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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

UN Headquarters

25 February 2011


Opening remarks at press encounter following his briefing to the Security Council on Peace and Security in Africa

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,

As you know, I have just briefed the Security Council on peace and security issues in Africa.

We have just witnessed an extraordinary scene in the Security Council -- a truly historic moment. The Libyan Ambassador delivered an impassioned plea for our help.

My message to the Security Council was simple and direct: now is the time for “decisive action," I said. This is an historic turning point, and the international community must rise to the occasion.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The situation remains exceedingly grave. Today we have received further reports of violent clashes, with high casualties.

We have also further reports of gross and systematic violations of human rights.

These include: indiscriminate killings. Arbitrary arrests. Shootings of peaceful demonstrators. The detention and torture of the opposition and the use of foreign mercenaries. Dangerous impediments to medical treatment and access of humanitarian workers.

Let me also note that we are experiencing a growing crisis of refugees and displaced persons.

UNHCR reports that some 22,000 people have fled to Tunisia; another 15,000 have gone to Egypt. However, they fear that much larger numbers of residents and migrant workers are trapped and unable to leave for safety.

Many of those crossing the border have told UN staff that the journey was “terrifying.”

It is crucial that humanitarian agencies have access to the border regions.

It is also important that neighbouring states, including Europe, keep their borders open to people fleeing Libya.

We expect the situation to worsen. The World Food Programme warns that Libya's food supplies are running dangerously low.

In my conversations with leaders of the region and the world - and in my public and private statements - I have spoken out, bluntly and repeatedly.

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 to protect Libyan civilians and do all we can to halt the ongoing violence.

That is why I urged the Security Council to consider the wide range of options for action.

Those include proposals for 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 call for an arms embargo. Others draw our attention to the clear and egregious violations of human rights taking place in Libya and urge the Security Council to take effective action to ensure real accountability.

I urge the Council to consider concrete action.

In this context, I welcome the resolution adopted today by the Human Rights Council to establish an independent international mission of inquiry, and I pledge my full support.

It also recommended that Libya be suspended from the Human Rights Council.

As you know, that would require a two-thirds majority vote of the General Assembly. The President of the General Assembly has informed me that this matter will be taken up early next week.

I also welcome the measures just announced by the United States.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I will continue to engage world and regional leaders on this issue. On Monday, I will travel to Washington to discuss these and other matters with U.S. President Obama.

Let me conclude by saying that, whatever the Security Council and General Assembly and world leaders may decide, we must be mindful of the urgency of the moment.

In these circumstances, the loss of time means more loss of lives. This is a time to act. Thank you very much.