Various Documents considered by the Committee - European Scrutiny Committee Contents

12 EU restrictive measures against Libya





Council Decision concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in Libya

Council Regulation concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in Libya

Legal base(a)  Article 29 TEU; unanimity

(b)  Article 215 TFEU; QMV

DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of considerationMinister's letter of 27 February 2011

(a)  EM of 28 February 2011

(b)  EM of 1 March 2011

Previous Committee ReportNone
Discussed in Council28 February 2011
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared


12.1 On 23 February 2011 the European Union expressed its grave concern over the situation unfolding in Libya; strongly condemned the violence and use of force against civilians; deplored the repression against peaceful demonstrators; and reiterated its call for an immediate end to the use of force and for steps to address the legitimate demands of the population.[61]

12.2 More recently, on 27 February 2011, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission (Baroness Ashton), made today the following statement:

"I welcome today's adoption of a resolution by the United Nations Security Council in regard to the events taking place in Libya.

"The European Union fully endorses this resolution and will implement the restrictive measures as a matter of urgency.

"The EU had already started to work on restrictive measures such as assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo and preparations are already well underway. Formal adoption will take place as soon as possible to ensure full and immediate implementation.

"I am in constant contact with international partners, including with the UN and the US, to discuss next steps. On Saturday I met with U.S Under Secretary of State Bill Burns, and I spoke at length by telephone with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to discuss the next steps following today's UNSC resolution.[62] We will continue this conversation when we meet in Geneva on Monday and we continue to coordinate our efforts over the weekend.

"Today's UNSC resolution shows that what is taking place in Libya will not be tolerated by the international community. It shows that the international community is united in its efforts to stop the atrocities taking place in Libya. The violation of human rights must stop now. Gaddafi and the Libyan authorities know that their unacceptable and outrageous actions will have consequences. I once again urge him to stop the violence to bring about a peaceful resolution of the situation which is acceptable to the people of Libya. The people of Libya have spoken and Colonel Gaddafi must listen. I stress the need to hold to account those responsible for attacks on civilians and welcome the UNSC decision to refer to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Impunity for crimes committed will not be tolerated by the international community.

"The EU continues to work together to coordinate the evacuation of EU citizens and support humanitarian efforts.

"The EEAS crisis response arrangements are fully in place, evaluating constantly the situation and recommending action on all fronts: situation of EU citizens and progress on evacuation, political situation, diplomatic efforts—both in New York and Geneva—and, together with ECHO, humanitarian assistance.

"Following the meeting of the EEAS Crisis Cell on Saturday morning another teleconference with EU capitals was held in the afternoon to coordinate evacuation and consular efforts."[63]

The Minister's letter of 27 February 2011

12.3 On 27 February 2011, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Alistair Burt) wrote to advise the Committee that it would be necessary to adopt a Council Decision and Council Regulation[64] to respond to the crisis in Libya; and to say that, in view of fast moving developments on the ground and the need to implement measures rapidly and effectively, it would be necessary for the Government to agree to their adoption before the Committee would be able to scrutinise them.

The draft Council Decision and Council Regulation

12.4 The measures were adopted without discussion at the 28 February 2011 Transport, Telecoms and Energy Council, after which the following statement was issued:

"In line with Saturday's decision by the UNSC, the Council banned the supply to Libya of arms, ammunition and related material. In addition to the UN measures, the Council also prohibited trade with Libya in equipment which might be used for internal repression.

"The Council enacted the following UN measures:

  •   "a visa ban on 16 persons, including Muammar Qadhafi, parts of his family closely associated with the regime and other persons responsible for the violent crackdown on the civilian population since 15 February;
  •   "a freeze of the assets of Muammar Qadhafi and five members of his family.

"The Council also adopted as autonomous measures a visa ban on an additional 10 individuals and an asset freeze on a further 20 individuals responsible for the violent crackdown on the civilian population."[65]

The Government's view

12.5 In both his Explanatory Memoranda, the Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) says that, as well as the EU measures, he is:

"considering the full range of other measures at our disposal, bilaterally and with international partners with our friends in the Arab League, EU, with the US and other partners and at the UN … [and] pressing through the UN for asset freezes, travel bans, sanctions, and the investigation of war crimes and crimes against humanity. We want action that is legally binding, targeted and meaningful."

12.6 With regard to the measures, the Minister notes that:

—  the travel ban is to be enforced using secondary legislation under Section 8B of the Immigration Act 1971 (as inserted by Section 8 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999);

—  the secondary legislation currently in force is the Immigration (Designation of Travel Bans)(Amendment) Order 2007;

—  the procedures for designating individuals as subject to asset freezes are compliant with fundamental rights: provision is made for competent authorities of Member States to authorise the release of frozen funds where necessary in certain circumstances, for example, to satisfy the basic needs of listed persons or their dependents and where necessary for extraordinary expenses; decisions by competent authorities of Member States in this regard would be subject to challenge in Member State's courts; prohibitions on transfer of funds and financial services are exempted where necessary for humanitarian purposes, or where necessary for supply of foodstuffs, medical equipment or provision of health care.

—  the Regulation respects the fundamental rights and observes the principles recognised in particular by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and notably the right to an effective remedy and to a fair trial and the right to the protection of personal data;

—  the Regulation says that the Council shall provide designated persons and entities an opportunity to present observations on the reasons for their listing; and, where observations are submitted, the Council will review its decision in the light of those observations and inform the person or entity concerned accordingly;

—  in addition, the asset freezing measures will be reviewed at regular intervals and at least every 12 months.

12.7 The Minister continues his comments in both Explanatory Memoranda as follows:

"We stand 100% behind the Libyan people and their right to express their views free from the threat of assassination, beatings, rape and intimidation. At a time of cautious optimism in other parts of the Middle East, Qadhafi's brutality has made him once more a pariah.

"We will continue to push for a tough approach. Action is best done on an international basis and we are doing a lot of preparatory work in order to be able to take further measures very soon.

"What is important is that we work to end the appalling and unacceptable violence. We are sending a warning to people in the Libyan regime that the world is watching them and will hold them to account. The UK is pressing through the UN for asset seizures, travel bans, sanctions, and the investigation of war crimes and crimes against humanity. International justice has a long reach and a long memory and they will be held to account for what they do.

"We are also considering additional measures to the EU restrictive measures:

i)  "On Wednesday 23rd February we secured a unanimous UNSC press statement. We are now looking at further measures. So far, Qadhafi's shocking brutality has been met with unanimous condemnation. We are considering all options — including further measures at the UN. We are discussing with partners how to end the violence and ensure those responsible for terrible crimes are held to account. Our approach is closely aligned with the French and we are discussing language.

ii)  "We are urgently exploring with our partners other means by which the UN could bring pressure to bear on the Libyan regime and protect the Libyan people, including binding UNSC Resolutions calling for specific actions by the Libyan authorities and mandating the ICC to investigate individuals.

iii)  "The UK has driven today's UN Human Rights Council Special Session on Libya as part of a concerted international effort to end the violence in Libya. We welcome the resolution which calls for an independent international commission of inquiry and recommends that the UN General Assembly consider suspending Libya from its seat in the HRC was today passed by consensus.

iv)  "States have an obligation to protect their citizens from mass atrocities. The Libyan government should do so. The UK supports the UN Security Council press statement issued by the Brazilian Presidency on 22 February, which called on the Government of Libya to meet its responsibility to protect its population. We called upon the Libyan authorities to act with restraint, to respect human rights and international humanitarian law, and to allow immediate access for international human rights monitors and humanitarian agencies.

v)  "We are discussing the situation with a range of key partners and co-ordinating closely with them. We are in close discussions with the US, EU, our friends in the Arab League and other key allies like Turkey about the whole situation in North Africa."

12.8 The Minister concludes by saying that his priority is:

"to make sure our nationals are safe and to get the message across to people in Libya that they will be held to account for what happens, what's happened in recent days and what may happen over the coming days."


12.9 The Council Decision and Regulation raise no questions per se, but we are reporting them to the House nonetheless because of the widespread interest in the situation in Libya.

12.10 We recognise the situation faced by the Government and, in these circumstances and on this occasion, do not object to its having agreed their adoption prior to the completion of scrutiny.

12.11 We now clear the documents.

61   See for the full text. Back

62   Full details of UN Security Council resolution 1970 (2011) are available at Back

63   Available at  Back

64   The Council Regulation implements the policy measures set out in the Council Decision. Back

65   See  Back

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