Mary Altaffer, Associated Press
UNITED NATIONS — Armed with tough Security Council sanctions, the U.N. and many nations began moving to isolate Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi from the international community in hopes of halting his deadly crackdown on protesters.
The council voted 15-0 late Saturday to impose an arms embargo and urged U.N. member countries to freeze the assets of Gadhafi, four of his sons and a daughter. The council also backed a travel ban on the Gadhafi family and close associates, including leaders of the revolutionary committees accused of much of the violence against regime opponents.
Council members additionally agreed to refer the Gadhafi regime's deadly crackdown on people protesting his rule to a permanent war crimes tribunal, the International Criminal Court in The Hague, for an investigation of possible crimes against humanity. The ICC's Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo was instructed to report back to the council in two months on his investigation.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who had pushed the council to take urgent action, was due in Washington on Monday to discuss with President Barack Obama other possible measures that could be taken against the Libyan government.
"In the days ahead, we will look for similarly decisive steps from the U.N. General Assembly and the international community as a whole," Ban told the council late Saturday, commending members for taking "decisive action."
"Today's measures are tough," the U.N. chief said. "In the coming days, if needed, even bolder action may become necessary."
The 192-member U.N. General Assembly is meeting Tuesday to vote on a U.N. Human Rights Council recommendation to suspend Libya from the world organization's top human rights body.
The Security Council's unanimous vote after a long day of deliberations was welcomed by rights groups that had complained that the body charged with overseeing the world's peace and security was moving too slowly.
"With this decision, the Security Council has upheld its responsibility to protect the people of Libya from the violence unleashed against them by their own government, by taking steps to ensure that those responsible will be brought to account," said a joint statement from international human rights groups.
The Security Council "rose to the occasion and showed leaders worldwide that it will not tolerate the vicious repression of peaceful protesters," said Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch's international justice program. "Gaddafi'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."
In an interview Sunday from Tripoli with ABC's "This Week" host Christiane Amanpour, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, one of the Libyan leader's sons and a top adviser, said the U.N. economic sanctions were worthless because "we don't have money outside."
"We are a very modest family and everybody knows that. And we are laughing when they say you have money in Europe or Switzerland or something," he said. "C'mon, it's a joke."
The council agreed to set up a committee to monitor the sanctions, and impose additional ones on any other people and groups believed to be committing serious human rights abuses against Libyan citizens.
French Ambassador Gerard Araud said the unanimous referral of the case to the ICC signaled a new commitment by the international community to its responsibility to protect citizens.
"A wind of liberty and change is sweeping throughout the Arab world and I think the Security Council succeeded in responding to this new era of international relations," he said.
With its vote, the council gave the ICC jurisdiction over crimes committed in Libya after February 15, the day of the first protests in the eastern city of Benghazi.
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