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THE LEGALITY OF THE NATO BOMBING IN LIBYA

  • Geir Ulfstein (a1) and Hege Føsund Christiansen (a2)
Abstract

On 17 March 2011 the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1973 authorizing member states to take forceful measures to protect Libyan civilians. Clearly NATO actions to protect civilians were within the mandate. But the authors claim that operations aiming at overthrowing the Qaddafi regime were illegal use of force. The overstepping of the mandate may have a negative effect on the credibility of the responsibility to protect in future gross human rights violations.

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1 Institute for Security Studies, Peace and Security Council Report no 21 (April 2011).

2 Human Rights Watch, ‘Libya: Commanders Should Face Justice for Killings’ (22 February 2011).

3 Institute for Security Studies, Peace and Security Council Report no 21 (April 2011).

4 OHCHR, ‘Bahrain/Libya: UN Experts Urge Authorities to Guarantee Right to Protest without Fear of Being Injured or Killed; Pillay Denounces Violence by Security Forces in Libya, Bahrain and other countries in Middle East and North Africa’ (18 February 2011).

5 OHCHR, ‘Pillay Calls for International Inquiry into Libyan Violence and Justice for Victims’ (22 February 2011).

6 OHCHR, Libya: ‘“Stop the Massacre” – UN experts’ (22 February 2011); The United Nations Office at Geneva, Address by Ms Kyung-wha Kang, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights (14 March 2011).

7 OHCHR, ‘Libya: “Stop the massacre” – UN experts’ ibid.

8 Hereinafter the High Commissioner.

9 OHCHR (n 5).

10 UN News Centre, ‘Ban Strongly Condemns Qaddafi's Actions against Protesters, Calls for Punishment’ (23 February 2011).

11 UNSC/10180, SC Press Statement on Libya (22 February 2011).

12 CNSNews, ‘African Union, Recipient of Gaddafi Funds, Silent on Libya Bloodshed’ (23 February 2011).

13 NEWS 24, ‘AU Slams “Disproportionate” Force in Libya’ (24 February 2011).

14 UNSC Res. 1970 (26 February 2011) UN Doc S/RES/1970.

15 Aljazeera, ‘Defiant Qaddafi Vows to Fight on’ (23 February 2011).

16 Washington Post, ‘Arab League Asks UN for No-Fly Zone over Libya’ (12 March 2011).

17 The Telegraph, ‘Libya: Celebrations in Benghazi as UN Backs No-Fly Zone’ (18 March 2011).

18 New York Times, ‘As UN Backs Military Action in Libya, US Role Is Unclear’ (17 March 2011).

19 UNSC Res 1973 (17 March 2011) UN Doc S/RES/1973.

20 Wet, E de and Wood, M, ‘Collective Security’ in Wolfrum, R (ed), The Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law (OUP 2008) para 15 available at <http://www.mpepil.com > .

21 BBC, ‘Libya: US, UK and France Attack Gaddafi Forces’ (20 March 2011).

22 NATO, NATO and Libya – Operation Unified Protector (2011).

23 UNGA Resolution 60/1 (24 October 2005), paras 138 and 139.

24 The Guardian, ‘Libya Attacks under Way – Saturday 19 March Part 2’ (19 March 2011).

25 NEWS 24, ‘AU rejects military intervention in Libya’ (11 March 2011).

26 African Union, press release ‘The African Union Deeply Concerned about the Situation in Libya’ (23 February 2011).

27 UNSC 6647th meeting, 2 November 2011, UN Doc S/PV.6647.

28 Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and Relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), 8 June 1977, 1125 UNTS 3, art 50(1).

29 Henckaerts, J-M and Doswald-Beck, L, Customary International Humanitarian Law (CUP 2005) vol 1, 19.

30 Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and Relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), art 51(3) and Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and Relating to the Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts (Protocol II), June 8, 1977, 1125 UNTS 609, art 13(3).

31 Lehmann, JM, ‘All Necessary Means to Protect Civilians: What the Intervention in Libya Says About the Relationship Between the Jus in Bello and the Jus ad Bellum’ (2012) 17 JC&SL 117–46, 124.

32 UNSC 6498th meeting, 17 March 2011, UN Doc S/PV6498. The importance of statements by representatives made at the time of the adoption of the UNSC resolution in its interpretation was noted by the International Court of Justice in Accordance with International Law of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence in Respect of Kosovo, Advisory Opinion of July 22, 2010, para 94.

33 BBC, ‘Libya: Gaddafi Forces “Bomb Rebel-Held Benghazi”’ (17 March 2011).

34 Nuclear Weapons, Advisory Opinion of 8 July 1996 para 47. See also Stürchler, N, The Threat of Force in International Law (CUP 2007) 273.

35 Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and Relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), art 51(2) and Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and Relating to the Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts (Protocol II), art 13(2).

36 Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and Relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), art 49(1).

37 ICRC Commentary to Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and Relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I) <http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/COM/470-750062?OpenDocument > .

38 UK Ministry of Defence, The Manual of the Law of Armed Conflict (OUP 2004) 66.

39 BBC News, ‘Libya Revolt: Qaddaffi Targets Ajdabiya and Misrata’ (16 March 2011).

40 BBC News ibid.

41 New York Times (n 18).

42 Reuters, ‘NATO May Need Escalation to Break Libya Stalemate’ (18 April 2011).

43 Reuters, ‘France Says NATO Must Do More in Libya’ (12 April 2011).

44 NATO, press briefing on Libya (3 May 2011).

45 CNN, ‘Can African Union Broker a Libya Peace Plan?’ 11 April 2011.

46 CNN ibid. The Guardian, ‘Libyan Revolutionary Council Rejects African Union's Peace Initiative’ (11 April 2011).

47 The Guardian ibid.

48 ibid.

49 Time, ‘Behind a United Front, NATO Meeting Deepens Cracks in the Alliance’ (16 April 2011).

50 B Obama, D Cameron and N Sarkozy, ‘Libya's Pathway to Peace’ New York Times (14 April 2011).

51 Time (n 49).

52 The Guardian, ‘Nato Rejects Russian Claims of Libya Mission Creep’ (15 April 2011).

53 Reuters, ‘NATO Missiles Strike Tripoli, Sirte: Libyan TV’ (19 April 2011).

54 NATO, ‘NATO Pounds Qadhafi Regime Command and Control Centres’ (19 April 2011).

55 The Guardian, ‘Gaddafi Compound Hit in Nato Attack’ (25 April 2011).

56 New York Times, ‘Qaddafi Is Said to Survive NATO Airstrike That Kills Son’ (30 April 2011).

57 NATO, ‘NATO Strikes Command and Control Facility in Tripoli’ (1 May 2011).

58 The Independent, ‘Nato Action “In Line” with Policy, Says Cameron’ (1 May 2011).

59 Reuters, ‘Putin: Libya Coalition Has No Right to Kill Gaddafi’ (26 April 2011).

60 Al Arabiya News, ‘China and Russia Redraw International Battles lines on Libya. Analysis by JM Dorsey’ (30 June 2011).

61 African Union, press release ‘The AU Intensifies Its Efforts towards a Political Solution in Libya and Stresses the Importance of the Respect of the Letter and Spirit of Resolution 1973 (2011)’ 3 May 2011.

62 UNGA 12 July 2011, UN Doc. GA/11112.

63 New York Times, ‘The Goal in Libya Is Not Regime Change’ (30 March 2011).

64 UN Secretary-General, Press Conference by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at United Nations Headquarters (14 December 2011).

65 UN News Centre, ‘Speedy, Decisive International Action to Protect Civilians in Libya Is Vital – Ban’ (24 March 2011).

66 Rasmussen, A Fogh, ‘NATO after Libya, the Atlantic Alliance in Austere Times’ (2011), 90 Foreign Affairs 26.

67 New York Times ‘Surveillance and Coordination with NATO Aided Rebels’ (21 August 2011). CBS News ‘Tripoli Opened to Rebels by Sleeper Cells, NATO’ (22 August 2011).

68 BBC News, ‘Libya Conflict: France Air-Dropped Arms to Rebels’ (29 June 2011).

69 BBC News, ‘Libya: Russia Decries French Arms Drop to Libya Rebels’ (30 June 2011).

70 CBSNews (n 67).

71 UNSC 6640th meeting, 27 October 2011, UN Doc S/PV.6640.

72 D Akande, ‘Does SC Resolution 1973 Permit Coalition Military Support for the Libyan Rebels?’ (EJILTalk, 31 March 2011) <http://www.ejiltalk.org/does-sc-resolution-1973-permit-coalition-military-support-for-the-libyan-rebels > .

73 Pippan, C, ‘The 2011 Libyan Uprising, Foreign Military Intervention and International Law’ (2011) Juridikum: Zeitschrift für Kritik–Recht–Gesellschaft 2, 159–69.

74 Corten, O, The Law against War: The Prohibition on the Use of Force in Contemporary International Law (Hart Publishing 2010), 290, 294 and 309; Christakis, T and Bannelier, K, ‘Volenti non fit Injuria? Les Effets du Consentement à l'Intervention Militaire’ (2004) 50 AFDI 127 and 135; and Gray, C, International Law and the Use of Force (3rd edn, OUP 2008) 81.

75 E Ebrahim, ‘Lecture by Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation … on the occasion of the Speakers Meeting at the South African Institute of International Affairs’ (International relations & cooperation 22 July 2011) <http://www.dfa.gov.za/docs/speeches/2011/ebra0722.html > .

76 The Voice of Russia, ‘Russia Demands Thorough Investigation into NATO Libya Operation’ (17 January 2012).

77 Haaretz, ‘U.S. Urges Syria to Respect Civil Rights, after Security Forces Open Fire on Protesters’ (28 March 2011).

78 Human Rights Council, Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, 16 August 2012 (A/HRC/21/50).

79 UNSC 6627th meeting, 4 October 2011, UN Doc S/PV.6627.

80 ibid.

81 ibid.

82 UNSC 6711th meeting, 4 February 2012, UN Doc S/PV.6711.

83 UNSC 6810th meeting, 19 July 2012, UN Doc S/PV.6810.

84 The Brazilian proposal about ‘Responsibility while Protecting’ (RwP) focuses on monitoring and assessment of the use of force authorized by the Security Council (Letter dated 9 November 2011 from the Permanent Representative of Brazil to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (11 November 2011 A/66/551-S/2011/701)).

The authors would like to thank Theodore Christakis, Cecilie Hellestveit, Kjetil Mujezinovic Larsen, Gro Nystuen, Matthew Saul, Andreas Zimmermann and the anonymous referees of ICLQ for valuable comments.

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International & Comparative Law Quarterly
  • ISSN: 0020-5893
  • EISSN: 1471-6895
  • URL: /core/journals/international-and-comparative-law-quarterly
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