The UN Security Council imposed sanctions on Libya in 1992 to press Tripoli to hand over two suspects wanted for the 1988 bombing of a US Pan American Airways airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland. The Council suspended (but did not lift) the sanctions against Libya in April 1999 after the Libyan government handed over the suspects for trial in a special court. Eventually the court found one of the two suspects guilty.
In August 2003, Libya accepted responsibility for the bombing and agreed to a $2.7 billion settlement. In return, London and Washington immediately began to push the Security Council to lift all UN sanctions against Tripoli. As a permanent member with veto power, France agreed in principle to lift the sanctions, but urged a delay so that it could negotiate increased Libyan indemnity payments to its own citizens in connection with the 1989 bombing of a French UTA airliner over Niger. The Security Council lifted sanctions in September 2003, and at the end of the year, Libya agreed to end efforts to produce nuclear weapons. Libya also began to offer contracts to big Western oil companies. Relations between Tripoli and the US and Europe have gradually normalized. In January 2008, Libya gained a non-permanent seat on the Security Council – a position the country will hold for two years.
This section looks at the original Council action to impose the sanctions and the debate that followed, later erosion of support for the sanctions, negotiations between Libya and the US-UK over the organization of the trial, aspects of the trial proceedings, and subsequent issues about lifting of the sanctions.
UN Resolutions| Sanctions Against Libya | The Trial | The Handover | Documents
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Libya has the highest per capita GDP in Africa due to profits from its oil industry. The nation’s relative wealth in the region attracts migrants from Somalia, Eritrea, Nigeria, Sudan, and Mali. But migrants have no status in Libya, and national turmoil allows detention centers to hold migrants and exploit them as forced labor. Detention centers are not under state control and often deal with organized crime syndicates who run human trafficking operations. The going rate for a migrant in Libya is between 210 and 645 US dollars. The UN has pushed for the issuance of temporary documentation to migrants in order to legally protect them. (NY Times)
In this Foreign Policy in Focus article, Professor David Gibbs explores the long-term consequences of NATO’s intervention in Libya. Gibbs argues that the NATO intervention is erroneously heralded as a military “success” when in reality it has set a dangerous precedent of future military interventions in Iran, Syria, and other targets. Moreover, Gibbs warns that the NATO intervention must be seen within a larger global framework where western nations interfere with the internal politics of other countries for their own strategic or economic benefits. Libya is no exception. (Foreign Policy in Focus)
A New York Times on-the-ground investigation of airstrike sites across Libya has revealed scores of civilian casualties in the wake of UN-sanctioned military intervention. Issuing self-congratulatory statements deeming the campaign a success, NATO has repeatedly refused to acknowledge or accept responsibility for these deaths. The argument that “precise” airstrike campaigns do not harm, maim, or kill innocent people rings false. NATO killed Libyan civilians, mistakenly pummeling a secret rebel armored convoy, bombing residences of sleeping families due to errant ordnance, and specifically targeting homes presumed to be used by loyalist forces. (New York Times)
Before the UN Security Council voted to approve military intervention in Libya, a worked-out non-violent proposal was put forward. It addressed the need to protect civilians by seeking a rapid ceasefire and setting out key elements of an orderly, stable transition to a more legitimate form of government. International Crisis Group published a statement arguing for such an approach, echoed by the African Union and consistent with the views of the BRIC states. It was deliberately rejected. London, Paris, and Washington licensed themselves to undertake regime change in Resolution 1973 with the phrase “all necessary measures.” They did so with full knowledge that as permanent veto-wielding members of the Council, they would not be held accountable. (London Review of Books)
On the surface, a Security Council resolution calling for an investigation into the fate of missiles used to overthrow Gadaffi indicates a commitment to combat the spread of deadly weapons and raise public concern about proliferation. However, according to UN correspondent Colum Lynch, a technical provision in the resolution provides Council members with greater scope to influence the findings of the panel of experts on Libya. The UN sanctions committee will decide what is reported, not the independent arms expert that typically investigates illicit weapons transfers, and each Council member will have authority to block any disagreeable finding that comes to light. This sets a dangerous precedent. (Foreign Policy)
The Western military alliance has declared victory after NATO’s eight-month operation in Libya, with serious implications for the future of UN mandates on the use of force. NATO reports on conducting 26, 320 sorties and attacking over 5,000 targets, but provides no casualty figures. Among the many problems with the policy of military intervention is the casual attitude towards its victims. Today, rebel militias refuse to disarm, and there have been many reprisals against civilians identified as Gaddafi supporters. Meanwhile, it is abundantly clear that the “humanitarian” campaign in Libya will prove lucrative for western arms manufacturers and oil companies. (Open Democracy)
As profit-making opportunities diminish in Iraq and Afghanistan, Western companies and security contractors have turned their focus toward Libya. Recognizing the potential for enormous revenues from a country with large infrastructure needs and the oil to finance them, entrepreneurs hope to cash in on Libyan gratitude toward the US and NATO. Libya has Africa’s largest oil reserves, which could translate to a steady supply of cash and resources for the West. Eighty French companies met with the TNC one week before Gadaffi’s death, and the British defense minister has advised British corporations to “pack their suitcases” and go to Tripoli. This scramble to secure contracts for Libyan oil reinforces the perception that the intervention was motivated by the UK and France’s quest for access to these resources. (New York Times)
Since Gaddafi’s regime collapse, rebel military councils have emerged all around the country. They are responsible of arresting Gaddafi’s supporters, looking for smuggled weapons and organizing their own justice system. However, tensions and rivalry between the different groups remain ripe. This article points out that rebels are mostly motivated by vengeance and are acting violently against civilians they suspect of being Gaddafi’s supporters with no legal restraint.(Guardian)
Military intervention in Libya ultimately revealed itself to be based on the premise that R2P and regime change could be one and the same. Whether or not NATO targeted Gaddafi directly, Western countries certainly had a vested interest in his death. Had he been handed over to The Hague, Gaddafi would have almost certainly revealed the extent of his close ties with Western government officials, details of his collaboration with Western intelligence services in counterterrorism, with the EU in limiting migration from Libyan shores, and in the granting of major contracts to Western oil firms. (Foreign Policy)
During his forty-year rule, Gaddafi has frequently promoted pan-Africanism and African multiculturalism. Libya counts a high number of black people – Indigenous Libyans and African migrants. But Gaddafi’s overthrow has shown the limits of Libya’s image as an African country. Gaddafi’s army has recruited the indigenous Black population, thus stirring resentment among the other Libyans. African migrants have been hunted down and killed by the rebels. Libya is now affirming its Arab roots and its affiliation to North Africa. But Libya’s future remains closely linked to the African continent as a whole. The National Transitional Council, Libya’s new government needs Africa’s recognition and assistance, not only to gain political legitimacy but also to cooperate on issues, such as immigration and regional security. It remains to be seen if Libya realizes this transition. (Guardian)
The Qaddafi regime was in power for more than 40 years, partly due to the quiet friendships forged with the same Western governments now responsible for its downfall. The Italians had strong ties to the Colonel, based on oil and gas, as did the UK. London sold to Libya almost £40 million worth of military equipment in the year ending September 2010. Similarly, the Bush administration approved military shipments of $8.3 million in 2006-2007. Germany, Malta and France also have significant business ties to Libya. (Project Syndicate)
Following NATO’s military intervention into Libya, Human Rights Watch discovered secret intelligence documents drafted during the Bush administration containing evidence of US, UK, and Libyan cooperation in the transfer, detention, and interrogation of terrorism suspects during Gadaffi's rule. Research by HRW, as well as the US State Department’s own documentation at the time, confirmed Libya’s record of torture and abuse of detainees. In the face of overwhelming evidence of senior level US government involvement in torture, and of US and UK complicity in torture in third countries, these governments should conduct criminal investigations into the alleged abuses. (Human Rights Watch)
Western powers that actively supported Libyan rebels’ insurrection appear poised to gain from Gaddafi’s fall. Libya is a major oil producer, and it is becoming increasingly clear that petroleum companies from the US, Britain, and France will benefit from NATO’s military intervention and subsequent regime change in the country. (Guardian)
This article calls into question the assertion that the war in Libya is over. Gaddafi still retains significant military power and strategic strongholds, while the rebels may not be able to form a coherent government. Western doctrine of soft military power and the implementation of a “no-fly zone” have not met their ultimate goals – the fall of Gaddafi and the protection of civilians. (Stratfor)
Events in Libya threaten the UN’s credibility as a trustworthy, impartial arbiter of international and civil conflicts. Resolution 1973 authorized member countries to protect civilians and was not intended to allow foreign forces to take sides in the revolution or actively working toward the overthrow of a UN member state. What kind of credibility will future Security Council resolutions have if their terms can be so thoroughly exceeded or violated by those entrusted with the task of enforcing them? (Al Jazeera)
Diplomatic cables revealed by WikiLeaks show the close relationship between the Gaddafi regime and the US. The two countries developed an important military and security cooperation as part of the “war against terrorism”, while US companies hoped to gain high profits from Libya’s oil. But now that the Gaddafi regime has been toppled, the US is changing sides and turning against its former ally.(Global Research)
According to this article, the Gaddafi regime and Britain have been involved in secret talks and struck clandestine deals in the past few years. These discussions, in which Gaddafi’s son Saif took part, focused mostly on the Libyan nuclear program. Gaddafi’s strategy consisted in preventing western intervention in Libya, in the wake of the attack on Iraq. Now that the Gaddafi regime is falling apart, the MI6, Britain’s secret service, is tracking down its former “friend.” (The Independent)
The author of this article compares Tony Blair’s misguided actions in the 2003 invasion of Iraq to the current UK Prime Minister’s military involvement in Libya. The rebels in Libya, who have been put forward as alternatives to Gadaffi’s rule, may be just as unsavory as the dictator himself. The author suggests that previous wars and occupations should provide lessons for the future – military intervention does not help protect civilians. (Independent)
Germany has announced that it will lend €100m to Libyan rebels. The loan to the national transitional council was secured against frozen Libyan government funds. Five months into the war, the humanitarian situation is acute. In Misrata, Libya's third largest and normally affluent city, basic food and clothing supplies are in need, along with the cash to pay for them. Nato remains outwardly confident stating that Gaddafi is losing his hold on Libya. Gaddafi’s government is open to a ceasefire and a negotiated solution to the war, but the rebel forces, UK, US, France and Russia will likely insist that Gaddafi steps down as a precondition to talks. This has, thus far, impeded African Union and UN informal peace proposals. (Guardian)
The author of this article contends that the NATO intervention in Libya exhibits “the dangers of political fantasy in the service of ‘humanitarian interventionism’, appalling intelligence work, illusions about bombing and air power and some of the worst press coverage in living memory”. Three and a half months after US, UK and French forces started bombing Libya and supplying arms supply to various rebel factions, NATO's failure in its efforts to promote ‘regime change’ in Libya is now glaring. (Pambazuka News)
US President Barack Obama has stated that the US is a country founded on justice and the rule of law. However, he has failed to obtain Congressional authorization (as required under the War Powers Resolution of 1973) for the intervention in Libya. The Act requires the President to notify Congress within 48 hours of introducing the US to hostilities and to end operations within 60 to 90 days unless he receives Congressional authority to continue. In the Libya case, the 90-day period will end Sunday. As such, the US President has failed to comply with legislation that is an important check on the use of force. (IPS)
The author, Obi Nwakanma of Pambazuka News, suggests that real the motivation behind the NATO alliance war in Libya is the quest to control the oil fields of Libya, guaranteeing Western access to energy sources. While the South African President and the African Union attempt to negotiate a settlement, NATO countries are setting up new embassies and arranging oil deals with the Libyan rebels against the long-term interest of the Libyan people. Germany has recognized the rebel force as the legitimate government of Libya, making it easier to do business in Libya. The author calls for a stronger and more cohesive regional response to interventions by industrialized countries in the domestic affairs of African countries. (Pambazuka News)
Muammar Gaddafi's regime, offered a truce in return for an immediate NATO ceasefire in Libya, a day before the International Criminal Court (ICC) considered arrest warrants for rights abuses in Libya. The Office of the Prosecutor for the ICC has since filed arrest warrants for Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam, and intelligence chief Abdullah Senussi. (Mail and Guardian
Some European Union (EU) member states are considering supplying arms to anti-Gaddafi rebels in Libya. This, however, has the potential to actively prolong the crisis. Further, intervention in Libya is likely motivated by EU and US economic and strategic interests in the region. China’s commercial contracts in Libya, totaling 18 billion dollars, have declined by nearly 53 percent since the unrest in North Africa began. Thus, the aim of US Africa Command’s (AFRICOM’s) strategic policy may be to minimize China’s economic interest in Africa whilst enhancing the US’. (Inter Press Service
The legality of international intervention in Libya is already uncertain. Now another controversial legal question has arisen; the legality of arming the rebels. The possibility of such action was initially rejected by British Prime Minister David Cameron. Since then, however, Cameron has back flipped and US President Barack Obama has said he will not rule out giving military aid to the rebels. This article examines the legal debate, which stems from competing clauses in Security Council Resolution 1970 – which implemented an arms embargo against Libya – and Resolution 1973, which authorizes coalition forces to “take all necessary measures” to protect civilians. However, legality may be a moot point; with politics, and not law, once again likely to be the deciding factor. (Turtle Bay, Foreign Policy)
Much of the debate regarding international intervention in Libya has focused on politics, ignoring the legality of the action under international law. Curtis Doebbler, a US human rights lawyer, argues that the use of force against Libya is illegal. Doebbler argues that Security Council resolution 1973, which authorizes the use of force, contravenes the UN Charter requirement that force must be a measure of last resort. The Security Council had not determined that non-forceful measures had been exhausted at the time the resolution was adopted. Further, after the resolution was adopted, the Libyan government indicated it would comply with its terms – yet Western forces still launched their offensive, disregarding the government’s assertion. (Al-Ahram)
The International Peace Bureau (IPB) has vehemently condemned the "no-fly zone" in Libya. Comparing the UN-approved intervention to the Iraq crisis of 2003, The IPB argues that the sanctions process should be continued before further military strikes occur. This article maintains that the UN should engage in negotiations between Gaddafi and the rebels and respect the ceasefire agreement, rather than adhering to a policy of armed intervention stemming from their "responsibility to protect". Overall, the IPB appeals for disarmament as a prerequisite for development. (International Peace Bureau)
Humanitarian concerns in Libya undoubtedly require the involvement of the international community. However, a no fly zone and other forms of "coercive external intervention" will not necessarily serve the interests of Libyan civilians. This article argues that foreign powers should allow the Libyan population to manage its democratic uprising on its own terms, without the imposition of external interests. The authors argue alternative forms of intervention would better assist Libyan civilians: humanitarian aid and the establishment of evacuation routes for refugees. Indirect support could also be provided to the rebels through means such as intelligence sharing. (Al Jazeera)
This Talk of the Nation broadcast on NPR focuses on the conditions in Libya prior to the conflict’s beginning. It addresses the underlying tensions that had been existent in the country, as well as the role that Libyan oil has played domestically and internationally. (NPR)
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has granted permission to UN weapons inspectors to conduct checks for weapons of mass destruction. The move may lead to the end of US unilateral sanctions against the country. (Scotsman)
Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi has announced the privatization of the Libyan oil sector. Big oil firms ponder a small Scottish firm's claim that its annual turnover would reach £30 billion in open trade with Libya, the world's sixth largest oil producer. (Vanguard
Prior to the sanctions regime, Libya provided arms to rebel groups in Western Sahara and the Philippines. Several countries seek to resume trade with Libya, but some commodities for sale, including fast patrol boats and night-vision technology, raise eyebrows. (Inter Press Service)
The Security Council ended its sanctions regime against Libya, although unilateral US sanctions will continue. Amnesty International welcomed the symbolic return of Libya to the international community, but urged the government to improve the human rights situation. (Associated Press)
Major US oil companies pressure the Bush administration to lift unilateral sanctions against Libya. The New York Times reports that the oil-rich country may revoke concessions to these companies if sanctions continue.
France may use its veto in the Security Council to prevent the end of sanctions against Libya. The French foreign ministry expressed concern about reparations for Libyan-backed bombing of a French airliner in 1989. (Reuters)
The Libyan government has formally acknowledged responsibility for the bombing of a 1988 Pan Am flight and will pay reparations to the families of the 270 victims. While the UK pushes for the end of UN sanctions, the future of unilateral US-imposed sanctions remains in doubt. (Guardian)
Libya has accepted responsibility for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, a condition set by Washington for lifting UN and US sanctions. Simultaneously, Libyan officials have said they would give priority to negotiations with the four US oil companies. (New York Times)
In its approach to Iraq, the Bush administration should learn from Libya that violence only leads to retaliation, perpetuating an ongoing cycle of undesirable consequences. The US bombed Libya in April 1986 for its alleged involvement in terrorism, and the country responded with more murders, kidnappings and terrorist attacks. (Foreing Policy In Focus)
A German oil company, Wintershall, is eager to drill Libyan oil fields formerly held by the US company Oasis before imposition of sanctions in 1986. The US threatens to impose sanctions on Wintershall if it goes ahead. (Washington Post)
The US and the United Kingdom pressed Libya to comply with UN resolutions to allow the formal lifting of UN sanctions and an end to unilateral US sanctions. However, Washington remains more skeptical than London towards normalizing relations with Tripoli. (The Guardian)
Mohamed Ali El Huwej, Qaddafi's money manager, tells Bloomberg News he has developed a system for making global investments -- using minority stakes, shell companies and interlocking share holdings -- that won't attract the attention of U.S. authorities. He calls it ``financial engineering.''
Foreign ministers of the European Union appealed to the US not to extend its Iran Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA). The ILSA gives the US government permission to impose sanctions against third-country firms doing business in Iran or Libya. (Reuters)
The US is revising its sanction regime not only on Iraq, but also on Iran and Libya in order to meet energy needs in the country. (Washington Post)
After a second round of talks with Libya, the US and the UK have not changed their standpoint, but the meeting help to establish a dialogue and clarify everyone's position. (Associated Press)
After a meeting with the US and UK, the Libyan ambassador says he is optimistic that an agreement could be reached soon. (BBC)
Because "Libya in 2001 is a very different place from Libya in 1988," according to a UK official, Britain will support a new UN resolution to lift the embargo, as long as Tripoli accepts a set of conditions including renouncement to terrorism. (Independent)
Various Security Council members want to see the inactive sanctions against Libya formally put to rest, but the US and UK say that they will oppose an end to sanctions until the Lockerbie trial is over. (Reuters)
Following the lead of the UN, Switzerland suspended sanctions against Libya after the surrender two suspects in the lockerbie bombing case.
Libya handed the suspects in this case over to Scottish authorities. This article looks at what may be next while recapping a little of the history of this situation.
Testimony by Jeffrey J. Schott, Senior Fellow, Institute for International Economics before the Committee on International Relations, US House of Representatives.
Several Council members criticise the ongoing sanctions against Libya but the United States and Britain manage to gain another renewal, with the support of France.
A critical view by a distinguished international lawyer from Canada.
Before Libyan citizen Ali al-Megrahi was charged for the bombing of PanAm 103 over Lockerbie, the official scenario endorsed by the US, the UK and Scotland implicated Iran, Syria and the Palestinian group PFLP-GC. It was only in 1990, two years after the bombing, that Megrahi and Libya became the prime suspects. By promoting this new official version, the US was hoping to secure the support of Iran and Syria during the Gulf War. (Global Research)
Hans Koeschler, an expert on international law appointed by Kofi Annan to observe the Lockerbie trial says that the court's decision has been influenced by political considerations. (Associated Press)
After eighty-four days of trial, the Scottish court unanimously convicted one of the two accused, while the other was acquitted. Speculation about Gaddafiâ€™s involvement in the bombing remains. And Libya may have to wait a while before sanctions are lifted.(BBC)
The credibility of US intelligence agencies suffered as CIA cables were released in the Lockerbie trial - accompanied by a series of evasive answers from an FBI investigator and a poor showing by the witness, Abdul Majid Giaka, who spent three years on the CIA payroll. (New York Times)
The testimony of the double agent Mr. Abdul Majid against the two defendents seemed a little unsure and was attacked for its credibility. One mystery question is that as a double US agent - working at the airport and knowing of the bombing, why did he not tip anybody off about the bomb? (New York Times)
The UN sanction against Libya was imposed to blame suspects of the Lockerbie bombings. However, the prosecution against Libya is weakening as feeble testimonies and lack of cooperation from the witnesses hides the case in a thick fog. (New York Times)
Following a report by Kofi Annan on Libya's decision to renounce terrorism and respect UN resolutions, EU Ministers unanimously decided to lift sanctions against Libya imposed in 1992 in connection with the Lockerbie bombing. (Pan African News Agency)
The Lockerbie suspects are in custody in Holland and the Security Council has resolved to lift all sanctions on Libya. (BBC News)
Britain announced it would resume diplomatic relations with Libya after a 15-year freeze. The move comes after Libya handed over the two Lockerbie bombing suspects and agreed to cooperate in an investigation of the fatal shooting of a London police officer in 1984. (New York Times)
Washington Post article on the qualifications the US is placing on the lifting of sanctions against Libya, including their cooperation with the trial of two Libyan intelligence agents suspected in the bombing of Flight 103.
While a number of Security Council members, including the three African states, Gabon, Gambia and Namibia, advocate the lifting of sanctions against Libya, the US shows no willingness of compromise on the issue. (Inter Press Service)
The US has made it clear that it considers lifting sanctions on Libya "premature" at this point. (CNN Online)
Breaking a 18-year long freeze in diplomatic relations, Libya and the US held talks concerning the lifting of UN sanctions. But Libya has yet to fulfill a number of conditions before the US is ready to make concessions, according to this BBC Online article.
In an important step toward normalizing diplomatic relations, ambassadors of the US, the United Kingdom and Libya will hold talks hosted by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to discuss how to proceed on the issue of lifting sanctions against Libya.
Once the men are in the Netherlands, Secretary-General is to write a letter to the Security Council that would automatically suspend sanctions imposed on Libya in 1992 and tightened in 1993.
If the suspects are found guilty, they would be detained in a prison affiliated to the UN in Scotland.
State prosecutors were told to make haste in arresting nine Americans wanted in connection with the 1986 bombings of Tripoli and the Libyan port of Benghazi.
Libya had agreed that the two suspects would be available to the Secretary-General on or before April 6, 1999.
Mandela plans to address Libya's General People's Congress which will decide whether to send the two suspects to the Netherlands.
Secretary General denied that Security Council offered the ultimatum but he said he did discuss with the Council about "reasonable" time period for handover.
Libya wants a guarantee of justice before they let the two suspects appear in court.
The United States and Britain threatened increased sanctions against Libya unless it hands over the suspects in the Lockerbie bombing case within 30 days. Kofi Annan responded with support. Libya is looking for assurances that the sanctions will be lifted if it complies.
Follow-up of the talks regarding the trial of the Lockerbie suspects. Two salient issues are the place of incarceration of the suspects if found guilty, and Libya's insistence that UN sanctions should be lifted rather than simply suspended as the UN Security Council proposed.
This article examines the question of the erosion of hostility against Libya by looking at the proposal of a UN designation to prevent interrogation of the Lockerbie suspects.
Contrasting opinions about the progress of Lockerbie case after the meeting of Colonel Qaddafi and Secretary General Annan.
The continuing problems of agreeing arrangements for a trial of the suspected Lockerbie bombers.
Text of P.L. 104-172 (H.R. 3107). Enacted August 5, 1996.
Posted by the Department of State.