Sorry, Mr. Chair.
Yet, interestingly enough, not one of the governmental leaders invoked the responsibility to protect doctrine at the time, where in a landmark declaration five years ago, the UN Security Council authorized international collective action “to protect [a state's] population from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity” if that state is unable or unwilling to protect its own citizens, or worse, as in the case of Libya, if that state is the author of such criminality.
As I wrote on February 26 in the National Post:
Accordingly, Canada as an original architect of the R2P Doctrine, should join the international community in undertaking the following action:
I set forth then a 10-point action plan which would include the following:
--UN condemnation of Libya’s widespread and systematic human rights violations...constitutive of crimes against humanity and warranting international intervention under the R2P Doctrine.
Putting Libyan authorities on notice that they will be held accountable for these criminal violations of human rights — including criminal prosecution--
Calling on the Libyan authorities to cease and desist from the blocking of access to the internet and all telecommunications networks--
Calling on NATO to establish a no-fly zone to put an end to the bombing of civilians.
Supporting selective sanctions targeting Libya’s petroleum sector, while implementing travel bans, asset freezes, and visa denials, of Libyan leaders.
Putting a complete arms embargo in place.
Suspending Libya from the UN Human Rights Council, a move I have been advocating for some time.
The article concluded as follows:
Strong condemnation — without effective action by the international community — would be a betrayal of the Libyan people and a repudiation of the R2P Doctrine. It is our responsibility to ensure this Doctrine is not yet another exercise in empty rhetoric, but an effective resolve to protect people and human rights.
Shortly thereafter, in response to Moammar Gadhafi's continued assault on civilians in Libya, the United Nations Security Council adopted its unanimous and historic resolution 1973 in an unusual Saturday night session on February 26. It imposed an arms embargo on Libya, targeted financial sanctions, and travel bans against Gadhafi, his family members and senior regime officials, and referred the situation to the International Criminal Court for investigation and potential prosecution.
Canada then followed with its own sanctions regime pursuant to the Special Economic Measures Act, which was supported, as well, by all parties. In particular, in its statement condemning the violence, the UN Security Council, in its resolution 1970, at the time, included express reference to Libya's responsibility to protect its own citizens from mass atrocities, marking the first time it had been explicitly invoked by the UN Security Council regarding the situation of mass atrocities in a specific country.
Several days later, on February 28, I co-authored a piece, Libya and the responsibility to protect, with Jared Genser, a brilliant lawyer in the United States, with whom I am now co-editing a book on mass atrocity and the responsibility to protect to the effect that while UN Security Council resolution 1970 was indeed a major step forward, much more needed to be done.
In particular, we advocated that, given the continuing carnage at the time, and this is at the end of February, the Security Council should adopt a new resolution extending recognition to the nation's provisional government of a country authorizing a no-fly zone over Libya to preclude the bombing of civilians and permitting UN members to provide direct support to the provisional government.
We concluded that as UN Security Council Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon put it, “loss of time means more loss of lives”, that the Security Council must do more, that it was our collective responsibility to ensure that R to P was an effective approach to protect people and human rights.
Following the publication of that article on February 28, the situation continued to deteriorate. Gadhafi escalated his attacks on civilians, both in the air and through mobile columns equipped with heavy weapons on the ground. His forces captured key cities, such as Ras Lanuf and Zawiya and were marching toward Benghazi, all the while killing civilians in their wake and threatening to show no mercy, destroying all who would oppose him.
Accordingly, in interviews and talks last week, I reiterated once again the urgency of establishing a no-fly zone, now supported, importantly and symbolically, by the Arab League, by the league of Islamic states and others. I called for a no-drive zone, as recommended by Professor Zelikow and others to interdict Gadhafi's mobile columns on the ground. I called again for meetings with, if not in recognition of, the provisional Libyan national council, and in particular support for the training and provision of arms support for the rebels so as to level the military encounters. I reiterated the need for enhanced humanitarian and medical assistance to Libyan civilians, as well as once again warning Libyan leaders that they would be tried for their war crimes and crimes against humanity, while encouraging further defections and desertions from Libyan military and political leadership.
Finally and belatedly, amidst the anguished appeals, as we recall them, late last week from Benghazi and elsewhere by Libyan rebels and civilians for urgent action and assistance, the UN Security Council adopted its resolution 1973 on March 17, authorizing international military action against the Libyan government, including a no-fly zone to protect the Libyan people, while tightening economic and financial sanctions along with calls for a cease fire, diplomatic initiatives and movements toward self-determination for the Libyan people.
At this point, the international action authorized by the UN Security Council appears to be working. The no-fly zone has not only been established but enforced. A no-drive zone has effectively been implemented. Rebel forces on the cusp of desperation days ago now appear exhilarated and emboldened by the United Nations response. The international action is not a unilateral one by the United States or one in the absence of UN Security Council resolution, but has been undertaken pursuant to two UN Security Council resolutions, the first invoking, importantly, the R to P doctrine, together with targeted sanctions, and the second a no-fly zone and accompanying initiatives.