UN chief condemns ongoing use of force in western Libya

Libya and the allies must respect the Hague Convention

Published on 23 March 2011

Author(s): UN News Centre

Type:  Press release

From a cultural heritage point of view, [Libya] is of great importance to humanity as a whole

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today condemned the continued use of force in western Libya, where Government troops have been engaged in fighting with the opposition movement that emerged from public protests against the regime of Muammar al-Qadhafi.

Mr. Ban, in a statement issued by his spokesperson, deplored the use of force in that part of Libya, including in the towns of Zintan and Misrata. “He reiterates his call for an immediate end to violence by all parties, in accordance with Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973, and for the responsibility to protect civilians,” the statement noted. “All those who violate international humanitarian and human rights law will be held fully accountable.”

Resolution 1973, adopted last week by the Council, calls for an immediate ceasefire and authorizes United Nations Member States to take “all necessary measures” to protect civilians in Libya. Public protests erupted in Libya earlier this year as part of a wider movement calling for reform across North Africa and the Middle East. Mr. al-Qadhafi has responded with a fierce military crackdown.

Mr. Ban has hailed the Council resolution for its affirmation of the international community’s responsibility to protect civilians when they are being attacked by their own government.
Meanwhile, the head of the UN agency tasked with protecting the world’s cultural heritage today urged both Libyan authorities and the international coalition enforcing a no-fly zone over the country to ensure that no military operations are carried out in areas where historical cultural sites are situated.

Irina Bokova, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said Libya and the allies must respect the Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two Protocols.

“From a cultural heritage point of view, [Libya] is of great importance to humanity as a whole,” said Ms. Bokova in a letter to the Permanent Representatives to UNESCO of each of the countries concerned. “Several major sites bear witness to the great technical and artistic achievements of the ancestors of the people [of Libya], and constitute a precious legacy,” she said.

Article 4 of the 1954 Hague Convention provides that “[t]he High Contracting Parties (States) undertake to respect cultural property situated within their own territory as well as within the territory of other High Contracting Parties by refraining from any use of the property and its immediate surroundings or of the appliances in use for its protection for purposes which are likely to expose it to destruction or damage in the event of armed conflict; and by refraining from any act of hostility, directed against such property.”

Libya’s cultural heritage includes five sites inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List:
• The Old Town of Ghadamès, which is known as “the pearl of the desert” and stands in an oasis. It is one of the oldest pre-Saharan cities and an outstanding example of a traditional settlement.
• The Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus are situated on the border with Tassili N’Ajjer in Algeria. The sites are on a rocky massif with thousands of cave paintings in very different styles, dating from 12,000 BC to AD 100.
• The Archaeological Site of Cyrene was established as a Roman province in 74 BC.
• The Archaeological Site of Leptis Magna was founded in the first millennium BC and is considered to be a unique artistic realization in the domain of urban planning.
• The Archaeological Site of Sabratha was a Phoenician trading-post that served as an outlet for the products of the African hinterland and was part of the short-lived Numidian Kingdom of Massinissa before being Romanized and rebuilt in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD.

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