Here are some selections from today’s debate in Parliament so far on the United Nations resolution on Libya and subsequent military action which touch on the questions of international law, the Liberal Democrat position, what is happening in other countries and the question of Iraq:
Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): In view of the obviously barbaric attacks by Gaddafi on his own people, does the Prime Minister agree that those officials and military chiefs who are still standing firm with Gaddafi stand every chance of being hauled before the war crimes tribunal?
The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman makes an excellent point. The first resolution we passed—1970—specifically referred to the International Criminal Court. The message we should give today, very clearly, to those people still working or fighting for Gaddafi is that if you continue to do so, you could end up in front of the International Criminal Court, and now is the time to put down your weapons, walk away from your tanks, and stop obeying orders from this regime…
Andrew George (St Ives) (LD): The legal note that accompanies the debate makes it clear that the Security Council resolution recognises that Libya
“constitutes a threat to international peace and security.”
Although I do not recommend that we take such action, from the point of view of consistency, why are we not taking action against Yemen?
The Prime Minister: We are obviously extremely disturbed by what is happening in Yemen, particularly recent events. We urge every country in that region to respond to the aspirations of its people with reform, not repression. We have a specific situation in Libya, whereby there was a dictator whose people were trying to get rid of him, who responded with armed violence in the streets. The UN has reached a conclusion and I think that we should back it. As I said the other day, just because we cannot do the right thing everywhere does not mean we should not do it when we have clear permission for and a national interest in doing so. One commentator put it rather well at the weekend: “Why should I tidy my bedroom when the rest of the world is such a mess?” That is an interesting way of putting it.
Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): May I express from the Liberal Democrat Benches our strong support for the resolution and the Government’s action? Clearly, the position is different from Iraq. However, does the Prime Minister agree that there is an urgent need to internationalise the mission as far as possible to cement support across the international community should things not run entirely tidily and also so as not to over-extend our forces?
The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. We want to internationalise the action to the maximum degree possible on the military front and in what must follow in humanitarian aid and assistance to the people in Libya.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned Iraq and I want to deal with the way in which we will ensure that this is not another Iraq. My answer is clear: the UN resolution, which we, with the Lebanese, the US and the French, helped draft, makes it clear that there will be no foreign occupation of Libya. The resolution authorises and sets the limit on our action. It excludes an occupation force in any form on any part of Libyan territory.
However, I would argue that the differences from Iraq go deeper. It is not just that this time, the action has the full, unambiguous legal authority of the United Nations nor that it is backed by Arab countries and a broad international coalition, but that millions in the Arab world want to know that the UN, the US, the UK, the French and the international community care about their suffering and their oppression.