The U.N. Secretary-General says he is viewing events in Libya with "grave concern" and warned that those responsible for reported serious human rights violations must be held accountable in the courts. Ban Ki-moon also said he would be sending some of his senior officials to Egypt and Tunisia in the coming days.
The U.N. chief cut short a trip to Los Angeles to return to U.N. headquarters Wednesday morning. He told reporters he is closely watching developments in Bahrain and Yemen, but is particularly concerned about Libya.
"We view the recent events in Libya with particularly grave concern," said Ban. "The current situation is unpredictable and could go in any number of directions, many of them dangerous. At this critical juncture, it is imperative that the international community maintain unity and act together to ensure a prompt and peaceful transition."
Many countries were working Wednesday to evacuate thousands of their nationals, as the crackdown on anti-government protesters spread to cities across Libya and reports of bloodshed continued.
Ban said he "loudly" condemns reports of attacks on civilians and said those responsible must be held accountable in the courts. He urged the government of Libya to meet its responsibility to protect its people.
"The violence must stop," he said. "Attacks against civilians are a serious violation of international humanitarian and human rights law. Those responsible for brutally shedding the blood of innocents must be punished."
He said he would be dispatching several senior U.N. officials, including his top political officer Lynn Pascoe, to Egypt and Tunisia starting Thursday, for consultations.
Asked if he supported calls for Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to step down, Ban said such matters should be determined by the Libyan people.
He also refused to say whether he would establish his own panel of inquiry into events in Libya, saying he would wait to see what comes out of Friday’s special session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, where that possibility would likely be discussed.