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Research studies

The Role of United Nations in the Libyan 17 February Revolution, until the Adoption of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) of 17 December 2015

Prepared by the researcher  – Lobna Abdalla

Democratic Arab Center

Journal of Afro-Asian Studies : Sixth issue – July 2020

A Periodical International Journal published by the “Democratic Arab Center” Germany – Berlin. The journal deals with the field of Afro-Asian strategic, political and economic studies

Nationales ISSN-Zentrum für Deutschland
ISSN 2628-6475
Journal of Afro-Asian Studies
 :To download the pdf version of the research papers, please visit the following link

Abstract

On the 15th of February 2011, the anti-government protesters in Bengazi started to protest against Mummar al-Qadhafi, the former president of Libya who governed as the Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution from 1969 to 2011. Meanwhile, the Libyan regime started to use its weapons against the protesters. After a while, the regime lost state control over weapons and the fighting spread in the country. The regime no longer was the only entity that had the exclusive right to use force and weapons. On the 20th of October 2011, al-Qadhafi was killed; hence, there was a vacuum in the authority. The protesters found themselves in a confrontation with the infighting in Libya. The fight between the two sides mushroomed sharply within the country. Ten days later from the beginning of the Libyan revolution “the United Nations condemned officially the violations of human rights”. This paper will discuss the role of the United Nations and the League of Arab Nations in Libya. The UNSC resolutions 1970 and 1973 played significant roles in Libya. To illustrate, Resolution 1970 was preparation for 1973 to take more measures to end the chaos and the spreading of weapons. The LAN’s resolution 7360 was a very crucial resolution in this conflict as this resolution supported the UNSC resolution 1973. The UNSC resolutions 1970, 1973, 2009, and the LAS’S resolution 7360 go in the same line; in other words, each resolution was a step that led to the next resolution.

Introduction:

            On the 15th of February 2011, the anti-government protesters in Bengazi started to protest against Mummar al-Qadhafi, the former president of Libya who governed as the Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution from 1969 to 2011 (Muhammad). Then, the protests spread to different cities within Libya on the 17th of February 2011. The protesters were inspired by the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, because of which the Tunisian president and the Egyptian president stepped down from authority. Meanwhile, the Libyan regime started to use its weapons against the protesters. After a while, the regime lost state control over weapons and the fighting spread in the country. The regime no longer was the only entity that had the exclusive right to use force and weapons. In other words, there was chaos in Libya as there was a spread of armed non-state actors. On the 27th of February 2011, “the national transitional council assumed political leadership in the “liberated” areas” (Mattes, 2016, p. 60). On the 20th of October 2011, al-Qadhafi was killed; hence, there was a vacuum in the authority.

            The Libyan revolution, inspired by the so-called “Arab spring,” had great effects on the Middle East and North Africa region. By looking to the following events, we will realize that the term “Arab-spring” was misused and what happened in Libya is far away from “spring” at all. The protesters found themselves in a confrontation with the infighting in Libya. The fight between the two sides mushroomed sharply within the country. There were around 11,000 people killed and 50,000 people wounded from February till October (Mattes, 2016, p. 60). Ten days later from the beginning of the Libyan revolution “the United Nations condemned officially the violations of human rights” (Institute, 2017, p. 96). This paper will discuss the role of the United Nations and the League of Arab Nations in Libya. It will discuss the most crucial four resolutions that were taken by the UN and the LAS according to the chronological order. The next part will discuss the United Nations Security Council resolution 1970 (2011).

The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1970 (2011):

            The events and hostilities in Libya went so fast; as a result, the United Nations Security Council released resolution 1970 (2011). The resolution started with the negotiation between the United Kingdom and France. After the beginning of the Libyan revolution and the events that followed it, the United Kingdom sought to realize a resolution for the situation in Libya. The United States of America, the UK, and France consulted about this resolution. Then, this resolution circulated to the other non-permanent European members in the Security Council. In the end, all the countries in the Security Council voted in favor of this resolution on the 26th of February 2011. This was ten days after the beginning of the Libyan revolution (Pouliot, 2014, pp. 898-900).

            It is obvious that this resolution was drafted by the UK, USA, and France. The main reason for their intervention was oil. The events in Libya had a negative impact on the Libyan oil supply as Libya had stopped its oil production. Before the revolution, Libya produced over 1.6 million barrels per year, which formed two percent of the world’s total oil production (Corradi, 2018). After the revolution, local groups started to use oil as a financial source and to press for their political demands (Lewis, 2018).

            The Security Council resolution 1970 (2011) called to investigate and to identify those responsible in all violent acts against human rights in Libya. It recalled the Libyan authority to protect its population. Moreover, it called to terminate the violence and the Libyan regime to take steps to fulfill the population’s demands, which were legitimate demands. One of the most important things in this resolution was to refer the situation in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Furthermore, this resolution enforced an arms embargo, a travel ban, an asset freeze, and sanctions. There were two annexes in this resolution. The first annex listed sixteen people who were banned from travel because some of them were involved in violence against demonstrations or dissidents. Others were banned because of their close association with the regime. Muammar al-Qadhafi was listed in this annex because he was responsible for ordering repression of demonstrations and human rights abuse. The second annex was about the asset freeze. This annex contained six people; five of these names were Qadhafi’s four sons and his daughter (Council, Resolution 1970 (2011), 26 February 2011).

            There were some considerations about this resolution. First, the resolution recalled the Libyan authorities to protect its population, although the same authority used weapons against the demonstrators. Second, it called to terminate violence without talking about any negotiations or agreements between both sides in Libya. Third, it referred the situation in Libya to the ICC even though this resolution accused specific people of violence against protesters. Meanwhile, the Security Council should not accuse anyone of violence before the judgment of the ICC. The Security Council may say that there actually were relations between the aforementioned people in annex 1 and 2 and that they were involved with violence on the ground. Fourth, this resolution did not name any country to take responsibility to protect civilians. The next part will talk about an important resolution that was released by the League of Arab States after around twenty days from the UNSC resolution 1970 (2011).

The League of Arab States Resolution 7360:

            The League of Arab states played an important role in Libya by adopting LAS resolution 7360. The council of the Arab League was held on 12 March 2011 at the ministerial level in Cairo to react to the events in Libya. The resolution started to describe the case in Libya by saying that Libya is in a dangerous situation because of increasing violence and crimes from the authority side against the civilians. Then, it ensured the right of the Libyan people’s demands on democracy and building their own country. After that, it emphasized Libyan unity, political independence, and the safety and security of Libyan citizens. It refused all forms of foreign intervention in Libya and emphasized that the failure to take necessary actions to end this crisis will lead to foreign intervention in Libya affairs (League, 12 March 2011).

            Then, the Arab ministers in this council made important decisions. The first one was to call the Security Council to take the necessary measures to impose a no-fly zone and to establish safe areas to protect the Libyan people. The second decision was to cooperate and communicate with the Transitional National Council of Libya. Moreover, they decided to provide Libya with urgent and continuing support (League, 12 March 2011). Syria refused this resolution because creating a no-fly zone might lead to foreign military intervention in Libya.

            This resolution meant that the Libyan regime lost its legitimacy, and the Transitional National Council was the entity that supposedly was to rule the country after Qadhafi. This resolution supported the Security Council to take resolution 1973 and intervene in Libya to endorse a no-fly zone. The League of Arabs states’ resolution 7360 rejected any foreign intervention in Libya, but it opened the door for foreign intervention in the case of failing to end the crisis. One of the reasons for the Arab states to take this decision was to end the Libyan crisis before more Libyan refugees leave their county for another Arab country that already is suffering from deterioration of the political and economic situation after “the Arab Spring.” The next part will talk about the United Nations Security Council resolution 1973 (2011).

The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 (2011):

            On the 17th of March 2011, the Security Council passed another resolution 1973 after voting with ten favorable votes, none against, and five abstentions (Pouliot, 2014, p. 902). The states that voted in favour of this resolution were Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, France, Gabon, Lebanon, Nigeria, Portugal, South Africa, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and United States of America. Brazil, China, Germany, India, and the Russian Federation abstained. On the one hand, the states that voted in favour of this resolution said that the reasons behind this resolution were the deterioration of the situation in Libya, the increase in violence, Libyan authorities’ neglect of the Security Council resolution 1970, and the usage of heavy weapons and aircrafts against civilians. On the other hand, the states that abstained said that the use of military force would be ineffective. It is important to consider that there was little credible and clear information about the situation in Libya, specifically regarding the enforcement measures and how they will exactly be carried out. The abstained states supported the ceasefire, the financial sanctions, and the dialogue to achieve the legitimate demands of Libyans. At the end, the Security Council resolution 1973 (2011) passed and adopted (Council, 17 March 2011).

 Therefore, according to paragraph 26 of resolution 1970 (2011), which gave the Security Council the right to take additional appropriate measures to protect human rights, the Security Council demanded to establish a ceasefire and to find a solution for the crisis in Libya by responding to the legitimate demands. In addition, it decided to establish a no-fly zone. This resolution continued the arms embargo, the ban on lights, and the asset freeze, which were all decided in the Security Council resolution 1970. This resolution added five entities in the annex of the asset freeze because they were controlled by Muammar al-Qadhafi and his family; furthermore, they are potential sources to fund his regime. The most crucial part of this resolution came under the title of “Protection of civilians.” This part says as follows:

“4. Authorizes Member States that have notified the Secretary-General, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, and acting in cooperation with the Secretary-General, to take all necessary measures, notwithstanding paragraph 9 of resolution 1970 (2011), to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory, and requests the Member States concerned to inform the Secretary-General immediately of the measures they take pursuant to the authorization conferred by this paragraph which shall be immediately reported to the Security Council;

  1. … the United Nations, requests the Member States of the League of Arab States to cooperate with other Member States in the implementation of paragraph 4;” (Council, 17 March 2011).

            This part authorized member states to take any necessary  measures to protect civilians regardless whether the state would take this action individually or in a group, or through an organization. Moreover, it did not determine a specific action that the countries can take as long as it prevented any occupation from foreign force on any part of Libyan ground. In other words, it did not determine the tools that should be used to protect civilians. It seemed that the word occupation is a political word, not a legal word. Rather, in the legal form, intervention and aggression are usually used. Furthermore, resolution 1973 recalled the Arab states to cooperate with the member states of the Security Council to implement paragraph 4 in the Security Council resolution 1973 (2011).

            This resolution ended with a very important paragraph 29, which said that the Security Council “decides to remain actively seized of the matter” (Council, 17 March 2011, p. 6). This paragraph opened the door in front of the Security Council to take more action to follow up on the fast development of events in Libya. The next part will evaluate the implementation of the responsibilities to protect civilians in Libya. There was an Arab backing to this UNSC resolution by the League of Arab states’ resolution 7360. This resolution was derived from the Responsibility to protect. The next part will talk about this resolution in details.

The Responsibility to Protect in Libya:

            The idea of the (R2P) started at the end of 2001by a report entitled “Responsibility to Protect.”  This idea of (R2P) comes from the duty of the state to protect its population. In case the state is failing or unwilling to protect its population, the responsibility to protect lies on all states. In 2005, the member states in the United Nations committed to the responsibility to protect during the UN world summit meeting. (Nations, No date). This principle gave the member states the right to intervene to protect human rights.

            The responsibility to protect addresses that “ Each individual State has the responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. This responsibility entails the prevention of such crimes, including their incitement, through appropriate and necessary means … The international community, through the United Nations, also has the responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means, in accordance with Chapters VI and VIII of the Charter, to help protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. In this context, we are prepared to take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner, through the Security Council, in accordance with the Charter, including Chapter VII, on a case-by-case basis” (Nations, No date).

            It seems that the Responsibility to protect is broad enough to give the freedom to states to decide whether this case needs intervention or not. Moreover, it gives the freedom to the state to determine which action to take. In other words, it did not put any limits on the state’s actions on using the power against other states. The only restriction on the state’s decision while using the (R2P) is to act through the Security Council. This principle justified and opened the door for international military intervention in any state. Indeed, this principle can be used to conceal the state’s interests to intervene in other states under the umbrella of human goals and protect population.

            Meanwhile, the states started to implement the UNSC resolution (1973) in Libya. Fifteen NATO countries enforced the no-fly zone. NATO started to lead the operation in Libya, aiming to protect civilians, create the no-fly zone, and enforce the arms embargo. NATO started to conduct airstrikes on the areas that are governed by the government. Through the 36 weeks from NATO’s operations in Libya, around 8,000 to 11,500 people were killed including al-Qadhafi (Lopez, 2015). The UNSC resolution gave the permission to use force against al-Qadhafi because he used the regime’s weapons against the population. At the same time, the UNSC resolution neglected the fact that the protestors were armed and used violence. NATO started to extend its missions beyond protecting civilians and imposing a no-fly zone to target Libyan forces and support rebels that led to defeat al-Qadhafi’s regime.

 For the previous reasons, Brazil’s United Nations delegation proposed the “Responsibility while protecting” to the UNSC in  November 2011. That was after the end of the NATO operation in Libya. The Brazilian delegation argued that the NATO operation in Libya needs clarity because it seemed that NATO went beyond protecting civilians to ousting al-Qadhafi’s regime. This argument supported by India and South Africa. RWP aims to limit the using of R2P from state to intervene in other states; in other words, RWP seeks to prevent any state from overriding other states’ sovereignty under the umbrella of protecting civilians (Avezov, 2013). Although the previous resolutions talked about the intervention to protect civilian, the next UNSC resolution 2009 sought to take a step towards peace by (2011).

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya:

            On the 16th of September 2011, the UNSC adopted resolution 2009 to establish the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). This resolution determined the objectives of the UNSMIL as follows: to restore public security, to enforce the law, to start national political dialogue, to restore the state’s sovereignty over its institutions, to protect human rights, to support transitional justice, and to support economic recovery (Council, 16 September 2011 ). It seems that all the previous missions were general rules that lacked the mechanism on how to apply all these principles in reality. To illustrate, one of the most critical missions to the UNSMIL is how to start the national dialogue between opponents who carried the weapons to kill each other.

Conclusion:

            The UNSC resolutions 1970 and 1973 played significant roles in Libya. To illustrate, Resolution 1970 was preparation for 1973 to take more measures to end the chaos and the spreading of weapons. The LAN’s resolution 7360 was a very crucial resolution in this conflict as this resolution supported the UNSC resolution 1973. At the same time, it emphasized that the LAS did not have effective tools to end the conflict in an Arab state. Hence, the LAS recalled the SC to intervene in Libya to put an end to this chaos and to protect civilians. As for the implementation of R2P, it needed more clarity to ensure that NATO did not exceed its mission.

I see that the UNSC resolutions 1970, 1973, 2009, and the LAS’S resolution 7360 go in the same line; in other words, each resolution was a step that led to the next resolution. As a result, I will analyze all these resolutions together as they were the most preferred alternative to intervene in Libya. I will analyze this alternative according to three criteria (political, Administrative, and technical).

 One of the criteria to evaluate policy alternatives is political criteria. By looking to Libya, I found that most of the states accepted the previous resolution. Even the national transitional council accepted it. Also, the intervention in Libya went under the international principle (R2P) and according to the UN charter. The only thing is that these resolutions did not meet the real needs of the people to achieve democracy and freedom in Libya which formed the Libyan demands during their revolution. As for the technical criteria, the UN members had the required technology from military weapons to achieve their goals on imposing a no-fly zone. Also, all these resolutions meet the administrative criteria such as having the authority, resources, and support to implement this alternative. Although these resolutions met the majority of the good policy alternative criteria, it lacked transparency by declaring specific objectives and determining the mechanism of NATO’s operations in Libya.

Bibliography

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Lopez, G. (2015, February ). Responsibility to Protect at a Crossroads: The Crisis in Libya. Retrieved November 11, 2019, from Humanity in action: https://www.humanityinaction.org/knowledge_detail/responsibility-to-protect-at-a-crossroads-the-crisis-in-libya/

Mattes, H. (2016). Libya since 2011: political transformation and violence. Middle East Policy Council, pp. 59-75.

Muhammad, K. A. (n.d.). Muammar Gaddafi (1942-2011). Retrieved November 3, 2019, from Jewish Virtual Library: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/muammar-gaddafi

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Pouliot, R. A.-N. (2014). Power in practice: Negotiating the international intervention in Libya. European Journal of International Relations , pp. 889-911.

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