UNITED NATIONS -- In a unanimous vote, the United Nations Security Council has adopted a sanctions resolution against the regime of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.
The resolution slaps a travel ban and asset freeze on Qaddafi, his inner circle, and members of the Libyan leader's family. It also includes an arms embargo.
The sanctions resolution, drafted by France, Britain, Germany, and the United States, also refers the violent crackdown in Libya to the International Criminal Court in The Hague so it can investigate the allegations of crimes against humanity.
Diplomats at the UN observed that the resolution, No. 1970, is a milestone for the world body's highest executive organ.
Even Security Council members like China and Russia, who have veto power and have traditionally been reluctant to back council actions over matters they view as domestic affairs of sovereign states, have thrown their full support behind 1970.
Speaking at the adoption of the resolution, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that while it could not by itself end the violence and the repression, it was a vital step, a clear expression of the will of the united community of nations:
Russia and China both backed the resolution, despite their usual reluctance.
"The text sends a strong message that gross violations of basic human rights will not be tolerated, and that those responsible for grave crimes will be held accountable," Ban said. "I hope the message is heard, and heeded, by the regime in Libya. I hope it will also bring hope and relief to those still at risk."
Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, said at the Security Council session that the unanimous resolution was a warning to Qaddafi's regime to stop the killings and atrocities against innocent civilians.
Calling it a "strong" resolution, Rice noted that it "takes new steps against the use of mercenaries by the Libyan government to attack its own people. And for the first time ever, the Security Council has unanimously referred an egregious human rights situation to the International Criminal Court."
The council's action comes on the heels of U.S. President Barack Obama's first public call for Qaddafi to step down. The Libyan ruler is finding himself almost completely isolated as he struggles to suppress the strongest challenge to his 42-year rule. Taking Libya To Court
The resolution is remarkable in another regard as well, as it refers the crackdown in Libya to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for investigation. It is the first time the United States -- which is not a member of the ICC -- has supported such a referral. China and Russia, also not members, supported the resolution as well.
UN diplomats say that a letter from the Libyan ambassador to the president of the Security Council asking for referral to the ICC was a major factor for China, Russia, and the United States ultimately to support the referral.
Libya's ambassador, Abdurrahman Shalgham, tearfully denounced Qaddafi on February 25 after calling him until then an "old friend." His deputy, Ibrahim al-Dabashi, denounced Qaddafi on February 21 and for a few days the Libyan Mission to the UN was in an awkward position, with the two representatives giving contradictory statements. Now they both say that they are serving "the people of Libya."
Dabashi said that since February 21 Libya's Mission has ceased any contact with the Foreign Ministry in Tripoli and that now more than 90 percent of the Libyan diplomats around the globe had denounced the Qaddafi regime.
"We expect the regime to think about this resolution that has just been passed today," Dabashi said. "We also expect those who are collaborating with the regime to take a position and side by the Libyan people."Further Measures Coming
EU foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton welcomed the Security Council's adoption of the resolution and said in a statement: "The European Union fully endorses this resolution and will implement the restrictive measures as a matter of urgency. The EU had already started to work on restrictive measures such as assets freeze, travel ban, and arms embargo, and preparations are already well under way. Formal adoption will take place as soon as possible to ensure full and immediate implementation."
Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch's international justice program, said in a statement following the adoption of the resolution, "The Security Council tonight rose to the occasion and showed leaders worldwide that it will not tolerate the vicious repression of peaceful protesters."
Dicker's statement continued, "Qaddafi's henchmen are now on notice that if they give, tolerate, or obey orders to fire on peaceful protesters they may find themselves in The Hague."
UN chief Ban is to meet with President Obama early next week to discuss further measures by the United Nations and United States to stop the atrocities in Libya.
Meanwhile, the UN General Assembly convenes a meeting early next week to debate the possible removal of Libya from its seat on the UN Human Rights Council. For that to happen, two-thirds of the UN's 192 members have to support the vote.