Libya: Security Council, UN officials urge end to use of force against protesters

22 February 2011 – The Security Council and top United Nations officials today urged the Libyan Government to immediately end its violent crackdown on protesters and to meet its responsibility to protect its population.

Council members “condemned the violence and use of force against civilians, deplored the repression against peaceful demonstrators, and expressed deep regret at the deaths of hundreds of civilians,” Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti of Brazil, which holds the monthly presidency of the 15-member body for February, said in a statement read out to the press following closed-door talks on the crisis.

“They called for an immediate end to the violence and for steps to address the legitimate demands of the population, including through national dialogue,” she said.

Council members also called on the Government to meet its responsibility to protect its population, act with restraint, respect human rights and international humanitarian law, and allow immediate access for human rights monitors and humanitarian agencies.

“They underscored the need to hold to account those responsible for attacks, including by forces under their control, on civilians,” the statement added.

Mr. Ban, in a statement issued by his spokesperson on Monday, said he was “outraged” at press reports that the Libyan authorities have been firing at demonstrators from war planes and helicopters.

“This is unacceptable,” the Secretary-General told reporters in Los Angeles, where his currently on an official visit. “This violence against demonstrators must immediately stop.”

Mr. Ban, who had a 40-minute telephone conversation with Muammar Al-Qadhafi yesterday, said he urged the Libyan leader to stop the violence and strongly underlined the importance of respecting human rights and heeding the aspirations and calls of the demonstrators. Mr. Ban also discussed the situation in Libya in a phone conversation today with the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay today called for an immediate cessation of the “grave” rights violations committed by the Libyan authorities and urged an independent investigation into the violent suppression of protests.

“The callousness with which Libyan authorities and their hired guns are reportedly shooting live rounds of ammunition at peaceful protestors is unconscionable. I am extremely worried that lives are being lost even as I speak,” she stated in a news release.

Citing the reported use of machine guns, snipers and military planes against demonstrators, Ms. Pillay said such extremely serious allegations of acts committed in brazen defiance of international law must not go without a full and independent investigation.

“Protection of civilians should always be the paramount consideration in maintaining order and the rule of law. The authorities should immediately cease such illegal acts of violence against demonstrators. Widespread and systematic attacks against the civilian population may amount to crimes against humanity,” she stated.

A group of UN human rights experts also called on the Libyan Government to immediately cease the use of excessive and lethal force. “The situation in Libya is quickly spilling out of control with the Government targeting the very people it has been mandated to serve,” they stated in a news release. “Adopting tactics such as the use of live ammunition to crush dissent is unacceptable.”

The experts voiced concern about the reported use of military planes to attack protesters, the alleged involvement of foreign mercenaries in killing the protesters, and the arbitrary arrests of individuals including lawyers, human rights defenders and journalists.

The Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova, voiced her alarm over the worsening situation in Libya and the continuing clampdown on media and vital information services.

“I call on the Libyan authorities to exercise maximum restraint. I also call on them to respect the right of people to access information, to be able to communicate with one another and for the media to be able to do its job,” she stated.

“Attempting to silence people by repression, by denying them access to vital information services is a violation of basic human rights that can only fuel anger and frustration,” she added.

Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today that it has become increasingly concerned about dangers for civilians and especially for asylum-seekers and refugees in Libya as many may inadvertently be caught up in this violence.

“We have no access at this time to the refugee community. Over the past months we have been trying to regularize our presence in Libya, and this has constrained our work,” Melissa Fleming, UNHCR’s spokesperson in Geneva, told a news conference.

“Some of the reports we are getting from third-party sources are very worrying. A journalist has passed information to us from Somalis in Tripoli who say they are being hunted on suspicion of being mercenaries. He says they feel trapped and are frightened to go out, even though there is little or no food at home,” she said.

Prior to the current unrest UNHCR had registered over 8,000 refugees in Libya, with a further 3,000 asylum-seekers having pending cases. The agency is asking all countries to recognize the humanitarian needs at this time of all people fleeing targeted violence, threats, and other human rights abuses in Libya.


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