Secretary-General's press encounter following his briefing to the Security Council on Peace and Security in Africa
New York, 25 February 2011SG: 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.
Q: You talked to Mr. Qadhafi and apparently it did not have any particular effect. Do you plan to try to talk to him again and deliver your message to him directly again?
SG: I am not sure, after having spoken extensively with Col. Qadhafi, whether he will yield to the calls of the international community. Of course, whenever it is necessary, I am willing to do anything to protect civilian populations and to stop the violence. But he has been trying to justify and defend his position; I have been trying to talk to all the leaders in the region and I will continue to do that.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, you said this is an urgent time, loss of time is loss of life. And the draft resolution details embargo, sanctions, freezing accounts. Is that enough to stop the violence now? As you said, it's an urgent time. Is that enough to stop it now? Should there be military intervention?
SG: I have urged the Security Council to take a wide range of options. I understand that the Security Council is very seriously considering all possible options but that is up to the Member States of the Security Council -- to determine what course of action should be taken at this time.
Q: You've stressed the importance of accountability. Now, we understand that there is one member of the P5 that is against it, another member of the P5 has not received instructions. How important is it to refer this to the ICC [International Criminal Court] and hold people responsible for the killings in Libya accountable?
SG: In principle, whoever commits crimes of such a scale, they must be held accountable and I believe that the Member States of the Security Council will consider all possible means. I have urged the members of the Council to consider a wide range of options. Thank you very much.