Hilary Clinton and William Hague have expressed the view that UN Resolution 1973, the one that makes the bombing of Libya legal, rolls back the arms embargo.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we are open for business!
The US and Britain have raised the prospect of arming Libya’s rebels if air strikes fail to force Muammar Gaddafi from power[*].
At the end of a conference on Libya in London, Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said for the first time that she believed arming rebel groups was legal under UN security council resolution 1973, passed two weeks ago, which also provided the legal justification for air strikes.
America’s envoy to the UN, Susan Rice, said earlier the US had “not ruled out” channelling arms to the rebels.
The British foreign secretary, William Hague, agreed that the resolution made it legal “to give people aid in order to defend themselves in particular circumstances”.
[*] Just quick, before we go on, I thought the air strikes and no fly zone weren’t meant to get rid of Gaddafi. I thought it was just to help the rebels get rid of him. So what is this? All the big grown up nations kick Gaddaffi to the ground and let the rebels try to finish him, if they take to long we push them out the way and stamp on his head? I didn’t think we did that sort of intervention anymore.
Clinton and Hague, in my opinion, are wrong. I am quite prepared to be wrong about this myself as I’m not a politician or lawyer so my definition of the words ‘arms embargo’ might not be the same as international statesmens’ definitions.
UN Resolution 1973 (.pdf) states…
Enforcement of the arms embargo
13. Decides that paragraph 11 of resolution 1970 (2011) shall be replaced by the following paragraph : “Calls upon all Member States, in particular States of the region, acting nationally or through regional organisations or arrangements, in order to ensure strict implementation of the arms embargo established by paragraphs 9 and 10 of resolution 1970 (2011), to inspect in their territory, including seaports and airports, and on the high seas, vessels and aircraft bound to or from the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, if the State concerned has information that provides reasonable grounds to believe that the cargo contains items the supply, sale, transfer or export of which is prohibited by paragraphs 9 or 10 of resolution 1970 (2011) as modified by this resolution, including the provision of armed mercenary personnel, calls upon all flag States of such vessels and aircraft to cooperate with such inspections and authorises Member States to use all measures commensurate to the specific circumstances to carry out such inspections”;
This paragraph replaces one in UN Resolution 1970 (.pdf)…
11. Calls upon all States, in particular States neighbouring the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, to inspect, in accordance with their national authorities and legislation and consistent with international law, in particular the law of the sea and relevant international civil aviation agreements, all cargo to and from the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, in their territory, including seaports and airports, if the State concerned has information that provides reasonable grounds to believe the cargo contains items the supply, sale, transfer, or export of which is prohibited by paragraphs 9 or 10 of this resolution for the purpose of ensuring strict implementation of those provisions;
They say the same thing except the amended paragraph in UN/Res/1973 is a bit tidier. They both in essence say do not allow the transportation/sale of anything in paragraphs 9 and 10 of UN/Res/1970.
So what is and isn’t allowed under that arms embargo? Paragraph 10 of UN/Res/1970 states that Libya can not export arms. Paragraph 9 is the one all about selling and exporting to Libya…
9. Decides that all Member States shall immediately take the necessary measures to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, from or through their territories or by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, of arms and related materiel of all types, including weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment, and spare parts for the aforementioned, and technical assistance, training, financial or other assistance, related to military activities or the provision, maintenance or use of any arms and related materiel, including the provision of armed mercenary personnel whether or not originating in their territories
That’s pretty unambiguous and clear. Even under paragraph 4 on UN/Res/1973, ‘Protection of Civilains’ there is no room for the movement of arms in to Libya…
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 tothe Security Council;
Nations acting under the UN can go in and bomb Libya, to protect civilians, but they cannot use ground forces and cannot supply arms to anybody in Libya.
But, and there is always a ‘but’, there are some exceptions to this rule in taking arms into Libya…
(a) Supplies of non-lethal military equipment intended solely for humanitarian or protective use, and related technical assistance or training, as approved in advance by the Committee established pursuant to paragraph 24 below;
‘No lethal’. Not very good if you want to get rid of a dictator, really. Could be handy for putting down any protests the local population might want to hold though.
(b) Protective clothing, including flak jackets and military helmets, temporarily exported to the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya by United Nations personnel, representatives of the media and humanitarian and development workers and associated personnel, for their personal use only;
Military style safety equipment that actually belongs to someone rather than for distribution once inside Libya. Still no good for overthrowing megalomaniac leaders.
(c) Other sales or supply of arms and related materiel, or provision of assistance or personnel, as approved in advance by the Committee;
This subclause of the arms embargo is important. It is the get out clause for supplying arms to Libya. This is the little bit of text that will open the door to the possibility of legally supplying arms to the rebels. All a nation has to do is persuade the rest of the UN Security Council committee to agree. How hard can that be? The majority voted in favour of intervening in Libya so they’re half way there already, and if they can give guns to someone else to do it a) they’ll make a bit of money and b) they’re one step removed if/when the shit hits the fan.
I know what you’re thinking, too. I’ve just proved myself wrong. But, no. This get out clause is in UN/Res/1970. Clinton and Hague said UN/Res/1973 allowed them to go arm the rebels. There was always the option of removing the arms embargo but it is in resolution 1970 and would need the agreement of the Security Council committee. Resolution 1973 does not automatically mean the importation of arms to anybody in Libya is legal or sanctioned by the UN.
(link: UN Resolutions 2011)