American sanctions against Libya

First step: in January 1986 the US government introduced a series of sanctions against Libya, including a freeze on Libyan assets and a ban on commercial and financial transactions with Libya.

Second step: in July 1996 the US Congress passed the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA), which stated that American policy should be aimed, concerning Libya, at inducing this country to comply fully with the UN Security Council resolutions concerning it (see Lockerbie case and UN Security Council Resolution 1192), to halt all its support for terrorism and to stop trying to acquire or develop weapons of mass destruction. Congress was to be periodically informed of these diplomatic initiatives and their results.

Threshold for triggering sanctions The US President will impose two or more sanctions if he considers that a person has exported, transferred or supplied to Libya goods, services or technology which have significantly and substantially:

  • contributed to strengthening Libya’s capacity to acquire chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, or a potentially destabilizing quantity or type of modern weaponry, or increased Libya’s military or paramilitary capability; or
  • contributed to strengthening Libya’s capacity to develop its oil resources; or
  • contributed to strengthening Libya’s capacity to maintain its civil aircraft fleet.

Similarly, the President will impose two or more of the following sanctions if he considers that a person has made an investment of at least US$40 million which has contributed directly and significantly to increasing Libya’s capacity to develop its hydrocarbon resources:

  • Cessation of all aid by the US Export-Import Bank for exports to the sanctioned entities
  • Suspension of export licenses for supply to these entities
  • A ban on US financial institutions granting credits exceeding US$10 million over a 12-month period to a sanctioned person
  • A ban, if the « foreign person » is a financial institution, on its serving as an agent of the American government and on its dealing in securities forming part of the United States’ public debt
  • Exclusion from competing for public sector contracts in the United States
  • Restrictions on exports to the United States by the sanctioned entity
  • End of sanctions

After the handover of the two Libyan suspects in the Lockerbie case on April 5, 1999, which brought an immediate suspension of UN air, weapons and diplomatic sanctions in place since 1992, the US State Department let known that the US sanctions against Libya would not be lifted.

These sanctions will only be lifted once the President has informed the relevant committees of Congress that Libya is fully complying with the provisions of resolutions 731, 748 and 883. The Law is applicable for a five-year period from the date of its promulgation.

On 27 July 2001 the US Congress extended the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act for another five years. The EU expressed its regrets about this decision as the Union is opposed to unilateral sanctions laws with extraterritorial effects.

Other sanctions under consideration

The United States are trying since a long time to secure agreement to an international oil embargo against Libya, but have run up against the opposition of other members of the Security Council (particularly China, France, Russia).

Last developments

Since 2004, efforts by the Libyan President to join the international community prooved successfull : The attacks of September 2001 and the invasion of Iraq has enabled Gaddafi to integrate Libya into the « war against global terrorism. » From then on he adopted a new language suited to the demands of the international community. In 2003 Colonel Gaddafi abandoned his plans  weapons of mass destruction and delivered his programs to the USA. Under international pressure, he compensated victims of the attack in Berlin in 1986, in 1988 Lockerbie and UTA in 1989.

In 2004 Washington lifted economic sanctions against Tripoli and a representative of the U.S. government went to Libya, followed by Tony Blair, Berlusconi, Spanish Jose Maria Asnar and Jacques Chirac. In October, the European Union fully lifted the military embargo. That same year Colonel Gaddafi announced his wish to participate in the Barcelona process. It never happened, and despite his visit (highly controversial) in France in 2007, Gaddafi criticize violently the project of Union of Mediterranean launched by Nicolas Sarkozy.