International intervention in Libya: what does this mean for the protection of civilians?
On 17 March 2011, building on its earlier resolution 1970 of 26 February 2011, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1973, expressing its determination to “ensure the protection of civilians and civilian populated areas and the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian assistance and the safety of humanitarian personnel”. The resolution further condemned the “widespread and systematic attacks” against civilian populations, and reminded all parties to the conflict of their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians. The resolution also authorised a series of measures aimed at ensuring the protection of civilians in Libya, including a call for an immediate ceasefire, the enforcement of a ‘no-fly zone’, re-emphasised the arms embargo imposed earlier in February, and called for political dialogue to ensure a resolution to the conflict.
Following this resolution, the international strategy is in full progress. However, civilians continued to bear the brunt of the conflict with early estimates of civilian casualties in the conflict exceeding 1,000, with thousands more injured. There were also reports of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, detention and torture by pro-Gaddafi forces. Up to 600,000 people in Libya are believed to be in need of humanitarian assistance and more than 376,485 have fled the country. This highly politicised and dynamic environment presents major challenges for the humanitarian community, including access inside the country.
This meeting brought together key humanitarian operational partners to discuss the situation in Libya, to reflect on the current response of the international community and its protection objectives. The discussion considered what real impact this is having and may have on the civilian population, including the risks to civilians inherent in this strategy. It also aimed to reflect on what impact this strategy (and the wider conflict dynamic) is having on the ability of humanitarian actors to assess and respond to needs on the ground.