That’s the question Ritchie asks so let’s try and provide an answer, shall we?
Britain said it was revoking the diplomatic immunity of the Libyan leader and his family, including his high-profile son Saif al-Islam, who has had close links with the UK. David Cameron echoed Barack Obama in calling on him to go. The PM said: “All of this sends a clear message to this regime: it is time for Colonel Gaddafi to go and to go now. There is no future for Libya that includes him.”
OK, that’s a start. Prior to this move as the de facto and de jure ruler of a sovereign state, Gaddafi enjoyed immunity.
This is a pretty basic piece of international diplomacy. We really may not like having to o this but it is necessary to deal with the world as it is, not as we would wish it to be. Some arrogant little creep comes to power somewhere: Gaddafi, Mao, Stalin, Herr Hitler and all the rest. And if we’re not actually at war with them, we’ve got to accept that, however they gained their state power, they do in fact have that state power.
The gravity of the crisis was reflected in Saturday night’s vote by the UN security council to impose travel and asset sanctions on Gaddafi and his entourage and a belated arms embargo on Libya – even if these moves are now largely symbolic. Gaddafi also became the first sitting head of state to be referred to the international criminal court by unanimous vote of the often-divided UN security council. British officials also said his exclusion from the UK was an unprecedented act.
See, we’ve got international laws about these things.
We may know that someone’s an arrogant thieving thug, that he routinely steals power from the people along with their cash. But as sovereign, we have to deal with them. So we do. We may all wish to see Gaddafi hanging from his heels from the light fittings of downtown Tripoli but while he’s a seat at the UN, is acknoweldged by the “international community” as The Bloke, we cannot do anything else.
Once he’s not so regarded, of course we can.
So that’s the “why now?” answer. He had both diplomatic and sovereign immunity. Now he doesn’t.
And shouldn’t we now freeze the assets of the leaders of a great many more states?
And if not, why not?
Because Richard, in order to do so, you’ve got to get the UN, that guardian of international law (I know, snigger) to vote that you can.