UNSC approves no-fly zone over Libya

Friday, March 18, 2011

Pretoria - The United Nations Security Council has passed a resolution calling for the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya, as well as unspecified "necessary measures" to protect citizens of that country from its own military.

Acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which provides for the use of force if needed, the council adopted a resolution by 10 votes to zero, with five abstentions, authorising Member States to take all necessary measures to protect civilians. 

This means that no flights, except humanitarian ones, will be allowed in Libyan airspace.

South Africa was among the countries which voted in favour of the resolution, while abstentions included China and Russia, which have the power of veto, as well as Brazil, Germany and India.

South Africa voted in favour because it believes that the adoption of these additional measures, including a ceasefire and no-fly zone, will assist in the protection of ordinary people, especially in the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the most needy and vulnerable.

However, South Africa also believes that this resolution must also preserve the unity, sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Libya.

The resolution also widens previous sanctions by imposing asset freezes for seven more of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's supporters and five more entities, including state-owned Libyan companies.

The sanctions include an arms embargo, asset freeze and travel ban on Muammar Gaddafi and his loyalists, and a referral to the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC). 

Expressing grave concern at the deteriorating situation, escalation of violence, and heavy civilian casualties, the Council also specifically called on Arab League states to cooperate with other member states in taking the necessary measures.

The Arab League last weekend requested the council to impose a no-fly zone after Gaddafi was reported to have used warplanes, warships, tanks and artillery to seize back cities taken over in what started out a month ago as mass protests by peaceful civilians seeking an end to his 41-year rule. 

The resolution further strengthens an arms embargo that the council imposed last month when it unanimously approved sanctions against the Libyan authorities, freezing the assets of its leaders and referring the ongoing violent repression of civilian demonstrators to the ICC. 

Demanding an immediate ceasefire and a complete end to violence and all attacks against and abuse of civilians, and condemning the "gross and systematic violation of human rights, including arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances and summary executions," the Council also noted that the attacks currently taking place may amount to crimes against humanity.