The legality of arming Libya’s rebels (cont.)
In response to yesterday’s post on the Security Council and the question of arming Libya’s rebels, a reader writes: UNSCR 1973 (2011) states in para 4 that it authorizes member states "to take all necessary measures, notwithstanding paragraph 9 of resolution 1970 (2011), to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in ...
In response to yesterday's post on the Security Council and the question of arming Libya's rebels, a reader writes:
In response to yesterday’s post on the Security Council and the question of arming Libya’s rebels, a reader writes:
UNSCR 1973 (2011) states in para 4 that it authorizes member states "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, . . ." Resolution 1970, passed on February 26, imposed sanctions on Libya. Paragraph 9 specified the imposition of an arms embargo. What is paragraph 4 of 1973 saying if it is not making an exception to the arms embargo for a specified purpose?
This is the best case that I’ve seen for the permissibility of arming the rebels: that Council members are permitted to use all means necessary to protect civilians, including arming them. But it’s a quite backhanded way of authorizing arms shipments that most Council members–and NATO’s secretary-general himself–apparently do not support.
I’m not nearly as convinced as the reader that the provision in question should be read as creating a loophole for arms shipments. Instead, the language makes most sense as a means of ensuring that coalition forces operating in and over Libya aren’t themselves somehow found to be in violation of the arms embargo. After all, when you fly an F-16 over Libya, you are in a sense bringing a weapon into the country. To avoid any possibility of conflict between Resolution 1973 and 1970’s arms embargo it was therefore made clear that military equipment used by states to protect civilians did not itself violate the embargo.
Lawyers can fight over the precisely how this provision should be interpreted. Ultimately, the most important question is not whether the U.S. can find some language in the resolutions that conceivably allows arms shipments but whether most Council members believe the course of action is legitimate and in keeping with what they agreed to. It seems clear to me that this consensus does not exist.
David Bosco is a professor at Indiana University’s Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies. He is the author of The Poseidon Project: The Struggle to Govern the World’s Oceans. Twitter: @multilateralist
More from Foreign Policy
Can Russia Get Used to Being China’s Little Brother?
The power dynamic between Beijing and Moscow has switched dramatically.
Xi and Putin Have the Most Consequential Undeclared Alliance in the World
It’s become more important than Washington’s official alliances today.
It’s a New Great Game. Again.
Across Central Asia, Russia’s brand is tainted by Ukraine, China’s got challenges, and Washington senses another opening.
Iraqi Kurdistan’s House of Cards Is Collapsing
The region once seemed a bright spot in the disorder unleashed by U.S. regime change. Today, things look bleak.