Published November 17, 2014
Diplomats will be pressing Friday for a human rights investigation into Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's violent crackdown on protesters and for the suspension of Libya from the U.N.'s top human rights body.
The efforts at an emergency meeting in Geneva could also set the stage for other possible international sanctions.
Switzerland ordered the immediate freeze Thursday of any Swiss assets belonging to Gadhafi or his entourage, saying it wanted to prevent the possible misuse of state funds. The Swiss government made the decision "in view of the developments" in Libya, where security forces have launched violent reprisals against anti-government protesters.
European Union nations added a recommendation to suspend Libya from the U.N.'s Human Rights Council to a draft resolution being circulated Thursday ahead of Friday's meeting.
The EU also wants the rights council to approve a U.N.-led probe into "gross and systematic violations of human rights by the Libyan authorities" and to condemn violence against protesters and others as possible crimes against humanity.
"This is an extreme case, and it is imperative that all nations and people of the world and in this council speak with one voice," the U.S. ambassador to the council, Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, told diplomats Thursday. "Gadhafi is not the Libyan people, and in condemning the violence, we are conveying the strongest support with the Libyan people."
Council members Jordan, Japan, Switzerland and Brazil said they would support the probe and the unprecedented recommendation that the 192-nation U.N. General Assembly vote to suspend Libya from the rights panel.
But Nigeria, speaking on behalf of the African group, called the move "premature." Cuba agreed, saying media reports on the situation in Libya were "unreliable."
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he spoke with U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday and requested a U.N. Security Council emergency session to demand immediate access for humanitarian workers in Libya and sanctions against "those responsible for violence against Libya's civilian population."
The White House said Obama also would discuss with Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron ways of coordinating a broad international effort to compel Gadhafi to end the violence. White House spokesman Jay Carney said no options have been taken off the table, including the possibility of military action.
International discussions, however, have centered on a possible no-fly zone over Libya or other sanctions that would strike Gadhafi economically. The Security Council in New York agreed to consider further options against Gadhafi's regime, including sanctions.
Hundreds are believed to have been killed in Libya in recent days and Gadhafi's regime appears to have lost control of large parts of the country.
Any human rights probe could be useful to the Security Council if it considers whether to order an investigation into crimes against humanity under Gadhafi's rule, as it did when it ordered an investigation into crimes in Darfur in 2005, a spokesman for the International Criminal Court said.
"It (a probe) might be important for the Security Council to see if there is a need for them to intervene," said The Hague-based spokesman Fadi El Abdallah. But Libyan authorities also could accept the court's jurisdiction and agree to such a probe.
The French Foreign Ministry said "all courses of action must be examined, including referral to the international courts" concerning the Libyan regime's attacks on protesters.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will head to Geneva on Monday for a regular session of the Human Rights Council attended by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and other foreign ministers to help coordinate the larger international strategy in Libya.
France's defense minister told France Inter radio it is worth considering the creation of a no-fly zone over Libya and said the EU was looking at financial, trade and political sanctions against Libya, including a possible freeze on purchasing Libyan oil.
NATO's chief, meanwhile, said the military alliance will stay out of the conflict. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said during a visit to Ukraine that the alliance "has no plans to intervene" and any action "should be based on a clear U.N. mandate."
Cameron warned from Doha that Gadhafi's continued violence against protesters was "completely unacceptable" and there would be "consequences" if it did not stop.
Italy, whose islands are just a few hundred miles (kilometers) from the Libyan coast, is worried the fighting in Libya could send a million refugees fleeing across the Mediterranean into Europe. "It's a problem for Europe and the world," said Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni. "This is a catastrophic humanitarian emergency."
But other EU ministers said the situation should not be over-dramatized as far fewer refugees than expected have arrived.
A U.N. refugee agency spokesman said 16,000 people have fled across the Libyan border to Tunisia so far.
Associated Press writers across Europe contributed to this report.