|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6490th Meeting (PM)
Fundamental Issues of Peace, Security at Stake, Secretary-General Warns
as He Briefs Security Council on Situation in Libya
He Stresses Urgent Need for Action as Permanent
Representative Compares Leader’s Actions to Those of Past Infamous Dictators
Warning that “fundamental peace and security issues are at stake in Libya”, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today briefed the Security Council on the situation in that country — where more than 1,000 people have been killed as security forces and militiamen loyal to leader Muammar Al-Qadhafi continued their deadly assault on civilian protesters — and urged members to consider concrete action to stop the violence and end the loss of life.
“We meet at a critical moment, potentially a defining moment, for the Arab world,” the Secretary-General said, painting an alarming picture of Libya in crisis as Colonel Qadhafi and members of his family continued to threaten citizens with civil war and the possibility of mass killings following nearly two weeks of large-scale street protests throughout the country.
Citing continuing reports of indiscriminate use of force resulting in “high casualties”, Secretary-General Ban stressed that the hours and days ahead would be decisive for Libyans and their country, with equally important implications for the wider region. “The statements and actions of the Security Council are eagerly awaited and will be closely followed […] whatever your course, let us be mindful of the urgency of the moment,” he said. “In these circumstances, the loss of time means more loss of lives.”
Also participating in the meeting was Abdurrahman Mohamed Shalgham, Libya’s Permanent Representative, who expressed gratitude for the concern expressed for his country by the Council and the Secretary-General. Events in Libya were indeed very dangerous, he said, comparing Colonel Qadhafi’s actions to those of infamous dictators such as Cambodia’s Pol Pot “who were willing to sacrifice large portions of their population for their own glory”.
Reporting on the size and noble intent of the demonstrations, he recalled that Colonel Qadhafi had accused protesters of using drugs and exclaimed “either I rule you or I kill you”. He called upon the embattled leader to leave the Libyan people in peace and expressed his country’s determination to be free. “Please, United Nations, save Libya […]. We want a courageous resolution from you,” he appealed to the Council, recalling that the Organization had played an important role in the birth of the modern Libyan State.
The Secretary-General said he strongly believed that the international community’s first obligation was to do everything possible to ensure the immediate protection of civilians at demonstrable risk. He underscored the need for urgent action by pointing out that the eastern part of Libya was reportedly under the control of opposition elements who had taken weapons and ammunition from arms depots.
He said there had been daily clashes in at least three cities near the capital, Tripoli, where the streets were largely deserted because people feared they might be shot by Government forces or militias if they left their homes. Colonel Qadhafi’s supporters were reportedly conducting house-to-house searches and arrests. “According to some reports, they have even gone into hospitals to kill wounded opponents,” he said, adding that there were also allegations that soldiers had been killed for having refused to fire upon their countrymen.
Those accounts — relayed by the press, human rights groups and civilians on the ground — raised “grave concerns” about the nature and scale of the conflict, Mr. Ban said, citing additional allegations of indiscriminate killings, arbitrary arrests, shooting of peaceful demonstrators, detention and torture of opposition groups and the use of foreign mercenaries. There were also reports from the Red Crescent and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) of dangerous impediments to medical treatment and access for humanitarian workers. “We do not have conclusive proof, but the reports appear to be credible and consistent.”
As for the international community’s response to the situation, he noted that earlier in the day in Geneva, the Human Rights Council had convened its first ever special session devoted to the situation in the territory of one of its members. He welcomed the “strong stand” taken by that body to establish an independent international committee of inquiry and pledged his full support, noting that it had also recommended that the General Assembly consider suspending Libya’s membership.
He went on to say that his Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect had reminded the Libyan authorities, as well as those in other countries facing large-scale popular protests, that Heads of State and Government at the 2005 World Summit had pledged to protect populations by preventing genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, as well as their incitement.
“The challenge for us now is how to provide real protection and do all we can to halt the ongoing violence, he said, urging Security Council members to consider a wide range of options for action as they looked to the next steps. Among the proposals under consideration was the imposition of trade and financial sanctions, including targeted measures against the leadership, such as a ban on travel and the freezing of financial assets.
He said some Member States were calling for a comprehensive arms embargo, while others were drawing attention to the clear and egregious violations of human rights taking place in Libya and urging the Council to take effective action to ensure “real accountability”. In any case, he declared: “It is time for the Security Council to consider concrete action.”
During the meeting, which was devoted to “peace and security in Africa”, the Secretary-General also updated the Council on several other situations, including that of Côte d’Ivoire, saying he was “gravely concerned” about the clashes between security forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo and armed groups opposing them, which had resulted in significant civilian fatalities in several areas of Abidjan.
“Once again, I urge the security forces loyal to Mr. Gbagbo to stop the violence,” he said, adding: “I am very concerned that Côte d’Ivoire is on the brink of sliding back into civil war.” Time was “slipping away”, he stressed, adding that unless the African Union High-Level Panel moved decisively to find a solution, all their work could be overtaken by events. It was understood that the Panel would meet again in Nouakchott, Mauritania, in the coming days, he added.
On the situation in Darfur, the Secretary-General said the African Union-United Nations Joint Chief Mediator had continued to engage the Government of Sudan and the two leading rebel factions — the Justice and Equality Movement and the Liberation and Justice Movement — in Doha, Qatar, where the parties were currently reviewing a draft agreement. It was essential that the international community step up its engagement and help the parties reach an inclusive and comprehensive peace, he stressed.
The Secretary-General also noted that he had met with the President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea and President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon. At the Secretariat’s invitation, the two leaders had come together at the United Nations in an effort to resolve the long-standing border dispute between the two countries.
Mr. Ban said he was pleased to report that the two leaders had reiterated their commitment to submit the dispute to the International Court of Justice and to make every effort to conclude the mediation as soon as possible. “This is an important demonstration of statesmanship, on both sides,” he added.
The meeting began at 3:15 p.m. and ended at 3:40 p.m.
* *** *For information media • not an official record