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In February 2011, an uprising began in Benghazi in eastern Libya against the long-established Gaddafi Government. After initial military success by the rebels in the east, the government responded forcefully. In the light of threats made by the government to the lives of people in Benghazi, the Security Council authorized ‘any necessary measures’ to protect civilian lives in Libya and to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya's air space. Acting on this authorization, NATO forces intervened to enforce the no-fly zone and to protect civilians. The resolution precluded the occupation of Libya, so the NATO action was confined to aerial and some naval bombardment of regime targets in Libya. The combined effects of operations by the irregular forces of the rebels and the bombing by NATO eventually led to the defeat of Government forces and the death of President Gaddafi on 20 October 2011. However, the overthrow of the regime was principally the work of groups in the west and south-west, not formally associated with the original insurrection in the east. This note is not concerned with matters of legality of the use of force or the way in which the campaign was conducted by any of the participants. It deals with the diplomatic aspects of the development of relations between the United Kingdom, the Gaddafi Government of Libya and the ‘National Transitional Council’ (NTC). It raises some speculation about the implications in domestic law of the way British policy was conducted.


1 There is much which is tentative about this note. This reflects the still unresolved conclusion of events in Libya and the surprising resort to the recognition of governments power by the British government to deal with the unfolding situation there. I am very grateful to Roger Masterman of the Durham Law School for discussions about aspects of this paper. He has saved me from error but is not implicated in any which remain.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)247-264
JournalInternational & Comparative Law Quarterly
Issue number01
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012