Attacks on Libyans may be 'crimes against humanity'

Attacks on civilians in Libya may amount to “crimes against humanity” and the world will not stand “idly by” if they continue, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Monday.

“These widespread and systematic attacks against the civilian population may amount to crimes against humanity,” Rasmussen said of what he termed the “outrageous” response of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s regime as protests evolved into full-blown civil war.

While events on the ground in North Africa were fast-moving, Rasmussen underlined that: “I can’t imagine the international community and the UN standing idly by if Colonel Gaddafi and his regime continue to attack his own people systematically.”

The Dane told a news conference at Nato headquarters that Gaddafi’s “violation of human rights and international humanitarian law” had created “a human crisis on our doorstep which concerns us all”, and reiterated his strongest condemnation.

Libyan rebels ceded ground to Gaddafi’s advancing forces on Monday as the United States came under increasing domestic political pressure to arm the opposition and the United Nations appointed a special humanitarian envoy.

‘No intention to intervene’
Rasmussen stressed that “Nato has no intention to intervene in Libya,” despite intensive “prudent planning” for “any eventuality”.

He stressed repeatedly that action would require a United Nations Security Council mandate.

“I take note of the fact the current UN mandate doesn’t authorise the use of armed force,” Rasmussen added, which he said meant calls by some Nato states for the enforcement of a no-fly zone over the desert land would require a change of mindset in New York.

He said the imposition of a no-fly zone “is indeed a very comprehensive undertaking [that] will require a wide range of military assets”.

France said earlier on Monday that the Arab League backed Paris in calling for the step-change, and Rasmussen said he had spoken to the heads of both the Arab League and the chair of the Commission of the African Union.

“We stand ready to assist if so requested and properly mandated,” he said.—AFP

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