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The formation of the United Nations in 1945 as an international organization was aimed at maintenance of International peace and security and elimination of threats to human freedom everywhere (Palmer & Perkins 2004).  According to Akinboye & Ottoh, (2007), the UN evolved as a result of the failure of the League of Nations to maintain International peace and security through the prevention of the outbreak of World War II.

Article 1 of the UN Charter, states that the broad purpose of the UN: is “to maintain International Peace and Security,” to develop friendly cooperation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural or humanitarian character and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all”, and “to be a center for harmonizing actions of nations (Palmer and Perkins, 2004).

In order to handle the complex task of ensuring International peace and security, social justice and liberal democracy, the UN today carries out these responsibilities through its Security Council.  The UNSC is the most powerful organ of the UN charged with the responsibility of maintenance of international peace and security Onuoha, (2008). It has power to authorize the deployment of UN member states militaries for peace keeping operations, can mandate a cease-fire during conflicts and enforce penalties on countries if they do not comply with given mandates (Palmer and Perkins, 2004) (Article 24 of the UN Charter).

Under chapter seven of the UN charter, Council has broader power to decide what measures are to be taken in situations involving “threats to peace, breaches of peace, or acts of aggression”. In such situations, the Council is not limited to recommendations but may take actions, including the use of armed force “to maintain or restore International Peace and Security”. This was the legal basis for UN armed action in the 2011 Libyan political uprising. In the face of this scenario, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on February 26, 2011, adopted and issued Resolution 1970 which imposed an arms embargo and travel ban on Gaddafi’s family and referred the situation to the International Criminal Court for Investigation into reports of crimes against humanity (source: International Coalition for the responsibility to Protect 2011). These non-military measures and sanctions, authorized in Resolution 1970 failed to deter Gaddafi from expressing clear intent to attack the population   and halt the massive violence on protesters (Wikipedia 2011).

Based on this, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution, 1973 of 2011 on 17th March 2011, authorizing protection of civilians” and no fly zone over Libya otherwise known, in International relations parlance, as “Humanitarian Intervention’’ (HI) (Center on International Cooperation). The Security Council (SC) treated the Libyan 2011 uprising as constituting a threat to International peace and security and thus authorized member states or their regional organizations to take ‘’all necessary measures’’ to protect civilians and civilians populated area under attack in the Libya Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi which is the strong hold of the Anti-Gaddafi’s.  Furthermore, the part 6 on no-fly zone, also established “a ban on all flights in the air space of Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (UNSC 5498th meeting) coupling with this resolution is the allied forces of about 17 states led by US and NATO, launched military Operation termed “operation Odyssey Drawn” aimed at crippling Gaddafi’s military Capability in order to protect the civilians and population of the protesting cities especially Benghazi and Misrata. The exercise which not only targeted crippled Gaddafi’s air and land capability, also destroyed part of his palace, killing his son, as well as claiming his own life raised some queries on the manner of implementation of resolution, 1973 especially the wide interpretation, given to vague and undefined mandate to protect civilians (Gareth, 2011, Anup, 2011, Brien & Richard,2012). Several resolutions like resolution 2017, 2009, 2040, 2016, 2022, 2995 and UNSMILS were also adopted by the UN in the management of the 2011 Libyan political uprising.

Thus the Libyan revolution and the UN Intervention that saw it to fruition once again raises the vexed issue of using the United Nations or any of its arms/’agency to pursue vested interests masked as interest of fundamental rights of oppressed persons. It also resurrects the controversy surrounding the concept of humanitarian Intervention and under what circumstance it should be justified or considered legal? Although the Intervention in Libya received the help and protection of the UNSC, a body so authorized to do so, however ambiguities and controversy continues to trial the manner of implementation of the resolution 1973  and the wide array of interpretations given to the resolution especially with reference to the phrase “all necessary measure” (Anup, 2011).

The democratic protest in the Arab region such as Tunisia crisis of (December 17, 2010) Egypt (January 25, 2011) Algeria (December 28, 2011) Lebanon (January 17, 2011) Sudan (January 17, 2011) Ornan (January 17, 2011) Saudi Arabia (January 21, 2011) etc. Inspired the 2011 Libyan political uprising. (Noor, 2011)(Arab spring in Wikipedia 2012). While some states were able to curtail the protest by promising democratic reforms, improvement in economic and social well being of the populace, cabinet reshuffle, immediate political reforms and financial handouts, others were not so lucky. The unlucky ones include Egypt, where the protest saw to the ousting of President Mubarak after 18 days of massive protest, thus bringing to an end his 30 years despotic rule. As Mubarak was exiting, the protest in Libya Arab Jamahiriya started and gained momentum attracting wide publicity from International Press (The Guardian News blog 2011; Saleh and England 2011). The 2011 Libyan uprising under Muammar Al-Gaddafi, which precipitated in western military, operations, under the auspices of the UN in Libya, had indeed remained remarkable.

The current conflict comes as protesters demand an end to the current regime and democratic elections in Libya, a country ruled by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi for over 40 years when he led a coup d’etat against King Idris and established, the Libyan Arab Republic. The rule has been oppressive, banning dissent and the formation of any other political parties, while also committing state sponsored terrorism in the past (Anup, 2011).

Though Libya under Mummar Al-Gaddafi, had successfully used the oil wealth in the country to positively impact on the lives of its diverse peoples, (Daily sun October 21, 2011), it is surprising however to note that the country since political Independence in 1949 has never had democratic elections rather, Libya has been ruled by two despots; king Idris Sanusi I and later colonel Muammar Al-Gaddafi. Thus, under the two mentioned regimes, the activities of both domestic and external oppositions were rarely allowed and the formation of political parties, freedom of press and civil liberty were all restricted (Daily Sun, October 21, 2011).

In response to the 2011 uprising that was initially quite peaceful, Gaddafi has been quite defiant threatening many civilian lives. The uprising has since turned into an armed rebellion and numerous diplomats and military personnel have defected over the violent reaction by the ruling regime. Thus, Gaddafi’s brutal response, escalated the situation. (Anup, 2011, Brien & Richard, 2012).

Given this situation, the 2011 Libyan political uprising, led to the demise of Muammar Al-Gaddafi and the establishment of National Transitional Council (NTC) to man the Libyan road to democracy.

This study therefore examines the role of the United Nations in the Management of the 2011 Libyan uprising with reference to the issue of humanitarian Intervention. In the resolution 1973 of 2011 on Libya Arab Jamahiriya, the reason for the adoption, the manner of Interpretation and implementation of the resolution with the aim to unearth the underlying motives behind the humanitarian intervention in Libya.



The Libyan civil war, also referred to as the Libyan revolution was a 2011 armed conflict in the North African states of Libyan Arab Jamahiriya fought between forces loyal to colonel Muammar Al Gaddafi and those seeking to oust his government. The war was preceded by protests on Gaddafi’s despotic regime and was led by a lawyer/human rights activist Fathai Terbil in Benghazi beginning on Tuesday, 15thFebruary 2011, which caused clashes with security forces that fired on the crowd Garth, (2011). The protest escalated into a rebellion that spread across that country with the forces opposing Gaddafi, establishing an interim government body, The National Transitional Council (NTC) (Sidney, 2011).

This led the United Nations to intervene via its Security Council by passing an initial resolution 1970 on 26th February 2011, thereby freezing the assets of Gaddafi and his Inner circle and restricting their travel, and referred the matter to the International Criminal Court for investigation (Anup, 2011). The failure of Gaddafi’s forces to abide by the tenets of resolution 1970, gave rise to the adoption and enforcement of resolution 1973 on march 17th 2011, which authorized member states to establish and enforce a no fly zone over Libya and to use “ALL NECESSARY MEASURE” to protect attacks on civilians (Emily & Richard 2012). The UN also adopted many other resolutions like resolution 1970, 1973, 2017, 2009, 2040,2016, 2022, 2095 and UNSMIL in the management of the Libyan Political Uprising Of 2011.(Center On International Cooperation).

The 2011 civilian democratic protest for regime change in Libya was therefore to become inevitable. Thus, the intervention of the US NATO-led coalition forces under the auspices of the UN in Libya, the demise of colonel Muammar Al-Gaddafi and the eventual establishment of the western sponsored National Transitional Council in the country, have elicited much scholarly concern; calling the question on the appropriateness of the United Nations resolutions in the management of the 2011 Libyan political uprising. Many scholars such as (Gareth,2011) had open that the UNSC resolution 1973 on Libya, though received wide spread support of all the members, continues to be immersed in ambiguity and controversy with regard to its interpretation and implementation by the US-NATO led coalition of the willing that enforced the resolution. According to (Sidney & Gareth, 2011) doubts have also been cast on the intentions of the farmers of the resolutions given the vague and imprecise nature of the resolution on protection of the civilian which leaves it susceptible to any interpretation that may suit the interest of the intervening states. Kochler, (2011) and The Economists, (2012) have also written on the controversy as to the legality and justifiability of UN instigated external intervention under whatever pretext in violation of the sanctity of sovereignty of member states which the UN has pledged to protect.

It is therefore, this noticeable lacuna in the extant literature, which the scholars have not satisfactorily filled that this study is aimed at filling, using the under stated research questions as guide:

  • Did the manner of the enforcement of UNSC Resolution 1973 by the US­­- NATO led coalition contravene the UN mandate on Libya?
  • Did the US – NATO led humanitarian intervention escalate human rights violation during the 2011 political uprising in Libya?



The broad objective of this study is to examine the role of United Nations in the management of the 2011 Libyan political uprising. However, the specific objectives include the following:

  • To ascertain whether the manner of the enforcement of the UNSC Resolution 1973 by the US –NATO led coalition contravened the UN mandate in Libya.
  • To determine whether the US – NATO led humanitarian intervention escalated human rights violation during the 2011 political uprising in Libya.



The theoretical and practical significance of the study will add to the existing stock of scholarly literature on the implications of dictatorship and democratization in Libya and in the Arab region, coupled with the driving force of intervention by the UN. As such it will then serve as a reference material or data for scholars whose interest would eventually be aroused by the findings to undertake further studies on the area.  Practically, this study will be of immense important to the Libyans, Arab world, and the National Transitional Council (NTC) currently managing the affairs of the country and other relevant bodies interested in the issues pertaining civil protest, dictatorship and democratization in Libya and in the Arab region, Because it will provide valuable data/information that will assist them to articulate potent policies that will help not only in strengthening the operational capacity of the UN, but in preventing the future occurrence of such problem.



The review of the extant literature is strictly guided by the research questions. This is to say that the views of scholars that relate to whether the manner of enforcement of the UNSC Resolution 1973 by the US-NATO led coalition contravened the UN mandate on Libya and whether US-NATO led humanitarian intervention escalated human rights violation during the 2011 political uprising in Libya. It also focuses on the theoretical arguments with regard to the legality/ justification of humanitarian intervention, the dynamics of UN’s role in the management of the 2011 Libyan political uprising.


*The manner of enforcement of the UNSC Resolution 1973 by the US – NATO led coalition contravened UN mandate on Libya.

According to Zunes,( 2011), many questions why the west intervened in Libya militarily while other countries such as Bahrian, Yemen or Ivory Coast, with perhaps as many if not more killed in violence, did not get such attention, have been raised. Thus, to him, it would be naïve to claim that foreign intervention is promoted by western leaders’ concern about protecting civilian lives. The United States, Great Britain and France have each allied with governments such as Guatemala, Indonesia, Columbia and Zaire, which in recent decades, have engaged in the slaughter of civilians as worse as had occurred in Libya. Furthermore, he observes that the number of civilians killed during the five weeks between the start of the uprising and the Western intervention in the country at approximately 1,700 people, roughly the same number of civilians killed during Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon and its 2008 war on the Gaza strip combined. He maintains that rather than referring those responsible to the International Criminal Court (ICC) or engage in military intervention to stop the slaughter, as was the case of Libya, both the US congress and the administration vigorously defended Israel’s assault of heavily populated civilian areas and condemned UN agencies and leading international jurists for documenting Israeli violence of international humanitarian law and for recommending that officials of both Israel and its Arab adversaries suspected of war crimes be referred to the ICC.

Thus, he summarized it in the following words:

Hypocrisy and double-standards regarding military intervention does not automatically mean that military intervention in this case is necessarily wrong. Though many of us familiar with Libya remain doubtful, it cannot be ruled out that events could transpire in such a way that this intervention could prove to have saved lives, brought stability, and promoted a democratic transition. However, it would be naïve to believe that the attacks on Libya are motivated primarily by humanitarian concerns (Zunes, 2011: 9).


Perhaps, Asli, (2011) provides a clear insight regarding NATO’s US intervention in the Libyan crisis but fails to do so in the other Arab countries such as Yemen and Bahrian with similar experience. As such, he outlines some considerations namely; the isolation of the regime, the fact that it represents a relatively weak military force with very few allies in the region; the fact that it boarders on the Mediterranean and give rise to the responsibility of major migration flows to Europe, should there be a long protracted conflict there, the energy market would be highly destabilized. These according to him, are all important considerations that provided motivations for military intervention in Libya. In contrast however, he contends that one has to be clear-eyed about why it is that military coalition was willing to proceed in this instance and was not, on the other hand, prepared to intervene, let alone forcefully, in any way, really, politically, with response to the repression that were seen in Yemen and Bahrian.

In contrast, Amin,(2011) contends that among many factors or considerations for NATO’s intervention in Libya, economic and interests remain the topmost. Thus, to him, from its outset, the movement took in Libya the form of an armed revolt fighting the army rather than a wave of civilian demonstrations. And as such, the armed revolt called NATO to its aid. According to him, a chance for military intervention was therefore offered to the imperialist powers. There aim was surely neither protecting civilian nor democracy, but control over oil fields. Furthermore, he contends that since Gaddafi embraced liberalism, the western oil companies had control over Libyan oil. Conclusively, and as he observes, a lackey emplaced at Tripoli (or Benghazi) would surely comply with all the demands of Washington and its NATO lieutenants.

Likewise, Mukoma,(2011) contends that beyond the UN support for intervention and the Libyan rebels’ call for Western economic and military air support, the intervention could legitimately be deemed as solely humanitarian. But in contrast, under the bloody hands of Gaddafi, the US was getting all the oil it needed from Libya. And there is no indication that the rebels would have wanted to change the trade arrangement, thus needing appeasement. In fact according to him, this rather appears to be unquestioningly pro-US, looking at how they receive the conservative American Senator, John McCain, who visited Benghazi in April, 2011.


*US – NATO led humanitarian intervention escalated human right violation during the 2011 political uprising in Libya.

To Amnesty International Report, (2012), the NATO’S – US led intervention and subsequent air raids in the Libyan uprising, stems from the observable gross human rights violations owing to the draconian character of the Libyan government under Muammar Gaddafi. Thus, according to the report, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was firmly in control, as he had been for 42 years, with most of his opponents’ silenced in prison or in exile. Furthermore, the report has it that the draconian styled legislation on the Libyan government outlawed dissent and establishment of independent organizations. As such, hundreds of political prisoners were being detained or sentenced after grossly unfair trails. It therefore observes that the March 2011-NATO-led international coalition was be become a welcome relief, being aimed at protecting the civilian protesters from the attacks of the pro-Gaddafi forces.

Contrary to the popular acceptance of the NATO’s led international military intervention in Libya based on the responsibility to protect the civilians, David, (2012) contends that the intervention rather escalated the security situation in the country. To him, NATO’s – US lead intervention in Libya would likely to produce a more militarized and insecure world, and this he maintains, would be its most enduring legacy. He asserts further that the military success in Libya has increased the possibility of new wars. At this level according to him, the outcome seems uncertain, as the acts of the ground are ambiguous. On the one hand, the National Transitional Council (NTC) has achieved full control of the country, and so far has avoided the post-Gaddafi chaos that many has feared. On the other hand, the situation remains unstable, as indicated by the frequent clashes among rival militia groups for control of Tripoli and other areas. More still, he contends that achieving power with external support would definitely open the new regime to criticisms of being a product of foreign intervention.

Guraizu, (2008:3) opines that “the main problem with humanitarian intervention is not the lack of consensus in defining the concept but rather the more contentious issues such as the legality and legitimacy of an intervention”. For some schools of thought, humanitarian intervention will always be illegitimate and illegal because it violates the sovereignty of nation states. Thus the illegality/legality or justification thesis and the violation of sovereignty thesis forms the central focus of most theoretical/practical concerns on humanitarian intervention.

In another breadth, Saad, (2011) infers that the international intervention in Libya has been backward-looking, but in an entirely different sense. It has been prosecuted with the memory of the Iraq war firmly in mind. To this end, the approach has been to view the last war as a negative example, and the international coalition, and the Libyan opposition, according to him, had strived in doing the opposite of what was done in Iraq. Furthermore, he maintains that President Obama, in deciding whether to intervene, was clearly trying to avoid the mistakes of Iraq. Therefore Obama insisted on a set of conditions before he would involve the US in the operation. First, there had to be a local opposition movement that was willing and able to wage war against the dictator. Second, given the nature of the Arab world, it was important to gain regional legitimacy and ensure that denounced as another example of Western imperialism in Muslim lands. Third a broader, legal legitimacy was sought through the UN. And finally, European allies who were pressing for intervention were put on notice that the operation would have to be genuinely multilateral, with them bearing significant costs.

To Dike, (2011) NATO’s led intervention in the Libyan crisis is more or less on sympathy grounds. According to him, the rebels being motivated by the success of the ousting of Ben Ali, the former Tunisian president, and Hosni Mubarak, the former Egyptians president, began their revolt in Libya. As such, Libya under Muammar Al-Gaddafi deployed all military strength to quell the protesting masses, using heavy weapons on the mostly unarmed civilians. It was therefore such attacks on the civilians that NATO /US, out of sympathy for the rebels, supported their cause with the enforcement of UNSC non-fly zones, he contends conclusively, he therefore avers that the refusal of Gaddafi to adhere to the non-fly zone led to the civil war in the country with the rebels remaining dogged in their desire to oust Gaddafi.

The debate on the legality or illegality of humanitarian intervention became more intense in the UN during the post cold war era as the international community proved itself more willing to collectively intervene in other states of humanitarian grounds. Thus the 1990s have been identified by many scholars as the decade of humanitarian intervention, some with the blessing of the UN, and the era also witnessed the most sustained discussion on the topic (Heinze 2011, Stanulova 2010, Guraziu 2008 and Jayakumar 2012). The precursor of humanitarian intervention in the 90s was the US led intervention in Iraq to protect the Kurd in Northern Iraq and Muslim Shites in Southern Iraq in 1991. The UN Security Council (UNSC) did not authorize the intervention but did declared that the human right situation in Iraq constituted a threat to international peace and security (Wheeler 2006, Weiss, Forsythe, Coate and Pease 2007:168; Massingham 2009). The importance of this shift argues wheeler is that it legitimates military enforcement action under chapter VII of the Charter. This is in contrast to UNSC decision on the India’s intervention in Pakistan in which the full weight of Article 2 (7) was used to criticize India’s supposed meddling in the internal affairs of Pakistan. However, the Security Council authorized a number of interventions during this period. These include the US led intervention in Somalia in 1992 to end civil conflict and suffering of the many civilian populace, France’s intervention in Rwanda in 1994 to end the brutal civil conflict and genocide between Tutsis and Hutus, (though the delayed intervention led to the loss of over 800 lives of the Tutsis), the US lead intervention in Haiti in 1994 to reverse a military coup that ousted the democratically elected president of Jean-Bertrande Aristide. Many scholars attribute the nascent debate of humanitarian intervention in the UN on NATO unauthorized intervention in Kosovo in 1999 and failure of the UN Security Council to take decisive action to halt the humanitarian crisis that promoted it. Since Kosove the debate has been on not just the legality or illegality of humanitarian intervention, the violation of sovereignty of humanitarian intervention but also on the need to make the UN and UN charter and the international community more responsive to gross violation of human rights. Against this background and then Secretary General of the UN Kofi Annan at the speech at Ditchley Park, Oxfordshire in June 1998 stated that the UN Charter was never meant as license for governments to trample on human rights and human dignity. Kofi Annan followed this up with his address to the 1999 UN General Assembly in which he propagated the idea of developing norm in favour of “intervention to protect civilians from wholesale slaughter” (Kochler, 1999 & Roberts, 2006). Annan redefined the idea of state sovereignty by articulating it as being weighed against individual sovereignty as recognized in international human rights instruments (Massingham 2009). Speaking on the same note, the ex British Prime Minister Tony Blair unveiled his ‘doctrine of the International Community’ in his address to the Economic Club of Chicago in 1999. According to Blair:

We live in a World where isolationism has ceased to have a reason to exist. By necessity we have to cooperate with each other across nations… Many of our domestic problems are caused on other side of the World… We are all internationalist now, whether we like it or not… We cannot ignore new political ideas in other countries if we want to innovate. We cannot turn our backs on conflict and violation of human rights within other countries if we want still to be secure… The doctrine of isolation has been a causality of world war…Today the impulse towards interdependence is immeasurably greater. We are witnessing the beginnings of a new doctrine of international community. By this I mean the explicit recognition that today more than ever before we are mutually dependent that national interest is to a significant extent governed by international collaboration and we need a clear and coherent debate as to the direction this doctrine takes us in each field of international Endeavour (The Blair Doctrine 1999).


On the basis of this doctrine Blair justified the NATO intervention is Kosovo which was widely condemned by the international community and the General Assembly. In 2001 the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICIS) established by the government of Canada in 2000 (against the background of the outcry against NATO intervention in Kosovo) came out with a report titled ‘Responsibility to Protect’. The Commission chaired by the Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans and Algerian diplomat Mohammed Sahnoun was largely influenced by the work of Francis Deng “Sovereignty as Responsibility” The report shifted the focus from ‘right to intervene’ to responsibility to protect (R2P)’. R2P according to the report designed to be more than just coercive military intervention for humanitarian purposes is premised on three central responsibilities- “to protect, to react and to rebuild”. Thus R2P was seen as a more holistic and integrated approach to conflict prevention and the avoidance of human rights abuses and mass atrocities than the previous articulations of military intervention for humanitarian purposes (Kochler 1999; Massingham 2009 & Heinze 2011). In September 2003 the Secretary General before the 58th General Assembly proclaimed the compelling necessity of reform of the UN in both structure and rules of conduct of member states and the organization. This was to enable the system respond adequately and promptly to new threats to international security namely, international terrorism, nuclear weapon proliferation, chronic poverty of some areas of the world that favors the spreading of terrorist activities/organized crime and the drift toward unilateralism. To facilitate this reform, he set up a panel in November 2003 on ‘Threats, Challenges and Change’ with the mandate to delve into the most problematic aspects of current international relations and formulate recommendations for the reform of the UN system to be discussed at the World Summit scheduled for 2005. The Panel report entitled “A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility” appeared in 2004. Building on the report Mr. Annan produced his personal contribution to the anticipated reform of the UN titled “In Larger Freedom”. This formed the bedrock on the 2005 World Summit which conclusion is articulated in the World Summit Outcome Document (WSOD). Heinze, (2011) observed that through member states at the 2005 World Summit unanimously endorsed (a watered down) version of the R2P doctrine, followed by a reaffirmation of R2P by the UNSC, which indicated its readiness to adopt R2P measures where necessary; however, State practice has not necessarily accompanied these declarations rather there was something of a revolt against R2P after the 2005 World Summit. In the views of (Bellamy 2005 in Heinze, 2011) the post summit revolt against R2P was largely a result of the continuing association of R2P with humanitarian intervention. In addition the UNSC authorized interventions of the 1990’s did indicate its willingness to respond to internal crisis under the purview of “threats to international peace and security”, however this tendency is not a departure from the established practice about when the use of force is thought to be justified except for the fact that internal human rights abuses can now be considered threats to international peace (Heinze, 2011). The failure of R2P to catch on with the UN members have been attributed to its emphasis on responsibility to ‘react’ rather than ‘prevent’ and ‘rebuild’, scholars like (Evans and Sahoun in Bajora 2011) suggest that emphasizing the later two principles will make the reaction prong of the doctrine more palatable. However WSOD and the 2004 panel report suggest five criteria to be fulfilled before use of force is authorized. There are gravity of the threat for state security; the proportionality between means and aim; the exclusive aim to neutralize the threat; the absence of peaceful alternatives; a comparative evaluation of the consequences in the light of the initiative’s likely success and the risk of producing no major damage than the once caused by inaction (Musiani, 2008:3). Apart from employing the powers in chapter VII, neither the Security Council nor the General Assembly has been able to come up with a generally acceptable legal notion or norm of humanitarian intervention and the skeptical stance towards it by member states is predicated on some nagging issues. Many states especially of the third world see humanitarian intervention as pretext for the pursuit of expansionist and strategic interests of the powerful states in a unipolar world order directed by the US (Roberts 2006 & Kochler, 1999). In addition the practice has not shown any consistency in terms of the states chosen for intervention and those left out giving the impression of a double standard. In this regard the Rwandan situation and case of Darfur in Sudan comes to mind. The recent intervention in Libya and non intervention in states with similar circumstances affirms this feeling of double standard. As Vogel, (1996) puts it, when the bad guys are weak such as Iraq in Kurdistan, intervention pops to the top of the agenda; when they are strong, such as Russia in Chechnya, little is said. More importantly humanitarian intervention erodes the legitimacy of the UN as a bastion of state sovereignty. Roberts, (2006) however observes that what has been happening at the United Nations is a gradual and incremental change in the interpretation of the Charter rules and the UN’s responsibilities, particularly as regards the balance between the rights of individual sovereign states and the rights of the community. These trends he notes will continue more through precedent and improvisation than any legal or doctrinal revolution.


The Libyan Crisis and Humanitarian Intervention

Libya presents quite a departure from most cases of HI that aroused the various controversies surrounding the legitimacy and or legality of humanitarian intervention. First, the crisis is a product of the Arab Spring that took over most states in the Middle East and North Africa. Secondly, intervention in Libya was authorized by the Security Council, and thirdly intervention led to regime change rather than just protection of civilians from abuse and suffering. Scholars have also expressed opinions although scantily on NATO led intervention in Libya more especially on the interpretation given to the UNSC resolution 1973 (2011) authorizing intervention. The views expressed can be grouped basically into two, antagonists and protagonists of the intervention mandate, with few coming in between. The antagonist see the US-NATO led intervention as part of the imperialist pursuit on the dominant western hegemony which has embraced the ideology of humanitarian intervention as pretext for its expansionist policy. This viewpoint is aptly represented by scholars like (Mamdani, 2011b, Mackler, Mackler, 2011& Richard, Falk2011).

In the opinion piece with Aljazeera, Mamdani, (2011a) observes that though the resolution for intervention in Libya got the mandate of the UNSC with some abstentions, some of the countries that abstained, especially China and Russia were critical of the vague nature of resolution 1973 which implementation was left” to any and all” and by implication to those with the means to do so-US and NATO. Mamdani critiqued the West for disallowing political resolution of the conflict in Libya while allowing such in Bahrain and other Arab states considered allies of the Western powers. He notes that the US-NATO led intervention in Libya violated resolution 1973 as ground soldiers were used to aid rebels and the bombardment killed many civilians the resolution set to protect. He notes that the full political cost of the military intervention in Libya will be clear during the transition period as the physical damage inflicted on the country will likely make the next government in Libya less sovereign. Mamadmi, (2011b) in another opinion piece notes that the condition making for intervention in Africa are growing rather than diminishing as a result of the growing contest between the dominant  global powers and new challengers notably China in the continent. He observed that opposition movements in Africa tend to seek support-financial and military from the West, and the West in the past decades have created a political and legal infrastructure for intervention in independent countries, and the key have created a political and legal infrastructure for intervention in independent countries, and the key to that infrastructure are the Untied Nations Security Council and the International Criminal Court neither of which works to create a rule of law. Mamdani suggests internal reform of dictatorial African regimes as way to avoid the imperialistic war called humanitarian intervention.

Mackler, (2011) notes that the “UN no Fly zone” resolution was a license for a wholesale destruction of Libya’s military apparatus and much of Tripoli’s infrastructure. He christened it a Euro-American declaration of war which was never meant to benefit the oppressed people of Libya. He argues that the US/NATO led intervention was part of the expansionist policy in Western capital in the quest for spheres of influence. He further notes that the imperialist destruction of Libya in the mask of humanitarian intervention was meant to yield gains in the form of contracts for reconstruction which will be paid for with oil or Libyan funds stacked in US and European banks. In a similar vein Falk, (2011) asserts that in the realm of world politics, coincidences rarely occur, in the sense that a precedent was set by the UN in authorizing a limited protective intervention that when acted upon ignored the guidelines set by the drafters of Security Council resolution. He reasoned that “the actual scope and ill disguised purpose of the intervention shortly after it became a reality in Libya was to tip the balance in a civil war and achieve regime change. He notes that UN is faced with the dilemma of either refusing to succumb to geopolitical pressures and stepping aside to whenever the so called coalition of the willing is formed to carry out an attack or grant some kind of limited autonomy that eventually gets overridden by the far more expansive goals of the intervening governments as the Libyan case reveals. He concludes that in either way the authority of the UN is eroded and the historical agency of geopolitics is confirmed.

The protagonist led by ex British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Prof Juan Cole, insist that intervention backed by resolution 1973 was the right thing to do. According to Blair, (2011) the crisis in Libya brings once more to the fore the blurred line between moral outrage and strategic interests. Using his concept of international community he argues that the era when a regime can go rogue and brutalize its own people has passed as such behavior will not be ignored by the international community especially the West as that will be sending a signal of impotence and discouragement to those fighting for freedom. He asserts that the passage of the resolution on “no fly zone” over Libya was not only timely but the right thing to do as the West cannot afford to be mere spectators but players in the events taking place in the Middle East. He however advised that the policy of the West must not just be a demand for change but a demand for change based on the principles and values intrinsic to democracy, which implies not only the right to vote, but also rule of law, free speech, freedom of religion and the free markets. He rationalized the non application of humanitarian intervention in Bahrian on the ground that Bahrain is ready for reform while Gaddafi was not but rather insisted on bombing his own people. An obvious fact from Tony Blair argument is that Western liberal ideals are central to the intervention in Libya.

In a rather unsettling debate within the scholarly left, the argument has been whether US-NATO led intervention in Libya should be commended or demonized as imperialism. To this  Cole, (2011) asserts that the intervention is not only legal since it was directed by the UNSC, a body so authorized by law to do so, but also received wide support from the international community, Arab League and Libyan rebels.  It served to forestall the wide scale massacre that the Gaddafi regime planned to perpetrate on innocent civilians. He notes that the war for oil supposition brandished by most intellectuals critical of the intervention does not hold since the West already had a deal on oil with the Gaddafi regime before the revolution. In response  Cole,(2011)  argues that legality is not legitimacy as many states in Europe were opposed to the intervention, in addition, time was not given for the sanction and the ceasefire demanded by stipulations of resolution 1970 to take effect before using the military option. Cole therefore asserts that the US-NATO led intervention went

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