The Crisis in Libya: The International Response

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Post-event Summary

The Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research at Harvard University (HPCR) organized a Live Web Seminar on the international response to the ongoing crisis in Libya. HPCR Director Claude Bruderlein was joined at Harvard by Amb. R. Nicholas Burns and BBC Foreign Corespondent Philippa Thomas. International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Sarah Lea Whitson of Human Rights Watch, and Dirk J. Vandewalle of Dartmouth College joined the discussion remotely.

Post-event Interview

This post-live web seminar interview was conducted by Professor Claude Bruderlein (Director, HPCR at Harvard University) on April 15, 2011.

Executive Summary

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, gave a Keynote in which he addressed a range of legal and policy concerns arising in response to the Security Council's referral of the situation in Libya to the ICC.

The prosecutor identified crimes against humanity and war crimes as the alleged violations committed in Libya falling under the Court's jurisdiction. Dr. Moreno-Ocampo discussed the role of technology not only in providing evidence of alleged crimes in Libya but also in hastening the international community's response to the situation. The prosecutor noted that the main issue currently facing his office regarding Libya is determining "who is the most responsible" for the alleged crimes. Finally, Dr. Moreno-Ocampo commented on how potential arrest warrants, should they be issued by the ICC's Pre-Trial Chamber, may be enforced in Libya or abroad.

Ambassador R. Nicholas Burns, the Sultan of Oman Professor of the Practice of International Relations at the Harvard Kennedy School, gave a presentation that brought to the fore diplomatic, strategic, and political concerns pertaining to the international response to Libya. In particular, while stating that the initial foreign military intervention was highly successful, Ambassador Burns voiced concerns regarding how the international community-and especially NATO-should interact with the rebels (whom, he noted, are largely unknown to the interveners). Ambassador Burns queried what the international community was attempting to achieve tactically at this point in Libya, and examined the efficacy of the NATO alliance and the U.S. role in that alliance.

Sarah Leah Whitson, the Executive Director of the Middle East and North Africa Division at Human Rights Watch, characterized Libya's human rights record as among the worst in the world in terms of political and civil rights. She detailed a range of constrictions on such rights, and discussed how past abuses had an impact on later protests against the regime, culminating in the current situation.

Dirk Vandewalle, Associate Professor of Government at Dartmouth College, outlined the historical and political factors underlying the situation in Libya. Professor Vandewalle stated that Libya must now restructure the economy by making it less reliant on the state, devise a political formula acceptable by all actors, and create a system of law that serves all citizens of Libya equitably. He identified three ways the international community should respond to the situation in Libya: (1) to help bring justice to Libya; (2) to help keep the country together; and (3) to help restructure and diversify the Libyan economy.

Philippa Thomas, Nieman Journalism Fellow at Harvard University, discussed the role of the media in responding to the situation in Libya. She examined severe constraints on the media, and the need to be vigilant about potentially putting sources at risk. Ms. Thomas noted how both sides to the conflict may operationalize the media, and highlighted the role of social media as a non-traditional but important conduit for information about the situation in Libya.

Event Recording

The full, 109 minute live web seminar recording is available in 2 formats:

Full-screen, streaming recording with Powerpoint presentation Vanderwalle (6:56) Whitson (19:58) Moreno-Ocampo (36:35) Burns (56:22) Thomas (1:18:53)

Audio-only, downloadable, mp3 recording from iTunes Vanderwalle (7:29) Whitson (20:30) Moreno-Ocampo (37:02) Burns (56:52) Thomas (1:19:19)

Background Materials

Nicholas Burns, "The Gamble in Libya," Boston Globe, March 22, 2011.

Irwin Cotler and Jared Genser, "Libya and the Responsibility to Protect," New York Times, February 28, 2011.

Judah Grunstein, "Libya, Iraq and the Responsibility to Protect," World Politics Review, February 25, 2011.

Mervyn Frost and David Rodin, "How to get Humanitarian Intervention Right: What Libya Teaches Us about Responsibility to Protect," Insight Briefing, March 2011.

Dustin A. Lewis, "Armed Conflict(s) in Libya," IHL in Action Blog, Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research at Harvard University, March 23, 2011.

Human Rights Watch, "ICC: Prosecutor to Open an Investigation in Libya: Q&A on Libya and the International Criminal Court," March 3, 2011.

International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect, "The Crisis in Libya," (undated).

International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect, "Open Letter to the Security Council on the Situation in Libya," March 4, 2011.

Legal and Ethical Lessons of NATO's Kosovo Campaign (ed. Andru E. Wall), Naval War College, International Law Studies (Blue Book) Series, Vol. 78, 2003.

Michael N. Schmitt, "Wings over Libya: The No-Fly Zone in Legal Perspective," Yale Journal of International Law Online, Vol. 36, pp. 45-58 (2011).

Office of the Prosecutor (International Criminal Court), ICC Prosecutor to open an investigation in Libya, March 2, 2011.

Anne Orford, "What kind of law is this?", London Review of Books' Blog, March 29, 2011.

Statement of the UN Secretary-General's Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect on the Situation in Libya, February 22, 2011.

"The world's responsibility to protect Libyans," Christian Science Monitor, Editorial, February 22, 2011.

UN Security Council, Resolution 1970 (2011), UN Doc. S/RES/1970, February 26, 2011.

UN Security Council, Resolution 1973 (2011), UN Doc. S/RES/1973, March 17, 2011.

About the HPCR Live Seminar Series

The Live Web Seminar Series is produced by HPCR at the Harvard School of Public Health. The Series is in its third season of monthly live web seminars on contemporary challenges and dilemmas in humanitarian law and policy tailored for practitioners and policy makers. Since 2008 these events have provided a source of interactive professional dialogue at a global level for thousands of professionals engaged in humanitarian action around the world.

In Partnership with:
The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland
The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency