United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 (2011): Libya in the Dock




Harlow, Barbara
Kahozi, Daniel
Lixinski, Lucas
Carter, Caroline

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The Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice


This paper examines Libya’s most recent (and ongoing) uprising—following the largely peaceful popular overthrows of the repressive governments in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt (and complemented by the more violent and still unresolved confrontations in Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, and in sub-Saharan Africa from Uganda to Swaziland as well) in the first months of 2011. Quickly as that uprising spread, however, from Benghazi in the eastern part of the country to al-Zawiya in the west, Libya’s notorious leader marshaled his superior, if largely outdated, military resources, even against the multiple defections from within his own ranks, to brutally quell the opposition forces. This context serves for an exploration of how the “international community” and its institutions, especially at the United Nations, respond to similar events, and what these responses mean for the multiple narratives about human rights, their potential and pitfalls, their bright and dark consequences. By exploring some of the multiple narratives about events in Libya, this paper offers some elements to unweave the narratives of human rights discourses. Written in late spring/early summer 2011, our discussion, from our respective disciplinary and critical perspectives, offers some of the historical background and legal and political conundrums to the current developments in the Libyan situation – and the continuing questions that arise as Libya makes its way in post-Qaddafi circumstances.



At the time of publication Caroline Carter and Daniel Kahozi were at the University of Texas Austin. Barbara Harlow was at Human Rights and Social Justice Bridging Disciplines Program (BDP) and Lucas Lixinski was at University of New South Wales.

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