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Arms embargo for Libya: what and how to enforce it? (shift)

(ANALYSIS) The arms embargo on Libya, proclaimed by the United Nations and made applicable in the 27 countries of the European Union by the decision taken on Monday (as soon as it is formalized – translated into the 27 languages ​​and published in the official journal) is a first step but it is not sufficient and contains some flaws.

This embargo is defined as by two criteria:

– the material field (which is prohibited): the sale to Libya of all weapons is prohibited, including ammunition, military and paramilitary equipment and (which the EU added), “equipment that can be used for internal repression“; but also technical, financial and logistical assistance (training, etc.). The supply of mercenaries is expressly prohibited; which means that British companies (mercenary specialists of all kinds) can no longer work with Libya. The only exception: the sending of equipment for “humanitarian or protective use” as well as for personnel of the United Nations, the EU or Member States, the media and humanitarian and development workers, for their “ personal use only”.

– the personal field (to whom it is forbidden): it includes three levels. The embargo is prohibited to nationals of Member States (natural or legal persons), regardless of where they are located. It is prohibited across the territory of member states (which makes it possible to block the transit of foreign companies); by territory we also mean territorial waters. Finally, it is prohibited on board planes or boats bearing the flag of a Member State (regardless of where it is located, for example in international waters for ships).

The flaws of this device

Control must be effective

This device must be strictly applied. We know that some European borders are porous.

The rebellion also targeted

This device targets a territory – Libya – and not a government – ​​that of Tripoli. Which means that the insurgents will not be able to benefit (normally) from military assistance. However, if Tripoli still has a large number of weapons, the insurgents risk running out of them. Here we reiterate the problem faced by the Croatian and then Bosnian government during the Yugoslav wars facing the over-armed Serbs.

No offshore restraint device

Finally, it is inapplicable in international waters where ships have a right of free navigation. The principle is in fact that a ship can only be controlled by the State of its flag (or another if the first has expressly requested it, in the event of cooperation). Concretely this means that EU boats can be controlled, but others cannot. A European specialist on the issue confirmed to me yesterday that to allow control and boarding of vessels that do not carry the flag of one of the EU countries off the coast of Libya, a new resolution of the United Nations. The February 26 resolution does not authorize this provision. But international forces do not remain completely legally disarmed. It is still possible to use Article 110 of the Montego Bay Convention which grants a right of visit to any warship or (and only them) to carry out an inspection of a ship suspected of piracy, human trafficking, or unauthorized polluting emissions or does not display any flag… But this does not normally allow a right of constraint. To enforce the embargo on arms control off the Libyan coast, a new United Nations resolution seems inevitable.

(Shift) Download the text published in the Official Journal of March 3

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).