in favour to none against, with 5 abstentions (Brazil, China, Germany, India, Russian Federation).
The resolution demands that Libyan authorities immediately establishment of a cease-fire and a complete end to violence and all attacks against, and abuses of, civilians, and further demands the same authority comply with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law, human rights and refugee law, and to ensure the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian assistance;
It further authorizes Member States that have notified the Secretary-General to take all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack (para 4), establishes a ban on all flights in the airspace of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in order to help protect civilians (para 6), and authorizes Member States that have notified the United Nations Secretary-General and the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States to take all necessary measures to enforce compliance with the ban on flights (para 8).
While the Libyan authority announced that it would accept all recommendations made by the Security Council immediately after the Security Council resolution was adopted, violence against civilians did not cease, and Western-led military operations commenced. According to some reports, civilians have been killed and civilian facilities have suffered damage as a result of the attacks by the multinational forces.
2 Human Rights Now, a Tokyo based international human rights NGO has condemned the serious human rights violations committed by the Libyan government, and has called for their immediate end.
However, while human rights violations and hostilities have not ceased, a situation has arisen in which, on top of the civil war between the Libyan government and anti-government forces, the multinational forces have commenced military action against the Libyan government.
Human Rights Now, expresses its gravely concerned that the developments in Libya’s situation bring the heightened risk of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law committed against civilians, violations of the right to life, and the worsening of the humanitarian situation in Libya.
At the Security Council’s session, India, Germany and Brazil emphasized the necessity of peaceful settlement of the conflict and warned that unexpected consequences could arise as a result of the military intervention. In addition, representatives of China and Russia at the UN stated that peaceful settlement of the conflict should be prioritised and raised questions regarding who and how the resolution would be implemented, and whether there would be any limits on implementation.
Security Council Resolution 1973 authorizes the multinational forces (comprised of UN Member states) to take “all necessary measures”, including military action. However, it is not clear at what stage efforts for peaceful settlement can be said to have been exhausted so that military action becomes an option. Nor is it clear who may take part in the military intervention, or who the commander of the multinational forces is. Further, there are no limitations placed on the period and methods of military engagement.
Once a Security Council resolution such as this is passed, multinational forces are vested with comprehensive powers over the term and methods of the military operation, its own chain of command and the decision regarding the commencement of military operations. The UN’s control over these matters becomes unclear.
Many UN Member States, including those who voted in favor of Resolution 1973, have indeed been excluded from the implementation process of the resolution. The UN’s supervisory responsibility and accountability for the any military measure authorized by the resolution is ambiguous.
Human Rights Now believes that it is necessary to fully review and reconsider the nature and terms of Security Council resolutions entailing the aforementioned problem.
3 Human Rights Now urges all participants in the hostilities to respect their obligations under international law.Resolution 1973 takes as its objective the “protection of civilians” through “all necessary measures” and does not allow as a deviation from this purpose the attack of civilians.
While the resolution does not contain a provision which calls on the multinational forces to respect international human rights law, humanitarian law and criminal law, all states which participate in the military intervention obviously have an obligation to respect these laws. Not only the Libyan government and the anti-government forces, but also the multinational forces, must fully carry out obligations under international human rights law, humanitarian law and criminal law.
The targets of the multinational forces’ military operation must be limited to military facilities and other military objectives; attacks which target civilians are unlawful. Further, all parties in the hostilities have an obligation to take all possible precautionary measures to avoid harming civilians.
In addition, Resolution 1970, which preceded Resolution 1973, states that the Security Council decides to ‘refer the situation in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya since 15 February 2011 to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court’ (para 4); it also “[d]ecides that nationals … from a state outside the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya which is not a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of that State for all alleged acts or omissions arising out of or related to the operations in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya established or authorized by the Council…’ (para. 6). As the 12 States which have notified the UN Secretary General of their participation in the military operation sanctioned by Resolution 1973 (excluding the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Ukraine) are parties to the ICC Statute, they are subject to the ICC’s jurisdiction. Further, each of the 12 countries, including the 4 countries which are not parties to the ICC Statute, bears an obligation to prosecute soldiers of their forces who have been involved in war crimes.
4 Lastly, Human Rights Now urges the United Nations to take as great a role as possible to achieve peaceful resolution of the conflict and human rights situation in Libya based on its primary purpose articulated in article 1 of UN Charter,, the peaceful settlement of conflict and the respect for human rights. HRN continues to call on all UN Member states to take diplomatic efforts to so that the UN may play such a role.
※A board member Kanae Doi declined to endorse this statement.