Libyan regime's claim to abide by ceasefire cannot be verified – UN chief

Libyans fleeing violence at home arrive in Tunisia

19 March 2011 – Libya's claim that it will abide by this week's Security Council resolution, which calls for an immediate ceasefire and a halt to all attacks against civilians, still has to be verified, and the regime's current actions are unclear, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.

Speaking in Paris to international leaders who were meeting to discuss the situation in Libya, Mr. Ban said he had received a phone call last night from Libyan Prime Minister Baghdadi Mahmudi, who said the regime would “strictly abide” by the terms of resolution 1973.

That resolution, imposed by the Council on Thursday, authorizes the use of “all necessary measures” to protect civilians in Libya, where the regime of Muammar al-Qadhafi has conducted a fierce military offensive against a popular uprising.

The Libyan Prime Minister “asked me to intervene to stop military action on the part of the international community,” Mr. Ban said. “Frankly he sounded rather desperate. It is not clear what they are doing. He called for a monitoring team to observe the ceasefire. The Libyan claim has to be verified. There is no doubt the Libyans are trying hard to ward off military action under [resolution] 1973.

“I have spoken with the Foreign Minister of Libya [Musa Kusa] several times to urge the Government to stop the violence and cease fire immediately.”

Media reports state that Libya's armed forces have attacked the eastern city of Benghazi, where rebel forces are headquartered, in the past 24 hours, despite the regime's claim it would abide by a ceasefire.

Mr. Ban said that, “given the critical situation on the ground, it is imperative that we continue to act with speed and decision,” adding that the United Nations would work closely with regional organizations and individual Member States “to coordinate a common, effective and timely response.”

He stressed that, along with an immediate ceasefire, Libyan authorities must also completely dismantle the deployment of their armed forces and heavy weaponry from around the country's major cities “so that the people can go around their normal business without fear or insecurity.”

Prompt access should also be given to humanitarian agencies, he said, while the return or repatriation of migrant workers and others seeking to leave the country should also be assured.

Resolution 1973, adopted by the 15-member Security Council with 10 votes in favour and five abstentions, requests Mr. Ban to inform the Council immediately of any actions taken by Member States as well as to appoint an eight-member expert panel to monitor implementation of its terms, including an arms embargo.

Yesterday the Secretary-General described the text as “historic” for its affirmation of the international community's responsibility to protect civilians from violence perpetrated against them by their own government.

He noted today that his Special Envoy Abdul Elah al-Khatib, who visited Libya this week and will meet with members of the country's opposition on Monday, will continue to work with the international community to ensure there is an effective response to the situation.

The UN has stated that it will create an independent, international commission of inquiry to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law in Libya, identify those responsible, make recommendations and report back to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“Many of the acts we are witnessing appear to constitute crimes against humanity, punishable under international law,” Mr. Ban said. “We must hold the perpetrators accountable.”

The protests and subsequent fighting in Libya are part of a broader wave of unrest sweeping across North Africa and the Middle East this year, with long-standing regimes in Tunisia and Egypt and calls in other countries for wide-ranging reforms.


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