Saturday’s Security Council referral of Libya to the International Criminal Court marks a historic moment in accountability for crimes under international law.
The Security Council’s vote came after a plea for action from Libya’s own UN delegation, which had announced that it no longer represented Col al-Gaddafi.
Amnesty’s director of international advocacy Steve Crawshaw said it best:
“This is a welcome and historic precedent. Libyan leaders and all others who may commit crimes under international law must now take heed that they will be called to account.”
For the people of Libya, this decision is a signal that the international community will not avert its eyes from the human rights abuses that they continue to suffer.
Amnesty International urged the UN Human Rights Council, the Arab League and the African Union, all of which have announced investigative missions to Libya, to urgently proceed with their missions and to hand over their findings to the ICC prosecutor as soon as possible.
The organization also called on the Security Council to consider similar action elsewhere.
The Security Council must build on the strong action it took yesterday. It must address situations in other parts of the world that at the moment have less public profile but are no less serious.
The vote follows a strong condemnation of human rights abuses in Libya by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Friday and the announcement of actions to ensure accountability.
While the human rights situation in Libya continues to escalate at an alarming rate, the UN Security Council is meeting in New York to decide on next steps. We are calling for the United States to take a leadership role in the discussions at the Security Council, including the support of an arms embargo and a referral to the International Criminal Court.
We continue to receive reports that many people are being killed by forces loyal to Colonel al-Gaddfi and the situation is deteriorating. It seems that at least several hundred people, possibly many more, have been killed across the country and others now are at grave risk. We have received new information that many victims had been shot in the head, chest or neck, suggesting that the security forces had intended to kill them.
If you haven’t already done so, please sign our online petition calling for a UN led investigation to ensure accountability for these crimes and an international arms embargo. Colonel al-Gaddafi and his chain of command have to understand they will answer for their actions. They need to see that investigation and prosecution are a reality they will face.
This should act as a wake-up call to those issuing the orders and those who carry them out: your crimes will not go unpunished. Members of the Security Council must act now to stop the outrageous abuses taking place on the streets of Tripoli and elsewhere in Libya.
Update, February 23:
- Call on US government officials to play a leadership role at the United Nations to ensure that it imposes a total arms embargo on Libya and sends a mission there immediately to investigate the violence.
- Read a coalition letter that urges the UN Human Rights Council to act. The letter is sent to Foreign Ministries around the world (pdf)
The UN Security Council and the Arab League have to launch an immediate mission to Libya to investigate events that have left hundreds of protesters dead, Amnesty International said in a press release today. Over the last few days, hundreds of protesters have reportedly been killed in Libya. According to several accounts, demonstrators were also attacked by helicopter gunships.
The call for the investigation, which could lead to prosecutions at the International Criminal Court (ICC), comes as both the UN Security Council and the Arab League meet today for special sessions to discuss the spiraling violence in the country.
The UN Security Council should also impose a total arms embargo on Libya, amidst reports that security forces are continuing to deploy a range of weaponry, munitions and related equipment to use lethal force against protesters.
Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary-General, made the following statement:
Colonel al-Gaddafi and his government appear to be prepared to kill as many people as it takes to stay in power. The international community needs to act now to put a stop to this. The international community must immediately make it clear to all those in the Libyan government, military and security apparatus that they and those carrying out their orders will be held to account for crimes under international law, such as those now being reported. The Security Council must also put an immediate end to the export or transfer of all arms and military equipment to Libya. People are being killed in their hundreds with intent. Other states must not be complicit in further killing. All military and police supplies and cooperation with Libya must stop now until the risk of such serious human rights violations is ended.
The UN and Arab League should send representatives to Libya immediately, either jointly or separately, to investigate the situation on the ground and report rapidly to the Security Council.
The recommendations should include a judgement as to whether the scale of the crimes being committed in Libya warrants a Security Council referral to the Prosecutor of the ICC.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay yesterday said that the Libyan authorities’ actions against protesters may amount to crimes against humanity.