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United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973

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Title: United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973  
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Subject: International reactions to the 2011 military intervention in Libya, International reactions to the 2011 Libyan Civil War, Libyan Civil War (2011), United Nations Security Council Resolution 1970, Operation Unified Protector
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United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973

UN Security Council
Resolution 1973
  States enforcing no-fly zone
Date 17 March 2011
Meeting no. 6,498
Code S/RES/1973 (Document)
Subject Libyan Civil War
Voting summary
10 voted for
None voted against
5 abstained
Result Adopted
Security Council composition
Permanent members
Non-permanent members

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, on the situation in Libya, is a measure that was adopted on 17 March 2011. The Security Council resolution was proposed by France, Lebanon, and the United Kingdom.[1][2]

Ten Security Council members voted in the affirmative (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Gabon, Lebanon, Nigeria, Portugal, South Africa, and permanent members France, the United Kingdom, and the United States). Five (Brazil, Germany, and India, and permanent members China and Russia) abstained, with none opposed.[3]

The resolution formed the legal basis for military intervention in the Libyan Civil War, demanding "an immediate ceasefire" and authorizing the international community to establish a no-fly zone and to use all means necessary short of foreign occupation to protect civilians.[4]


Key points

The resolution, adopted under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter:

  • demands the immediate establishment of a ceasefire and a complete end to violence and all attacks against, and abuses of, civilians;
  • imposes a no-fly zone over Libya;
  • authorizes all necessary means to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas, except for a "foreign occupation force";
  • strengthens the arms embargo and particularly action against mercenaries, by allowing for forcible inspections of ships and planes;
  • imposes a ban on all Libyan-designated flights;
  • imposes an asset freeze on assets owned by the Libyan authorities, and reaffirms that such assets should be used for the benefit of the Libyan people;
  • extends the travel ban and assets freeze of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1970 to a number of additional individuals and Libyan entities;
  • establishes a panel of experts to monitor and promote sanctions implementation.

Arming anti-Gaddafi forces

On the face of it, the arms embargo imposed by paragraph 9 of resolution 1970 would prevent arms being supplied to anyone in Libya. However, the resolution qualifies resolution 1970 with the wording "all necessary measures, notwithstanding paragraph 9 of resolution 1970" if in so doing it would protect civilians. Hillary Clinton has argued that, though arming anti-Gaddafi forces was not being proposed at present, it would be legal to do so.[5]


Approved (10) Abstained (5) Opposed (0)
* Permanent members of the Security Council are in bold.

Permanent members China and Russia had reservations about the no-fly zone, including the practicalities of enforcing such a zone and concerns about the use of force when other means had not been exhausted, but had noted requests by the Arab League and the "special situation" in Libya and therefore abstained.[6][7] African members of the Security Council condemned the actions of the Libyan regime and supported the text.[8]

The following day, Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Germany would not take part in the military operation, but added: "We unreservedly share the aims of this resolution. Our abstention should not be confused with neutrality."[9]

India abstained because it perceived the resolution as being based on uncertain information (lack of "credible information on the situation on the ground in Libya") and as being too open-ended (lacking "clarity about details of enforcement measures, including who and with what assets will participate and how these measures will be exactly carried out").[10]

Brazil too abstained noting the fundamental contradiction in using force to achieve an "immediate end to violence and the protection of civilians". They believed that the use of force "may have the unintended effect of exacerbating tensions on the ground and causing more harm than good to the very same civilians we are committed to protecting". The Brazilian Ambassador Mrs. Viotti further observed that " important aspect of the popular movement in North Africa and the Middle East is their spontaneous, homegrown nature. We are also concerned about the possibility that the use of military force, as called for in paragraph 4 of today’s resolution, could change that narrative in ways that may have serious repercussions for the situation in Libya and beyond." [10]

Libyan response

On 18 March, Muammar Gaddafi's government announced that they would comply with the resolution and implement a ceasefire.[11] However, it quickly became clear that no ceasefire had in fact been implemented.[12]

Libyan opposition forces in Benghazi cheered and fired guns and fireworks into the air as the resolution was adopted.[13] A few hours before issuing the resolution, Gaddafi warned the opposition with a speech saying, "We are coming tonight, and there will be no mercy".[14]


US Air Force Lockheed EC-130J aircraft broadcasts a naval blockade warning message to Libyan ports during Operation Odyssey Dawn on 20 March 2011.

Military intervention in Libya began on 19 March, as fighter jets of the French Air Force destroyed several pro-Gaddafi vehicles advancing on rebel stronghold Benghazi. U.S. and British submarines then fired over 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles at targets throughout Libya, severely disabling the regime's air defense capability and allowing a wider enforcement of the no-fly zone to begin. A coalition of 10 states from Europe and the Middle East initially participated in the intervention, later expanding to 17. On 31 March, NATO assumed command of the operation. The intervention succeeded in preventing pro-Gaddafi forces from capturing Benghazi.[15]

On 24 August, it was acknowledged for the first time that special forces troops from Britain,[16] Italy, France, Jordan, Qatar,[17] and the UAE[17] had intervened on the ground in Libyan territory, stepping up operations in Tripoli and other cities.[18] This has been questioned as a possible violation of Resolution 1973[19] although the use of special forces is not prohibited by the resolution.

Noam Chomsky has argued that the Western military intervention into Libya was a clear breach of UNSCR 1973 since it nullified the attempts for a ceasefire that were put forward by the resolution and welcomed by Gaddafi. As he puts it, "NATO powers (France and Britain in the lead and the United States following) violated the resolution, radically, and became the air force of the rebels. Nothing in the resolution justified that. It did call for “all necessary steps” to protect civilians, but there’s a big difference between protecting civilians and being the air force for the rebels." [20]

See also


  1. ^ "Security Council authorizes ‘all necessary measures’ to protect civilians in Libya". United Nations News Centre. 17 March 2011. 
  2. ^ "Libya: UN backs action against Colonel Gaddafi".  
  3. ^ "Libya: Nigeria votes in favour of no-fly resolution".  
  4. ^ Roth, Richard (18 March 2011). "U.N. Security Council approve no-fly zone in Libya".  
  5. ^ Obama not ruling out arming Libya rebels
  6. ^ "China opposed UN resolution on Libya".  
  7. ^ "UN Security Council adopts resolution on Libya".  
  8. ^ "Africa defies AU chief's support for Ghaddafi". Afrol News. 18 March 2011. 
  9. ^ (retrieved 18 March 2011)BBC
  10. ^ a b "UNSC 6498th Meeting". UNSC. 17 March 2011. pp. 5–6. 
  11. ^ "Libya declares ceasefire". New Statesman. 
  12. ^ "Gadhafi blasts 'crusader' aggression after strikes". MSNBC. Retrieved 22 October 2011. 
  13. ^ "UN backs action against Colonel Gaddafi". BBC News. 18 March 2011. Retrieved 22 October 2011. 
  14. ^ Time. 17 March 2011 . 
  15. ^ [1]
  16. ^ Thomas Harding, Gordon Rayner and Damien McElroy Libya: SAS leads hunt for Gaddafi, August 24 2011
  17. ^ a b Hunt is on for safe houses where dictator can lie low | News — Evening Standard
  18. ^ Barbara Starr Foreign forces in Libya helping rebel forces advance, August 24 2011
  19. ^ George Grant Special Forces in Libya: A Breach of UNSCR 1973?, 25 August 2011
  20. ^ "An interview with Noam Chomsky". 

External links

  • UN Security Council Resolution 1973 (2011) on Libya – full text – The Guardian
  • UN Security Council – Resolution 1973 (2011) – PDF (accessed 2011-03-19)
  • UN Security Council's Press Release on Resolution 1973 (2011) (accessed 2011-03-19).
  • Analysis of resolution – BBC News
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