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Ban discusses Libya with Obama; urges punishment of those responsible for violence

Ban discusses Libya with Obama; urges punishment of those responsible for violence

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) and US President Barack Obama in the Oval Office
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon held talks on Libya with United States President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C., today, later stating that Muammar Al-Qadhafi’s regime had declared war on its own people and must be brought to account for possible crimes against humanity.

“We agreed that the international community must stand firmly together during this historic transition toward a more democratic, secure and prosperous Middle East,” Mr. Ban said of his talks with Mr. Obama in the Oval Office, praising the president’s “firm leadership” and telling Mr. Qadhafi that he should listen to his people’s call to leave. The crisis in Libya has seen elements of Mr. Qadhafi’s government use deadly force in its repression of protesters.

Earlier Monday, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said he would decide “without delay” whether to open an investigation into whether the violent repression of peaceful protesters amounted to crimes against humanity, stressing that there would be no impunity for guilty leaders.

On Saturday, in a unanimously adopted resolution, the Security Council imposed sanctions against the Libyan authorities, placing an arms embargo against the country and freezing the assets of its leaders, while referring the ongoing violent repression of civilian demonstrators to the ICC, based in The Hague, Netherlands.

Speaking to reporters at Washington, D.C.’s Holocaust Museum after his White House visit, Mr. Ban said the Council’s actions are “important and unprecedented, and I’ll make sure that these measures are implemented swiftly.”

Already last week, Mr. Ban condemned Mr. Qadhafi’s actions against protestors as possible crimes against humanity, calling for the punishment of those who “brutally shed” the blood of innocents. Media reports on the number of people killed range from the hundreds into the thousands.

It was a message he underscored in a statement delivered at the Holocaust Museum, in which he recalled that 70 years ago six million people were murdered at the instigation of a state.

“This museum commemorates that appalling truth,” he said. “It calls upon us to remember – and to act. ‘Never again,’” the Secretary-General said. “Once again, we are being tested. In Libya, a regime that has lost all legitimacy has declared war on its people. It is up to us, the community of nations, to stand against this crime… Gross violations of human rights will not be tolerated; those responsible will be punished.”

In response to a question afterwards, Mr. Ban said Mr. Qadhafi had lost his legitimacy when he declared war on his people. “I sincerely hope and urge him to listen to his people’s call,” he added. “That’s my message to him.”

‘Never Again’ is a clarion call to moral action, the UN chief said, stressing that it is for all people in all places – whether in Côte d’Ivoire where civilians are being killed as they stand for democracy, or in Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region, or in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where the UN is working to prevent some of the darkest crimes against humanity.

“History’s most tragic chapters are written when we fail to heed that call. Let us not fall short. Together, let the world speak loud and clear – through action,” he added.

Meanwhile, the ICC prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said his office – which has to decide whether an investigation into crimes against humanity should be opened – is assessing allegations of widespread or systematic attacks against civilians, and liaising with relevant bodies, including the Arab League, African Union, UN Council on Human Rights, UN High Commission for Human Rights, and with states to collect the required information.

“Information suggests that forces loyal to President Muammar Qadhafi are attacking civilians in Libya,” he said in a statement. “This could constitute crimes against humanity and must stop. The Office will act swiftly and impartially. There will be no impunity for leaders involved in the commission of crimes.”

The prosecutor is interested in receiving footage and images to confirm the alleged crimes, the statement added, noting that it is liaising with Libyan officials and army officers for information on the identity of authorities with command and control over the organizations allegedly involved in the crimes.

Stressing that the prosecutor has to act impartially, the statement said the next step will be to decide whether to open an investigation, and eventually collect evidence and request an arrest warrant against those identified as the most responsible. In accordance with its mandate to end impunity and to contribute to the prevention of future crimes, the prosecutor will act without delay, it added.

The ICC President, Judge Sang-Hyun Song, welcomed the Security Council’s resolution from Saturday as an expression of trust in the court’s role “as the first permanent and independent international judicial institution with jurisdiction over the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole.”