Tag Archive | "Libya"

Critical Analysis: Egyptians Protest Christian’s Death in Libyan Prison

Protestors burn a flag belonging to the Libyan Embassy to protest the death of an Egyptian Christian suspected of proselytizing in Libya. (Ahramonline)

Protestors burn a flag belonging to the Libyan Embassy to protest the death of an Egyptian Christian suspected of proselytizing in Libya. (Ahram Online)

On March 11, Egyptian protestors burned a flag belonging to the Libyan Embassy in Cairo to protest the death of an Egyptian Christian suspected of proselytizing in Libya. The Egyptian Christian, Ezzat Atallah, died in prison where he was detained in Libya with four other Egyptians – all charged with spreading Christianity.  While the Egyptian Foreign Ministry claimed that Ezzat Atallah died of natural causes, protestors suspected that poor prison conditions and possible torture contributed to Atallah’s death in Libyan prison.  The Coptic Christian protestors, which numbered around 100, chanted “the killing of Copts is illegal,” while some masked the Libyan flag with an Egyptian one. In response, Libyan nationals inside the embassy attempted to burn the Egyptian flag and raise two more Libyan flags.

Last week, fifty-five Egyptians suspected of spreading Christianity, the same crime for which Ezzat Atallah was detained, were released from Libya. Thirty-five of the released prisoners were deported for illegal entry into Libya, while the remaining twenty were allowed to stay.  The protests come amid reports that one hundred Coptic Christians are being held by the “ultraconservative” Islamist Libyan militia.  Currently, four foreigners are still being held in Libyan prison for espionage and proselytizing including a Swedish-American, South Korean, South African and an Egyptian.

The Coptic Youth Front began the protest when it announced that it would start its sit-in by the embassy. The Youth Front simultaneously demanded that Atallah’s family be appropriately compensated for his death and that the other prisoners arrested on the same charges be released and returned back to Egypt. The Youth Front stated that they would not move until this had occurred. The previous day, Atallah’s brother spoke to the media stating that his brother had been tortured after moving from Benghazi.  Protestors were outspoken about Libya’s actions.  “Egyptians should not be arrested arbitrarily (in Libya) just because they are Christian,” Sameh Saad, a lawyer, told one media source.  “Atallah had a business there and his wife and children.  Why would he jeopardize his life?”  Others protested to stand up for the rights of Christians globally, especially in strict Islamic nations where Christian animosity is the greatest.  “I joined the vigil here to call for the release of Christians detained for simply possessing Bibles and portraits (of Jesus),” Mina Karas, a university student, told the media.  Karas went on to claim that Egypt’s Islamist President Mohammed Morsi must do more to help those detained in Libya.

The Egyptian church is in charge of wrapping up the legal ties of Atallah’s death.  Bishop Pachomius, a leading pope of the patriarchic Coptic Church, has been in touch with officials in Egypt, the Egyptian Embassy in Libya, and the ministry of foreign affairs.  He recommended that the victim’s family contact the Egyptian embassy in Libya to complete the legal affairs of Atallah’s death and to discuss logistics of transporting his body from Libya to Egypt.  As more attention is drawn to Libya for detaining Christians for “proselytizing,” hopefully the ultra-conservative Libyan government will be deterred from such harsh punishment against Christians who simply possess Bibles.

Dan Warhola is a 3L at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and the Executive Editor of the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Critical Analysis: Libya Consulate Attack Sparks Backlash Against Militias

Protestors react to the killing of Christopher Stevens. (The Daily World)

The attack on the United States consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, provoked widespread outrage not only in the international community, but among Libyans themselves. In the weeks since the attack, thousands of Libyans have joined protests against the radical militia believed responsible, as well as other militias that have been operating outside of government control since the fall of Muammar al-Qaddafi.

Early on September 22, protestors in Benghazi stormed the compounds of the Ansar al-Sharia Brigade and forced the group to flee the city. Militia fighters put up a brief fight, but a spokesman for the group later announced it had evacuated their base, claiming to have done so to preserve security. The takeover came after 30,000 people marched through Benghazi the previous day demanding the disbanding of the militias, in the city’s largest protest since the uprising against Qaddafi.

Following the Benghazi protests, Libya’s interim government announced it would disband all armed militias not under its authority. The government has struggled to form a cohesive national military or assert control over the numerous separate militias that formed during the civil war, but the consulate attack and the public backlash have increased pressure for more decisive action. Shortly after fleeing Benghazi, Ansar al-Sharia and another Islamist militia also evacuated bases in the nearby city of Derna, saying they would disband.

The backlash against the militias is a powerful example of the rejection of conservative Islamist and extremist groups that have made major political gains in other post-revolutionary countries in the Middle East. Libya’s first multi-party elections, held in July, were won by a moderate coalition, while parties linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups fared poorly.

While security and the functioning of government in Libya are likely to be ongoing concerns, the response to the attack illustrates factors that make Libya distinctive among the countries emerging from the Arab Spring. First, the Libyan people continue to be engaged and ready to mobilize against potential threats to democratic development, and to demand better performance from their new government. They also are showing themselves more in favor of moderate politics and more resistant to religious, anti-Western politics than, for example, Egyptians. This presents an important opportunity for the United States to forge a positive relationship in the Middle East as it continues to transform.

Travis Gardner is a third year law student and a staff editor on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Critical Analysis: Libya Elects New Prime Minister

New Prime Minister Ali Zidan (BBC)

Libya’s 200 member national congress has elected Ali Zidan as its new prime minister.  Zidan, a former Congressman and human rights lawyer, won 93 votes, securing a majority for him from those present and voting.  Zidan, an independent, beat a candidate favored by the Justice and Construction party,a party linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.

The country’s national assembly president announced Zidan’s victory and requested that he propose a cabinet within two weeks.  Libya’s previous Prime Minister elect, Mustafa Abu Shagur, was dismissed after only 25 days in the position because he had failed to form a viable Cabinet list that staffed qualified legislators.  Zidan had unsuccessfully run against Mustafa Abu Shagur in the last election.

Zidan was a career diplomat under Colonel Muammar Gadhafi before he defected in the early 1980s.  He then joined Libya’s oldest opposition movement, National Front for the Salvation of Libya, from Geneva where he was in exile.

He served the former transitional government as its Europe envoy.  He was also seen as a key player in convincing former French President Nicolas Sarkozy to join the uprising against Gaddafi.  BBC’s Rana Jawad, in Tripoli, says the local observers portray him as liberal with a strong personality.

Because security is still not established across the country and western Libya is still seeing outbreaks of renewed violence, this election comes at a crucial time.

 Alexis Kirkman is a 3L and a Candidacy Editor on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.


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Critical Analysis: Disbanding Libyan Militias

Libyan militias parade though Tripoli, Libya.
(Christian Science Monitor)

According to USA Today, President Mohammed el-Megaref called for “all of the country’s militia to come under government authority or disband.” This move appears to be aimed at harnessing popular sentiment against the militia groups around the country. Since the revolution last year that saw such groups topple Dictator Moammar Gadhafi, there has been public backlash against armed factions that continue to run rampant across the nation after the revolution. The government has been quick to take advantage of the public’s backlash, even going so far to state that the military would “resort to force if the groups refuse.”

The Libyan government has already taken steps to ensure the militias disband. According to the Libya Herald, the National Army drove a “reengage army division” from its base near Tripoli’s airport road, one day after the government had issued its ultimatum. Furthermore, the Army reported it had raised the Secondary Technical Barracks, another prominent militia, and that it had “arrested all the members of the group as well as confiscated the weapons found at the location.” In Benghazi an agreement has been reached between the government and a number of the militia groups to bring the militias under army control.

Although the Libyan government used public anger as the rationale to disband the militias, it has also been an important step in diminishing international pressure. Since the deaths of 11 Americans, a number of foreign embassies remain on security lockdown. Many embassies fearing “jihadist units in the capital will seek revenge for the humiliating rout of their comrades” being disbanded, the Libyan government had a strong incentive in maintaining control and order within the country.  Overall, the move seems to be working. For example, the Raffala al-Sahati milita, whose soldiers shot a number of the 11 protestors killed over the weekend, told Libya’s state news agency “they had decided their role was over” and would disband. Furthermore, according to The Guardian, Benghazi officials are allowing an FBI team to come to Libya to join in the investigation of the deaths of the 11 Americans at the consulate.

The Libyan government still faces a number of obstacles and even though  Libya’s first free election in decades took place in July, it needs to remain cautious in ordering the militias to disband. Not only does the government rely on the militias “for protection of vital institutions and has used them to secure the borders, airports, hospitals, and even July’s elections” but the militias are also an important contracted security force. In the coming weeks, it will be essential for the government to continue to call for the disbandment of the militia groups while maintaining dialogue and cooperation with such groups at the same time to stifle violence and continue legitimizing state authority.

Victoria Kelley is a 3L at the Sturm College of Law. She is currently the Alumni Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy and a member of the Jessup International Moot Court Team.

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Critical Analysis: The Diplomatic Irony-A Fine Line Between Peace and Violence


A Libyan protestor waves outside the U.S. consulate compound
(Huffington Post)

Late at night on September 11, 2012, the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya came under fire from a violent mob.  The protesters swarmed and set fire to the embassy, and American and Libyan forces did not regain control until 2:00 A.M., roughly four hours after the attackers first stormed the premises.  Four Americans were killed during the attack, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens.  On a day already sensitive to Americans for the powerful memories of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and United 93, the assault on an American embassy raises questions about our foreign policy in the Middle East.

The protests outside the embassy were apparently in response to an inflammatory anti-Muslim video, which provoked similar responses in Egypt.  Adding confusion to the issue, the identity of the filmmaker is unknown; the person is rumored to be either Coptic Christian or Jewish.  While its maker remains a mystery, the video’s very existence emphasizes the potential dangers for a diplomat in an unstable region.  American ambassadors and their staff received recommendations to leave certain countries, including Libya, soon after the offensive video appeared on YouTube.  For officials whose jobs require monitoring, understanding, and improving volatile situations, there is a thin line between working in diplomacy and being thrown into aggression.

An ambassador’s responsibilities are based on trying to improve relations through diplomatic efforts.  This results in an ironic foreign policy situation for ambassadors in hostile or unstable areas, such as the Middle East.  The envoy must become established as a peaceful, non-threatening person who takes a genuine interest in the country.  Stevens appears to have achieved that objective.  During his service in Libya, he worked to promote the new democratic government and opened the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, despite the possible dangers in a country greatly affected by civil war and continuing violence.

John Limbert, who was among the U.S. embassy staff taken hostage in Iran thirty-three years ago, raises the issue that a consul’s regard for personal safety can undermine diplomatic endeavors.  Limbert notes, “You can’t just hop in your own car and drive off to a dinner somewhere.  You come up with follow cars and chase cars and guys toting guns around.  And then you say ‘I’m from the US government and I’m here to help?’”  When working with U.S. diplomatic staff in Iraq, Limbert tried to convey a less hostile demeanor by wearing no armored clothing and having security with minimal weapons.  Appearing in a less physically threatening manner can improve diplomatic work, even though security is a significant concern for diplomats.

However, U.S. foreign policy on an individual level can only prove effective with a national framework behind it.  After the anti-Muslim video was posted, Stevens’ individual efforts in Libya were not enough to stop violent protests and attacks on the American embassy.  There were still too many tensions due to the United States’ international image to deflect such violence.  The United States needs to reconsider its foreign policy and its foreign image so that its ambassadors will better be able to balance the fine line between diplomacy and hostility.

Tanny Sevy is a 3L at the University of Denver School of Law and the Survey Editor of DJILP. 

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Critical Analysis: Libya’s Lessons for the Responsibility to Protect

Libya Post-Qaddafi (The Guardian)

As the dust from the armed intervention in Libya settles, the dangers of outright regime change are laid bare.  This has brought about a certain amount of what might be called buyer’s remorse on the part of organizations and governments previously supportive of the humanitarian intervention in Libya.  One of the main problems of regime change is the power vacuum left by the previous regime.  Once the previous regime is removed, the ensuing vacuum opens up space for various previously repressed or insignificant power brokers to take prominence in the new order.  In the case of Libya, removing the Qaddafi regime precipitated the rise of local government and militias at the expense of the central government.  Additionally, the sudden release of oppressive pressure from the top has led to acts of retribution based on longstanding grudges.  These acts of retribution have been both organized and unorganized, and human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, accuse the Libyan anti-Qaddafi militias of gross and widespread human rights violations.  Homelessness, violence, and lawlessness are widespread and acts of retaliation against the Tuareg population are ubiquitous.

In the last few days, the rift between the central government and the local power brokers hit the world stage with the detention of the International Criminal Court’s delegation.  The delegation was on its way to visit Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, Muammar Qaddafi’s son, when a local militia group detained them in the western town of Zintan.  Although the central government and the ICC have demanded their release, the militia has refused.  The refusal lays bare the divisive issue of prosecution of the previous regime.  Although the ICC has asserted jurisdiction over members of the previous regime, the Zintan militia and other factions within the Libyan state have expressed their desire to have members of the previous regime tried in Libyan courts.

The ICC has a statutory responsibility of complimentarity to domestic jurisdictions; that is, the ICC may only take jurisdiction over a case if the domestic courts are unwilling or unable to prosecute.  Although various human rights organizations, and the ICC itself, have expressed doubts about the capability of the Libyan judicial system and, moreover, the state of human rights within the Libyan state, various factions within Libya assert that the judicial system is willing and able to prosecute members of the previous regime.

Other divisions since the end of the Qaddafi regime are becoming apparent, as relations between the majority Arab population and the minority Tuareg population demonstrate.  Indeed, whereas the speedy removal of Colonel Qaddafi was hailed as a victory for the principle of the responsibility to protect, recent attacks by local and national militias, particularly against the city of Tawargha, have been decried as war crimes, undermine that progress.  These crimes might also fall under the jurisdiction of the ICC, though a continued relationship with the new Libyan regime would be necessary in order to bring the violators to justice.  Such a continued fruitful relationship seems unlikely at this point.

These divisions underline the importance of the humanitarian aspects of any humanitarian intervention.  It is apparent that armed intervention in support of a civilian revolution is insufficient to fulfill humanitarian goals, and that, as demonstrated in Afghanistan and Iraq, regime change must be followed with extensive support to rebuild infrastructure and civil and political institutions.  Invoking a responsibility to protect during the armed intervention and then stepping back to allow the inevitable violent effects of regime change to take their natural course is irresponsible at best, and criminal at worst.  The responsibility to protect must apply not only to vicious dictators, but also to well-meaning intervening states.  That is to say, in order to be a meaningful, coherent policy, any state invoking the responsibility to protect must include a plan to address the consequences of their actions, including the prosecution of members of the previous regime and the ensuing violence and retaliation.

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Saif el-Islam al-Gadhafi

News Post: Which Court Should Try Seif-al-Islam el-Qaddafi?

By: Brandi Joffrion

Saif el-Islam al-Gadhafi

Saif el-Islam al-Gadhafi

Libyan rebels captured Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, Moammar Gadhafi’s son, this past Saturday.  Within hours after his capture, the International Criminal Court’s (“ICC”) prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, announced that he would be traveling to Libya becaus Seif-al-Islam is wanted by the ICC for charges of crimes against humanity.  However, Libya is not a member of the ICC Rome Statute, and it is arguable that Libya may not have an obligation under the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1970 to cooperate with the ICC’s regulations.  If Libya were to cooperate, it would have to hand over Seif-al-Islam or, at the very least, recognize that Libya is within the ICC’s jurisdiction to determine whether Seif-al-Islam can, and should, be tried in Libya’s domestic courts.

The rebels from the town of Zintan, who captured Seif-al-Islam, and the unelected interim government of Libya want him tried in Libya, where he would face the death penalty.  This is assuming, of course, that he is not murdered before trial, as occurred to his father.  The ICC, on the other hand, forbids capital punishment and would therefore not seek the death penalty against Seif-al-Islam.  Additionally, concerns have been raised that if Seif-al-Islam is not tried in Libya, Libyan citizens would be denied due justice.

Despite these concerns, it is argued that Seif-al-Islam should be tried in the ICC in order to prevent a repeat of the depraved proceedings that were brought against the Iraqi leaders.  In those cases, the leaders never received due process since they were never tried for their crimes of genocide due to the United States’ insistence that Saddam receive the death penalty.  According to the ICC’s statute, a sovereign nation is to be given priority to try its own citizens and the ICC is only to act as a court of last resort in the instance that the local justice system is in a state of “substantial collapse” or unable to operate in an impartial manner.  Currently, Libya has no working court system that will satisfy international standards and it plans to enforce the death penalty without regard to ICC standards.  Moreover, the Libyan people have demonstrated their willingness to take justice into their own hands without resorting to the justice system, as exemplified through Gadhafi’s death last month at the whim of his captors.

However, Libyan citizens could acquire justice through the ICC if it were to try Seif-al-Islam.  It is mandated that all ICC trials be televised, and either part or all of Seif-al-Islam’s trial proceedings could be held in Libya even if tried by the ICC.  Furthermore, it is possible to hold two trials: one trial in the ICC, in which the ICC would charge Seif-al-Islam with crimes against humanity, and a second trial in Libya’s domestic courts, in which Seif-al-Islam could be tried for a wider scope of crimes, which could include anything from corruption and abuse of state funds to murder and torture.

Trying Seif-al-Islam within the ICC would also set precedent for future Libyan officials who are in violation of international law and who are indicted for crimes against humanity.  As one of the “most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole,” it is argued that crimes against humanity should take precedence over any individual charges of murder or corruption that could be alleged within domestic courts.  In addition, the ICC provides for a fair and transparent process within the international criminal justice system by permitting the accused to raise defenses and summon witnesses, and by empanelling impartial judges, as well as requiring the heightened burden of proof  of proof beyond a reasonable doubt for any individual who may be convicted by the ICC.

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Libya and the Responsibility to Protect

The Death of R2P

Libya and the Responsibility to Protect

Libya and the Responsibility to Protect

A few weeks ago, Professor Ved Nanda posted on the significance of the Libya conflict for the concept of R2P. This entry takes issue with with Professor Nanda’s comment that “time will tell whether NATO by overstepping its mandate in Libya may have damaged the concept”, and instead argues that R2P in its current form has been damaged beyond repair, never to be utilised again. This pessimistic observation is a direct consequence of the problems of intervention in Libya.

The recognition given to the concept of R2P in 2005 was, as Professor Nanda notes, a momentous achievement. The concept itself reworks in a more positive manner the approach of several jurists1 who advocated the idea of a qualified sovereignty in cases that demanded humanitarian intervention – an idea which understandably aroused great suspicion on the part of post-colonial nations and the developing world. R2P may have seemed a more palatable option due to the emphasis on the availability of intervention as a last resort (including a more structured process for encouraging compliance with human rights standards) as well as post conflict solutions. However, these elements, which formed a large part of the lengthy ICISS report,2 were left untouched in the World Summit Outcome Document. The relevant paragraphs3 were undoubtedly the product of a compromise in which R2P suffered in its association with the controversial, unilateral notion of humanitarian intervention. The clear focus of the delegates, therefore, was to restrict R2P to Security Council authorised action.

Although the UN Secretary General, acting through his Special Representative on R2P,4 has provided valuable guidance and elucidation of R2P,5 it is important to remember that this does not represent the state of international law on the subject. The report has not been endorsed by the General Assembly, indeed, the GA 6th (Legal) Committee remains divided on the proper scope of R2P and its use.

Authorisation of the use of force in an R2P scenario could be considered controversial, but it submitted that such action falls within the tendency of the Security Council to broaden its mandate since the early 1990′s. From this perspective, the affirmation of R2P in the World Summit Outcome Document is merely confirmation that the Security Council is permitted to view a wholly internal, R2P situation as a threat to international peace and security, thus allowing it to legitimately respond under Chapter VII. In UNSC Resolution 1973, it would appear that this is exactly what occurred. Whether NATO, in acting pursuant to that Resolution, has exceeded its mandate is a difficult question which will not be pursued here – but what is clear is that when a mandate is phrased in functional terms such as ‘protection of civilians’, the contours of that authorisation will prove controversial. The emphasis placed on authorisation rather than the content of R2P has lead to its destruction as a credible mechanism. In invoking an R2P concept that lacked clear agreed content, the door was opened to criticisms of mission creep. When such criticism comes from Permanent Members of the Security Council, it would appear that R2P in its current form was a one off magic bullet. It took great efforts to secure UNSC Resolution 1973 – efforts that will likely be in vain in future situations due to the Libyan experience and the negative reactions of P5 members.6

What, then, is the future of R2P? One solution would be to have a clearly defined concept which, when invoked, would leave less room for interpretative differences, at least in terms of the basic mission. This might then give the members of the Security Council renewed confidence to invoke it. However, the difficulties in agreeing anything in the 6th Committee, the lack of positive response to the Secretary General’s understanding of R2P, and the failure of the World Summit Outcome Document to adopt more than a few lines of the ICISS report indicate that such hopes may well be in vain.

The second solution, which might be favourable, is the development of regional arrangements which utilise the concept. Art 4(h) of the AU Constitution provides a prime example of such a position.7 However, it is also illustrative of the problems with this approach, in that the required approval was not given in the case of Libya, leading perhaps to the conclusion that regional arrangements might be more illusory than real. In addition, there remains the issue of whether such authorisation is compatible with the prohibition on the use of force, often invoked as a norm of ius cogens.8

The third, most realistic, and most undesirable option is that R2P will continue to be invoked on a unilateral or multilateral basis outside of the Security Council. The reaction of states to the NATO intervention in Kosovo suggests that such an approach is not permitted under international law, and their insistence on Security Council authorisation in the World Summit Outcome Document supports this view. In taking that step, states emphasised their worries about imperialist ambition and state supported regime change. The irony is that the Libyan campaign, the greatest success of R2P, is also its greatest failure. The scenarios which the contributors to the World Summit sought so hard to avoid have been made more likely by their unfinished and imperfect solution.

  1. See e.g. M Reisman and M McDougal, Humanitarian Intervention to protect the Ibos, in RB Lillich (ed.), Humanitarian Intervention and the United Nations, Charlottesville, 1973, p. 177.
  2. http://www.scribd.com/doc/52015826/Responsibility-to-Protect-Iciss-Report
  3. Paras 138, 139, at http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N05/487/60/PDF/N0548760.pdf
  4. http://www.un.org/en/preventgenocide/adviser/index.shtml
  5. Principally in his report, Implementing the Responsibility to Protect at http://globalr2p.org/pdf/SGR2PEng.pdf
  6. The Chinese and Russian vetoes in respect of the ongoing situation in Syria might be illustrative of this stance, despite the fact that no military action has been proposed.
  7. http://www.au2002.gov.za/docs/key_oau/au_act.htm
  8. For a recent and I would argue, persuasive article to the effect that the prohibition on the use of force is not a norm of ius cogens, see Green, Questioning the Peremptory Status of the Prohibition of the Use of Force (2011) 32 Michigan Journal of International Law 215-255.

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Libyans celebrate their freedom

Libya and the “Responsibility to Protect”

The recent uprisings which toppled Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt spread fast throughout the Middle East and North Africa.  They overtook Libya, as well.  Inspired by the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, protesters and demonstrators filled the streets in several Libyan cities.  Qaddafi called those opposing his brutally repressive regime, “cockroaches” and “rats” who did not deserve to live, and his bloodthirsty forces, including mercenaries, indiscriminately executed any suspected rebel.  The UN Security Council invoked for the first time ever the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P), an emerging new norm of international law.

Condemning the violence and use of force by the Libyan government against civilians and welcoming the similar early condemnation by the Arab League, the African Union and the Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Conference, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution on February 26, 2011, demanding an immediate end to the violence, and urging the Libyan authorities to act “with the utmost restraint, respect human rights and international humanitarian law.”  It also decided to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court and imposed sanctions on Libya, including an arms embargo, a travel ban against 16 named Libyan government officials, including Qaddafi, his sons and daughter, and freezing the Qaddafi family assets.

Libyans celebrate their freedom

Libyans celebrate their freedom

As the Libyan situation worsened and Qaddafi continued his brutal oppression in defiance of the Security Council’s resolution, the Council adopted Resolution 1973 on March 17, 2011, authorizing member states “to take all necessary measures . . .  to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack.”  It also established a no-fly zone and further strengthened the sanctions imposed in the earlier resolution.  Subsequently, on June 27, the International Criminal Court issued warrants of arrest for Qaddafi, one of his sons, and Libya’s intelligence chief, on charges of crimes against humanity (murder and persecution) committed through the state apparatus and security forces.  Since Libya is not a party to the Rome Statute that created the Court, it is subject to the ICC’s jurisdiction through the UN Security Council resolution.

Pursuant to the call in Resolution 1973 authorizing Member States “to take all necessary measures . . . to protect civilians,” NATO soon began its air campaign against Qaddafi’s forces.  The context was the imminent attack on Benghazi by Qaddafi’s forces and the feared resulting massacre.

After six months of NATO’s assistance to the rebels, the new NATO-backed and internationally recognized administration, the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC), was established in Tripoli.  The United States and more than 80 countries have recognized the NTC as the legitimate government of Libya, which has also replaced the old Qaddafi regime at the UN.  The interim Libyan government has received part of Libya’s frozen assets and it is receiving political, technical and economic assistance toward the challenging task of rebuilding the country after 42 years of abuse under the Qaddafi regime.

The “responsibility to protect,” the new norm invoked against Libya, is a promising development.  It should be recalled that the international community was a silent observer witnessing the killing fields of Cambodia.  And the genocide in Rwanda, the Srebrenica massacre and other mass atrocities prompted then-Secretary-General Kofi Annan to seek effective measures for “swift and decisive action” to prevent genocidal actions and to mount an appropriate response.

The Canada-based International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty’s report, “Responsibility to Protect,” was the basis of subsequent discussions in the UN.  Eventually, in September 2005, the UN World Summit of Heads of State and Government adopted in its World Summit Outcome Document the core elements of R2P.  The basic element of the concept is that the state has the responsibility to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity, as well as their incitement.  The world leaders added that when peaceful means are inadequate and national authorities are “manifestly failing” to protect their populations from these crimes, they are prepared to act collectively, “in a timely and decisive manner,” through the Security Council, in accordance with the Charter and on a case-by-case basis.

After 2005, the Security Council referred to the R2P concept in two resolutions prior to its action in Libya.  Ban Ki Moon, the current Secretary General, has outlined the three pillars of R2P: 1) the responsibility of the state to protect its population from these crimes; 2) international assistance and capacity building in states so that they can provide that protection; and 3) timely and decisive response when a state is “manifestly failing” to protect its population.  The General Assembly has been discussing the concept in order to explore effective means to operationalize it.

NATO’s action in Libya has come under scrutiny and criticism.  Its mandate to protect the civilian population in Libya has, critics assert, been stretched to changing the regime.  Why has R2P been invoked to support military action in Libya and not in Syria, they ask.  Time will tell whether NATO by overstepping its mandate in Libya may have damaged the concept.  In any event, much more needs to be done to ensure that the concept is operationalized by setting standards to determine when military action is appropriate.  R2P is a work in progress, but it is undeniable that the concept is a monumental step forward.

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Source: the New York Times

News Post: Lessons learned from Libya

Source: the New York Times

Source: the New York Times

On March 28, 2011, President Obama laid out two principles for any U.S. action in Libya. The first is that America has the responsibility to stop “looming genocide” in Libya. The second is that when the safety of Americans is not directly threatened, but where action can be justified, America will act only on the condition that it is not acting alone.

When President Obama made this speech, he was criticized as leading from behind. In recent weeks, the President’s policy seems to be effective, and may prove to be a model for the use of force. The U.S. used its military power, including providing cruise missiles, aircraft, bombs, intelligence, and military personnel, as part of a larger NATO coalition, to begin airstrikes and create a no-fly zone over Libya. American officials have argued the Libya strategy worked because it was perceived as an international effort, and not a unilateral action by the American military.  U.S. efforts in Libya have also been criticized because of the continued use of American warplanes after control of the air war was given to NATO in early April.

Since the Libyan intervention, the Obama administration indicated it will respond to the Arab world’s revolts against its dictators on the basis of “moral imperatives”. This approach has led to criticism of the Obama administration’s response to Syria. Deaths in Syria have risen to 1,400 over four months of clashes. The U.N. has not condemned the violence in Syria, and the U.S. has not named those countries supplying Syria with arms and financial wherewithal. The lack of action or results in Syria is frustrating to both the international community and Syrian citizens.

However, experts caution that the time may not be ripe for multilateral NATO action in Syria. Robert Malley, head analyst for the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis group said: “What distinguishes Syria from Libya is there is neither regional nor international consensus on Syria. There’s no specific area of the country to come in and defend.” Instead of using military force to intervene in Syria, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton suggested the broadest possible diplomatic pressure could ultimately have an effect, and potentially lay the foundation for more aggressive action.

The multilateral action taken in Libya and contemplated in Syria adds to the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine debate in international law.  The R2P doctrine arose as a result of the global community’s failure to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and human rights violations, and it outlines the international community’s response to such violations should the states involved abdicate their primary responsibility. The R2P doctrine has been strongly criticized in the past. However, in the past ten years, the doctrine has gained wider acceptance in the international community. In particular, the idea of sovereignty as responsibility to protect one’s people has begun to take hold. If Libya and Syria’s leaders abdicated their responsibility both to their citizens and to the international community, multilateral action may be justified as the R2P doctrine’s influence grows.

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