Address by Minister Cannon to UN Human Rights Council

No. 2011/5 - Geneva, Switzerland - February 28, 2011

Check Against Delivery

There is no longer a place in the world or in our time for megalomaniacal and bloodthirsty dictators.

Dear colleagues, together we can help the Libyan people erase this bloody stain that soils their history.

In the past few days, the international community has witnessed appalling images from Libya as the Gaddafi regime has carried out brutal attacks against its own people.

Of greater concern are the statements by Gaddafi and members of his family that even more blood will be shed in their attempt to maintain their stranglehold on power.

This violence must stop. As Prime Minister [Stephen] Harper stated, “The international community must send a very clear message: the killing of innocent civilians—the citizens of its own county—constitutes a gross violation of human rights and must carry serious consequences.”

To its credit, the international community has acted quickly and robustly.

On February 26, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1970 [2011], on the situation in Libya.

Canada welcomes this landmark decision and strongly supports the key provisions of that resolution.

Canada will be among the first countries to implement the binding obligations called for in the Council’s resolution.

The Canadian government has already taken urgent steps to implement the resolution, including a freeze on the assets of, and a ban on travel by, the members of the Gaddafi regime.

In addition, we plan to go beyond the Security Council resolution.

Canada will impose an asset freeze on, and a prohibition on financial transactions with, the Libyan regime, its institutions and agencies, and the Libyan central bank.

Canada was among the first to call for the referral of the situation in Libya to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to help ensure that those responsible for ordering and carrying out atrocities are held accountable. We are pleased that the Security Council has taken action on this.

My government demands that the Libyan regime comply with all aspects of this resolution immediately, and that it respect its human rights obligations as well as the will of the Libyan people.

We call on all states to join us in rendering full cooperation to the Court.

The actions of the Security Council, welcome as they are, should not detract from the important decision adopted last week by the Human Rights Council.

I wish to congratulate the members of this council, and in particular Mexico, for their unanimous adoption of a groundbreaking resolution on the situation in Libya.

Canada co-sponsored that resolution and strongly supports the decision of the Council to establish an international commission of inquiry to investigate violations of international human rights law and identify those responsible for such crimes. I urge the High Commissioner [UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay] to move expeditiously in establishing and empowering the commission.

In spite of the clear calls of the international community, the Libyan government continues to show utter disregard for the rights of its citizens. Canada demands that the Government of Libya cease this violent repression of its citizens.

The people of Libya have risen up to demand freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, values the Canadian people share.

The Libyan people also want to breathe deeply of the air of liberty sweeping across this region of the world.

We also call on the Libyan regime to facilitate the departures of those foreign nationals caught up in this tragedy. They are innocent victims of this situation.

Canada has helped a number of third-party nationals to leave Libya, and we will continue to cooperate with others to ensure the safety and security of Canadians and others affected by these events.

We are equally concerned by the looming humanitarian disaster in Libya. The Security Council has demanded that the Libyan regime allow the safe passage of humanitarian and medical supplies. Canada stands ready to provide assistance to the Libyan people.

Just as the international community supported the brave demonstrators in Egypt and Tunisia, we must stand by the people of Libya in their hour of need. A tide of change is sweeping the Middle East.

Leaders who try to defy or repress this tide, like Gaddafi or the leadership in Iran, will eventually be overwhelmed. We support the action of a special rapporteur to hold Iran to account.

Canada strongly urges governments facing these challenges to open genuine dialogues with their people and to respect their rights and fundamental freedoms.

The international community cannot allow the repression we have witnessed in Iran, in Libya and elsewhere in the world, to continue.

It is clear that the only acceptable course of action for Gaddafi is to halt the bloodshed and to immediately vacate his position and authority.

Thank you.