This is an edited extract of a speech given by former president Thabo Mbeki at the AGM of the Law Society of the Northern Provinces at Sun City on 5 November 2011
It seems obvious that a few powerful countries seek to turn the Security Council into an instrument in their hands, to be used by them to pursue their selfish interests, determined to behave according to the principle and practice that “might is right”.
The outstanding, but not only, exemplar in this regard is what has happened during the greater part of this year relating to Libya.
Before saying anything else about this issue, I must state categorically that those who have sought to manufacture a particular outcome out of the conflict in Libya have propagated a poisonous canard aimed at discrediting African and AU opposition to the Libyan debacle on the basis that the AU and the rest of us had been bought by Col Gaddafi with petro-dollars, and therefore felt obliged to defend his continued misrule.
For example, as part of this offensive, relying on all known means of disinformation, the argument is advanced that Gaddafi’s Libya had supported the ANC during the difficult struggle to defeat the apartheid regime.
The incontrovertible fact is that during this whole period, Libya did not give the ANC even one cent, did not train even one of our military combatants, and did not supply us with even one bullet. This is because Gaddafi’s Libya made the determination that the ANC was little more than an instrument of Zionist Israel, because we had among our leaders such outstanding patriots as the late Joe Slovo.
Libya came to extend assistance to the ANC after 1990, when it realised that the ANC was a genuine representative of the overwhelming majority of our people.
Similarly, the false assertion has been made that the AU depended on Libyan money to ensure survival. This is yet another fabrication.
The UN Security Council adopted the infamous Resolution 1973 on Libya on March 17, which imposed a “no-fly zone” and authorised various member states (Nato) “to take all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya”.
The resolution said nothing about “regime change”. However, the fact of the matter is that the Nato actions had everything to do with the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime.
And indeed, in a 15 April, 2011 joint letter, presidents Obama and Sarkozy and Prime Minister Cameron had openly declared their intention to achieve this goal. In this letter they said: “Our duty and our mandate under Security Council Resolution 1973 is to protect civilians, and we are doing that. It is not to remove Gaddafi by force.”
And yet in the same letter they said: “But it is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Gaddafi in power. There is a pathway to peace that promises new hope for the people of Libya: a future without Gaddafi. Col Gaddafi must go, and go for good.”
And indeed, as leaders of Nato, they ensured this objective was achieved, directly contrary to what the Security Council resolution said. And yet the UN Security Council has said nothing about what was a clear violation of international law.
A week before Resolution 1973 was approved, the AU Peace and Security Council adopted a road map for the negotiated resolution of the conflict in Libya and conveyed this to the UN Security Council, as prescribed under Chapter Eight of the UN Charter. It blocked the AU panel on Libya from flying into the country to begin the process of mediating a peaceful resolution of the conflict in that country.
This was despite the fact that Resolution 1973 itself said the Security Council supports the “efforts (of the special envoy of the UN Secretary-General) to find a sustainable and peaceful solution to the crisis” in Libya.
The resolution also noted the decision of the AU PSC “to send its ad-hoc High-Level Committee to Libya with the aim of facilitating dialogue to lead to the political reforms necessary to find a peaceful and sustainable solution”.
Libya is an African country. In addition to this, in terms of international peace and security, the conflict in that country has impacted and will continue to impact directly and negatively on a number of African countries.
Despite this, the Security Council, in violation of Chapter Eight of the UN Charter, which provides for cooperation between the Security Council and regional bodies, chose completely to ignore the African Union, preferring to accord a Chapter Eight status to the League of Arab States, simply because the league had called for the establishment of a no-fly zone.
Resolutions 1970 and 1973 of the Security Council imposed an arms embargo on Libya. The latter resolution also specifically excluded “a foreign occupation of any form or any part of Libyan territory” and deplored and demanded an end to what it called “the continuing flow of mercenaries” into Libya.
And yet it is now known that member states involved in the Nato operation sent weapons to the NTC rebel forces and deployed military and other personnel inside Libya to support these forces.
Again, this was in violation of international law and yet the UN Security Council did nothing to stop it.
The armed uprising in Libya started one week after the beginning of the peaceful demonstrations. This can only mean that preparations had taken place beforehand to effect a military uprising. In its resolutions the Security Council says nothing about this.
In this regard, in a report on Libya issued on June 6, the International Crisis Group said: “Much Western media coverage has from the outset presented a very one-sided view of the logic of events, portraying the protest movement as entirely peaceful and repeatedly suggesting that the Libyan regime’s security forces were unaccountably massacring unarmed demonstrators who presented no real security challenge. This version would appear to ignore evidence that the protest movement exhibited a violent aspect from very early on.
“Likewise, there are grounds for questioning the more sensational reports that the regime was using its air force to slaughter demonstrators, let alone engaging in anything remotely warranting use of the term “genocide”. That said, the repression was real enough, and its brutality shocked even Libyans. It may also have backfired, prompting a growing number of people to take to the streets.”
It is clear that the beginning of the peaceful demonstrations in Libya served as a signal to various Western countries to intervene to effect “regime change”, as clearly explained by Obama, Sarkozy and Cameron in the joint letter we have cited.
These countries then used the Security Council to authorise their intervention under the guise of the so-called “right to protect”. Thus the “right to protect” was abused and international law was violated to enable some of the major world powers to help determine the future of an African country.
In this context all measures were taken to deny our continent the possibility to help resolve the Libyan conflict without the deaths of many people and the massive destruction of property, and on the basis of the democratic transformation of that country.
It is clear to many on our continent that what has happened in Libya has established a very dangerous precedent. The question has therefore been raised – which African country will be next?
As Africans we have a continuing responsibility to protect our right to self-determination as well as a duty to work together to resolve our problems, fully cognisant of the interdependence of our countries and the fact that we share a common destiny.
In this regard, to protect that right to self-determi1nation, it seems obvious that we must engage in a sustained struggle to ensure respect for international law and the rule of law in the system of international relations. This must include ensuring that the UN Security Council itself respects international law, which prescribes the rule of law.