Libya – Rough Guide to the new UN Security Council resolution (1973)


Here’s a quick and provisional analysis of the main provisions of last night’s SCR 1973.   I am not a lawyer, so my reading may not be wholly accurate, though I have negotiated a lot of these kind of resolutions, including on Libya and Iraq.  This analysis should serve as a rough and ready guide.  
Overall: the thrust of the resolution is to demand a ceasefire and to impose various military and non-military measures to seek to force the Libyan regime to fulfill its responsibility to protect civilians.  The resolution authorizes military force in certain clear circumstances (eg to impose a No Fly Zone) but also in more general terms to protect civilians.  The non-military measures amount to a significant tightening of sanctions on the Libyan regime, including an assets freeze on all Libyan government organisation and those indirectly controlled by the government (which would also presumably include Libyan oil companies – highly significant if so: effectively an oil embargo).  Also, the resolution lays particular emphasis on regional calls for protection of civilians and No Fly Zones, eg by the Arab League and OIC.
Ceasefire: the resolution demands an immediate ceasefire (but note that if the regime accepts a ceasefire, the other measures in the resolution remain in force i.e. the other measures are not conditional upon a ceasefire)
Use of Force: the resolution authorizes the imposition of a No Fly Zone over Libyan airspace, excluding flights for humanitarian purposes (the UN is to set up a mechanism to coordinate and allow for notification of humanitarian flights); 
Separately, the resolution authorizes the use of force to protect civilians, but excluding any occupation of any part of Libyan territory.  This is very unusual and ambiguous language, reflecting perhaps the haste in negotiating and adopting this resolution.   This authorization would cover, at a minimum, air strikes against Libyan forces attacking civilians, but might also cover for instance limited ground operations against Libyan forces, but not such that could be construed as “occupation”.  However, the US and UK made clear in negotiation, we understand, that they were not envisaging military operations other than air operations.  But to be clear: the authorization theoretically could be interpreted to cover limited ground operations.  
The ceasefire just declared by the Libyan regime presents a conundrum in legal and political terms in terms of actual military strikes against Libyan forces.  It seems to me that while the No Fly Zone may be imposed, any hostile military action against Libyan forces in the air or on the ground would be legally, if not politically, questionable if Libyan forces were not actually engaged in attacking civilians.  In other words, it would be difficult to justify eg airstrikes if the Libyan regime has called a ceasefire and all military action has stopped.
Flight ban: the resolution bans all flights by Libyan aircraft to and from Libya, except for humanitarian purposes; this is an important restriction on the regime, which has been little reported upon.  A similar measure was imposed on Libya during the Lockerbie sanctions.
Assets freeze: the resolution extends the assets freeze on individual regime members under SCR 1970 to all Libyan entities directly or indirectly controlled by the government, and thus forbids financial transactions with them; this is a very significant tightening of financial sanctions on the regime; this seems to me to make any purchases of oil from Libya highly problematic, to say the least: in effect, we are looking at an oil embargo.
Arms embargo: the resolution significantly tightens the monitoring provisions of the arms embargo imposed in SCR 1970, including permitting and encouraging other states to inspect all possible shipments to and from Libya and to coordinate their efforts in doing so, and to notify the UN of all such inspections; this implies also inspection of all maritime transport – and flights – to and from Libya;
None of these measures is time-limited, and amendment or lifting of these measures would require a further UNSC resolution following Libyan compliance with its provisions (namely a ceasefire and stopping attacks on civilians, plus cooperation with all the other measures in the resolutions), which is unlikely to happen until the Gadhaffi regime is gone (the US, UK and France, who hold vetoes in the UNSC, are unlikely to permit any sanctions to be lifted until this is the case).  
Again, seek legal opinion on precise meanings.


This entry was posted in Uncategorized by carne. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.