Libyan sanctions come under review at UN Security Council
Libya, International, 3/21/1998
Libyan sanctions were debated in the UN Security Council yesterday in light of the International Court of Justice's decision in February that it has jurisdiction to rule on the Lockerbie case.
Libyan Foreign Minister Omar Mustafa Muntasser told the council that "a new situation has evolved," due to the ICJ decision which he said makes the sanctions "irrelevant and moot," and called for the sanctions not to be renewed and for the two Security Council resolutions that provided for the sanctions to be rescinded. He also called for the ICJ's final decision to be recognized as the means of settling the dispute.
Muntasser said that the US and UK's demand that two Libyan suspects in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland be extradited for trial either in the US or Scotland is contrary to international law. "It also contradicts with the 1971 Montreal Convention and even runs counter to the judgments of the United States Supreme Court which bars extradition in the absence of an extradition treaty," Muntasser said.
He also cited conflicts over payment of compensation to the families of victims of the bombing and demands that Libya turn over evidence regarding the two suspects saying, "Libya did neither accuse or suspect the two Libyan citizens. It was the United States and the United Kingdom who accused the two Libyan citizens and therefore, they themselves must provide the evidence and not Libya."
He said that Libya had dealt with the accusations against its citizens according to the Montreal Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation and said that Libya, along with Arab and international organizations, had offered several possible solutions to the dispute, including trial of the suspects at the ICJ under Scottish law.
"Libya has never supported terrorism but has assisted in the liberation struggle, and there is a big difference between the two," he said, noting that Libya had previously called for the Security Council to send a committee or envoy to verify that Libya "had nothing to do with terrorism."
Muntasser said the sanctions inflict on Libya, "a suffering of severe magnitude - material and moral." He denounced the sanctions as "'collective punishment' against the entire Libya people as a result of nothing more than a mere suspicion in two of its citizens."
US ambassador to the UN Bill Richardson downplayed the impact of the sanctions saying, "UN sanctions against Libya are targeted sanctions, imposed to address aspects of Libyan involvement in international terrorism, but specifically designed to prevent suffering among the Libyan people. These sanctions do not prohibit the importation of food, medicine, or clothing. They do not close Libya's land or sea borders, and they do not prevent Libya from selling its oil on the open market."
Richardson also stressed that the ICJ ruling was procedural and did not deal with the substance of the Lockerbie case. "The rulings in no way question the legality of the Security Council's actions affecting Libya or the merits of the criminal cases against the two accused suspects," he said, "The Court is not calling for the review or suspension of Security Council resolutions."
"If Libya truly wants these sanctions lifted, its course of action is clear: Surrender the two suspects so they can receive a fair trial in the appropriate criminal court," he said.
Both Richardson and UN ambassador John Weston of the United Kingdom accused Libya of misrepresenting the facts on the ICJ's decision to hear the case. They also called for the continuation of the sanctions which are strongly opposed by the Arab states with ongoing active efforts by the Arab league and others to find a resolution to this problem.
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