The International Criminal Court has issued a statement that it cannot investigate war crimes occurring in Libya unless the issue is referred to the court by the UN Security Council. It seems unlikely that the UNSC will take this step unless it is also willing to take actions (not simply issue condemnations) in an effort to prevent more war crimes taking place.
Tom Malinowski from Human Rights Watch challenges the claim that the US and its allies lack the leverage required to halt Gaddafi.
There are numerous steps the United States and its allies can take today to affect the immediate calculations of the Qaddafi regime. Europe buys 85 percent of Libya’s oil, after all. And the West largely controls the international financial system through which the Libyan leadership moves its money — and could block transactions with one word from the Treasury Department or other finance ministries. And there’s more: Western governments could say today that they will seek international investigations and prosecutions of Libyan officials who murder their people. And they could offer to provide humanitarian assistance to parts of Libya that have fallen to the opposition.
Qaddafi may rail endlessly about foreign meddling, but the reaction of Western governments clearly matters to his regime. Why else would it have gone to such lengths to hide what it is doing by shutting down the Internet and communications with the outside world?
We should be under no illusion that Qaddafi himself will give in to international pressure at this point. As his brutal tactics show, he is fighting for his life. But Libya’s fate is not in Qaddafi’s hands; it is in the hands of those who must decide, today and tomorrow, whether to follow his orders. Every psychological blow to Qaddafi’s government — whether it is a Libyan official who defects to the opposition or a forceful repudiation of his government by the international community — gives them another reason to refuse to commit further outrages on their leader’s behalf, for which they may be held accountable when the crisis is over.
“Our leverage is limited” is a phrase diplomats use to absolve themselves from responsibility. It is both true — after all, U.S. influence is never unlimited — and utterly irrelevant. The only question the United States and other countries should be asking now is how to use the leverage they have to bring the calamity unfolding in Libya to an end.
Ranj Alaaldin argues in favor of the creation of a no-zone across Libya.
A no-fly zone will ensure Libyan helicopter gunships are not used to dreadful effect against indiscriminate targets like they were during the 1991 uprising in Iraq. It will deprive the regime of the ability to enforce extraordinarily brutal countermeasures from the air, like the bombardment of heavily populated residential areas and the destroying of homes.
As the regime becomes more and more desperate, so too will its response become more brutal. Can the international community depend and pin their hopes on further defections and pilots refusing to carry out such orders, like the two that yesterday sought asylum in Malta? Maybe. But the prudent person would argue that is a risk too grave to take and one that effectively gambles with the lives of thousands. The city of Benghazi, reportedly under the control of the regime’s opponents, has a population of 600,000. It will be the first to be hit and the international community will be unable to do anything but disgracefully watch.
Failure to prevent genocides and massacres around the world has put the international community on the wrong side of history. Yet, this is a chance to prevent another mass atrocity from taking place, a chance for us to take a responsible measure rather than a reactionary one that comes too late. The international community has the capacity to limit Gaddafi’s capacity for mass murder by keeping his bombers grounded.
Frank Gardner describes the “murky network of paramilitary brigades, ‘revolutionary committees’ of trusted followers, tribal leaders and imported foreign mercenaries, who are allowing Gaddafi to retain his grip on power.
Martin Chulov is the first foreign journalist to have reached Benghazi.
Libya’s second city, Benghazi, appears to have fallen beyond the control of Muammar Gaddafi, with the local military defying his regime and monarchy-era flags flying from government buildings.
As the first foreign news organisation to report from so-called Free Benghazi, the Guardian witnessed defecting troops pouring into the courtyard of a ransacked police station carrying tonnes of weaponry and ammunition looted from a military armoury to stop it being seized by forces loyal to the Libyan dictator.
Soldiers brought rockets and heavy weapons which had been used in an assault on citizens in central Benghazi on Saturday as Gaddafi tried to keep control of the city. Doctors in Benghazi said that at least 230 people were killed, with a further 30 critically injured.
There was also the clearest confirmation yet that Gaddafi’s regime used outside mercenaries to try to suppress the rebellion. Adjoining the police station a large crowd gathered in another courtyard. Upstairs, the Guardian saw a number of mercenaries, allegedly flown in the previous week, being interrogated by lawyers and army officials.
An air force officer, Major Rajib Faytouni, said he personally witnessed up to 4,000 mercenaries arrive on Libyan transport planes over a period of three days starting from 14 February. He said: “That’s why we turned against the government. That and the fact there was an order to use planes to attack the people.”