Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on the Security Council to consider immediately concrete steps against Libyan President Muammar Al-Qadhafi’s Government for its deadly repression of protesters, with options ranging from sanctions to assured punishment.
“In these circumstances, the loss of time means more loss of lives,” he told the 15-member body during a meeting on peace and security in Africa, noting that estimates put the death toll in recent days at more than 1,000. “It is time for the Security Council to consider concrete action.”
The Council agreed to meet tomorrow to consider urgently a draft resolution “including specific targeted measures aimed at putting an end to violence, helping achieve a peaceful solution to the current crisis, ensuring accountability and respecting the will of the Libyan people,” the Council President, Brazilian Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, told reporters after consultations.
Mr. Ban cited reports that Mr. Qadhafi’s supporters are conducting house-by-house searches and arrests. “According to some reports, they have even gone into hospitals to kill wounded opponents,” he said. “In their public statements, Colonel Qadhafi and members of his family continue to threaten citizens with civil war and the possibility of mass killing if the protests continue.”
The Secretary-General, who announced that he would go to Washington on Monday to discuss the situation with United States President Barack Obama, said the media and human rights reports of indiscriminate killings, arbitrary arrests, shooting of peaceful demonstrators, detention and torture of the opposition, and the use of foreign mercenaries are “credible and consistent” even if there is no conclusive proof.
He stressed that the first obligation of the international community is to do everything possible to ensure the immediate protection of civilians at demonstrable risk, and welcomed today’s decision by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to recommend Libya’s suspension from the body.
“When a State is manifestly failing to protect its population from serious international crimes, the international community has the responsibility to step in and take protective action in a collective, timely and decisive manner,” he declared. “The violence must stop. Those responsible for so brutally shedding the blood of innocents must be punished. Fundamental human rights must be respected…
“The challenge for us now is how to provide real protection and do all we can to halt the ongoing violence. As you look to your next steps, I urge you to consider a wide range of options for action,” he added, noting that proposals before the Council include trade and financial sanctions, including targeted measures against the leadership such as a ban on travel and the freezing of financial assets.
Some Member States are calling for a comprehensive arms embargo, while others highlight the clear and egregious violations of human rights and urge the Security Council to take effective action to ensure real accountability.
“The hours and the days ahead will be decisive for Libyans and their country, with equally important implications for the wider region,” Mr. Ban said. “The statements and actions of the Security Council are eagerly awaited and will be closely followed throughout the region. Whatever your course, let us be mindful of the urgency of the moment.”
He also focussed on the growing crisis of refugees and displaced persons, with 22,000 people reported to have fled to Tunisia and 15,000 to Egypt amid fears among UN refugee officials that much larger numbers of residents and migrant workers are trapped and unable to leave for safety.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) quotes many of those crossing the border as saying the journey was terrifying, with widespread reports of harassment and being threatened with guns and knives.
“It is crucial for humanitarian agencies to have access to the border regions. It is also important for the neighbouring States, including Europe, to keep their borders open to people fleeing Libya. We anticipate the situation to worsen, as the (UN) World Food Programme is concerned about Libya’s food supplies.”
Mr. Ban, who had what he called a “blunt, not easy” phone conversation with Mr. Qadhafi on Monday in which told him the violence must stop immediately, was asked by reporters afterwards if he planned to try to talk to the Libyan leader again to deliver his message.
“I am not sure, after having spoken extensively with Col. Qadhafi, whether he will yield to the calls of the international community,” he replied. “Of course, whenever it is necessary, I am willing to do anything to protect civilian populations and to stop the violence. But he has been trying to justify and defend his position.”