Despite Progress towards Forming New Government in Libya, Political Impasse Remains, Threatening Security, Human Rights, Under-Secretary-General Tells Security Council
Tripoli remains tense, with clashes between armed groups, deadlocked negotiations and human rights defenders under attack, the United Nations political affairs chief told the Security Council today.
Briefing the Council on recent developments in Libya, Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, highlighted the political impasse and its negative impact on the security and humanitarian fronts. While the ceasefire continues to hold, she said, in the early hours of 17 May, supporters of Fathi Bashagha and Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh clashed with each other in the capital for several hours.
Noting agreements reached on some several areas to form a new Constitution during the second round of consultations of the Joint Committee of the House of Representatives and High State Council in Cairo from 15-20 May, she said there remain many outstanding issues. They have agreed to reconvene in June, with the aim of reaching a consensus to finalize the constitutional arrangements for the holding of national elections — delayed from last December — as soon as possible.
Also pointing to the closure of several oil fields and ports due to the reluctance of the Government of National Unity to pay the Libyan National Army’s salaries for the first quarter of 2022, she added that the Economic Working Group of the Berlin Process has been crafting a revenue management mechanism to overcome the disagreement over the use of public funds.
Drawing attention to several humanitarian concerns, she noted a new wave of arrests of young people for alleged crimes against “Libyan culture and values” as well as restrictions on the work of civil society organizations, accused of violating “the principles and values of Libyan society”. Further, internally displaced people and undocumented foreign nationals are in particularly precarious situations, she pointed out.
The Council also heard from T.S. Tirumurti (India), Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1970 (2011) concerning Libya, who presented that body’s report for the 17 March to 26 May 2022 period, drawing attention to a number of issues such as acts that threaten Libya’s stability, breaches of the arms embargo, and violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.
During the ensuing discussion, delegates voiced concern about the recent clashes, urging all parties to exercise restraint and ensure the protection of civilians, while also calling for dialogue and consultations to break the political impasse.
Stressing that the status quo is not an option for Libya, the representative of France called for establishment of a unified and inclusive Government fully capable of ruling across the entire territory. He also expressed concern about the continued oil blockade as well as the postponement of the elections, calling for a new road map for the holding of elections.
Likewise, the United States representative wondered how long the 3 million Libyans who registered for the elections will have to wait for them and clarified that those who obstruct the political transition may face sanctions. Libyans are still being robbed of the peace they deserve, she said, urging all armed groups to cease fighting and preserve the 2020 ceasefire. Noting the crack down on civil society, she said: “This is not what a free, fair and open Libya looks like.”
The representative of the Russian Federation stressed that Libyans will be able to overcome difficulties on their own without heavy-handed external interventions. Calling for a balanced and phased withdrawal of all non-Libyan armed groups and military units, he also noted the lack of leadership at the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) as the position of the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Libya has been vacant since November 2021.
Kenya’s delegate, also speaking on behalf of Gabon and Ghana, stressed the importance of appointing a Special Representative of the Secretary-General with a deep understanding of the conflict and the wider region. Emphasizing that UNSMIL must be provided with the necessary support to execute its mandate, he also applauded the members of the Joint Committee of the House of Representatives and the High State Council for the dedication shown in recent talks. “This demonstrates the ability of the political class in Libya to opt for dialogue in breaking the current political stalemate,” he said.
The Libyan people have lost faith in the Council, that country’s representative stated. They have heard enough of the same speeches from the body, he said, emphasizing the challenges of living with a proxy war, foreign intervention and terrorist activities. The elections scheduled for 24 December have not taken place, and the Council has not been able to agree on the appointment of a new Special Envoy, who will be the ninth such envoy in 11 years. Calling the situation a nightmare, he expressed alarm and regret at the Council’s inability to intervene.
Also speaking today were representatives of the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, Albania, China, United Arab Emirates, India, Norway and Mexico.
The meeting began at 3:06 p.m. and ended at 4:30 p.m.
ROSEMARY DICARLO, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, noted the persistent deadlock on the political, security and economic fronts in Libya and its increasingly negative impact on security. Stephanie Williams, Special Adviser on Libya, convened a second round of consultations of the Joint Committee of the House of Representatives and High State Council in Cairo from 15-20 May, she said, noting that delegations reached agreement on several articles of the 2017 Constitutional Draft: the form and nature of the State; basic rights and freedoms, including women rights; the structure and powers of a bicameral Parliament; and some of the prerogatives of the President and Prime Minister. They have agreed to reconvene in Cairo beginning in June, with the aim of reaching a consensus on outstanding issues to finalize the constitutional arrangements for the holding of national elections at the earliest possible date.
The Special Adviser has also held meetings with members of the Presidency Council, who expressed their intention to continue working on a national reconciliation process with support from the African Union and the United Nations, she said, noting that the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are providing technical expertise on the draft law on national reconciliation and transitional justice.
While the ceasefire reached in 2020 continues to hold, she said, the security situation remains fragile. In the early hours of 17 May, Fathi Bashagha entered Tripoli, backed by armed groups. Clashes in and around the city with armed groups supporting Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh ensued, lasting for several hours. Following mediation, Mr. Bashagha was escorted out of Tripoli, and while fighting has ceased, the situation remains tense, she said. Further, the reluctance of the Government of National Unity to pay the Libyan National Army’s salaries for the first quarter of 2022 led to closure of several oil fields and ports, she said, and while the outstanding salaries were paid, oil production has yet to return to normal. Meanwhile, the Economic Working Group of the Berlin Process has been crafting a revenue management mechanism to overcome the disagreement over the control and use of public funds, she added.
Turning to the human rights situation in Libya, she noted that earlier in May, Libyan security agencies launched a new wave of arrests of young people for alleged crimes against “Libyan culture and values”. Restrictions persist on the work of civil society organizations, including women’s rights groups, accused of violating quote “the principles and values of Libyan society”, she said, highlighting the continued detention of nine civil society and social activists. Also highlighting the precarious situation of internally displaced people in Libya, including those displaced because of forced evictions, she pointed to the mass arrests and detention of undocumented foreign nationals and migrants in urban settings in the western region. Urging all parties to uphold their commitment to the peaceful resolution of political differences through dialogue and negotiations, she underscored the important role of the Security Council in Libya’s journey out of conflict and towards peace and stability.
T.S. TIRUMURTI (India), speaking as Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1970 (2011) concerning Libya, presented that body’s report, covering the 17 March to 26 May 2022 period, during which time the Committee met once in informal consultations and conducted additional work by silence procedure.
During informal consultations on 20 May, the Panel of Experts presented its final report, which the Committee transmitted to the Security Council on 25 May. Committee members expressed support for the Panel’s work. Among the issues raised were acts that threaten Libya’s stability, breaches of the arms embargo, and violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, including in the context of trafficking and migrant smuggling. Other issues focused on illicit exports of crude oil and refined petroleum products from Libya and implementation of the assets freeze. Committee members are considering, for possible follow-up action, the three recommendations addressed to the Committee, as well as the recommendation addressed to all Member States.
Turning to the arms embargo, he said no negative decision was taken by the Committee in connection with an arms embargo notification invoking paragraph 13(b) of resolution 2009 (2011) submitted by Germany. The Committee also received a vessel inspection report from Operation EUNAVFOR MED IRINI and was informed by Italy of the transfer of certain items meant for the Libyan coastal patrol.
On the assets freeze, he said the Committee approved an exemption request submitted by Luxembourg under paragraph 19(b) of resolution 1970 (2011). It also received a letter from Libya transmitting a communication from the Libyan Investment Authority, a listed entity, to which the Committee responded. On measures aimed at preventing illicit petroleum exports from Libya, the Committee responded to a communication received from the Libyan Government Focal Point, appointed pursuant to resolution 2146 (2014), regarding an alleged attempt to illicitly export gasoil outside the umbrella of the National Oil Corporation. The Panel of Experts also reported to the Committee on this matter.
Regarding the travel ban, he said the Committee received a travel notification from Safia Farkash Al-Barassi, for travel from Egypt to Oman and back, under a travel exemption granted previously for unlimited travel within a six-month period for humanitarian purposes. As for the sanctions list, the Committee received a sixth communication from the De-listing Focal Point established pursuant to resolution 1730 (2006), in connection with the de-listing request of a listed individual, he said, adding that the Focal Point process is ongoing.
JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom), echoing calls by the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser and others for calm and de-escalation, said the protection of progress made since the 2020 ceasefire agreement should be the priority. Long-term stability will only be achieved in Libya through a refreshed and inclusive political process, including free and fair parliamentary and presidential elections and the withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries, including the Wagner group. Calling on all Libyan parties to protect the neutrality and integrity of public institutions and support their reunification, he added that the National Oil Corporation should not be politicized and must be able to fulfil its duties without interference. He also voiced support for the work of the Human Rights Council’s fact-finding mission and for an extension of its mandate.
MARTIN KIMANI (Kenya), also speaking on behalf of Gabon and Ghana, applauded members of the Joint Committee of the House of Representatives and the High State Council for their cooperation and dedication to recent talks, declaring: “This demonstrates the ability of the political class in Libya to opt for dialogue in breaking the current political stalemate.” Dialogue and reconciliation will achieve gradual yet firm and sustainable outcomes, including a constitutional framework that enjoys the widest possible consensus for the delivery of credible elections. Noting that UNSMIL must be provided with the necessary support to execute its mandate, he looked forward to the implementation of resolution 2629 (2022) — including the appointment of a Special Representative of the Secretary-General with a deep understanding of the conflict and the wider region. He also condemned the continued foreign interference in Libya, as seen in the presence of foreign fighters and mercenaries as well as rampant undue political influence, and called for their immediate withdrawal, while expressing concern over the plight of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in the country.
GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland) called on all actors in Libya to exercise restraint, refrain from escalation and ensure the protection of civilians. Strongly urging the parties to heed the calls from Libyan civil society and the international community to ensure the full, meaningful and safe participation of women and youth in the current talks, she said recent events demonstrate the perpetual and dangerous influence of armed groups on Libya’s security landscape. Efforts should continue towards the full withdrawal of foreign forces, fighters and mercenaries from Libya, in close consultation with Libya’s neighbours and coupled by a United Nations-supervised, gender-responsive process for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. She also welcomed efforts by the Libyan authorities to investigate the deeply shocking incidents in Tarhouna and encouraged them to cooperate with the International Criminal Court’s investigation in that regard, while voicing support for the Human Rights Council’s fact-finding mission and for the renewal of resolution 2578 (2021) in June.
JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil) expressed hope that the Libyan political forces will reach an agreement on a constitutional framework that will make it possible to set new dates for presidential and legislative elections. Spotlighting civil society’s important role in that process, he urged the Libyan authorities to reconsider the restrictions imposed by the Civil Society Commission and voiced concerns about reports of arbitrary arrests of activists. Stressing the importance of accountability for crimes committed and voicing deep concern over the situation of migrants and refugees, he reiterated his appeal to the Libyan authorities to redouble their efforts to prevent such abuses from happening again.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said that Libya’s political process is again close to a dead end, with two competing Governments vying for legitimacy. Expressing concern about the reports of recent armed clashes in Tripoli, he underscored the need to avoid resolving conflict by force. Attempts to reset the political process have had mixed success. On the issue of withdrawal of foreign forces from Libya, he called for a simultaneous, balanced, gradual and phased withdrawal of all non-Libyan armed groups and military units, stressing that the Libyans will be able to overcome the difficulties on their own without heavy-handed external interventions. Underscoring the increasing role of the United Nations, he said the position of the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Libya has been vacant since November 2021, leaving UNSMIL without leadership. The current configuration of the United Nations presence does not meet the necessary requirements, he said, calling for an early appointment of a new head to lead the Mission.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) said that the talks in Cairo between the House of Representatives and the High Council of State, mediated by Special Adviser Stephanie Williams, have shown signs of encouraging progress towards a constitutional basis for the elections. This constitutes a very promising basis towards an agreement. “It is what Libya needs; it is what we expect,” he said, stressing that a consensual constitutional basis and the establishment of an electoral horizon could be crucial to resolve the tensions surrounding the executive. This momentum should be maintained during the third round in June, for the holding of free, fair, credible and inclusive elections. He called on all Libyan stakeholders to cooperate fully and sincerely with Special Adviser Williams. He commended the Special Adviser for her mediation efforts, as well as UNSMIL for its role in supporting accountability efforts. Justice is paramount for sustained peace.
DAI BING (China), expressing concern about the recent clashes in Libya, called on all parties to put the interests of the country first and exercise maximum restraint. Dialogue and consultations represent the best solution to break the political impasse, he said, welcoming the partial consensus achieved during the recent dialogues in Cairo. Encouraging parties to work towards a comprehensive consensus, including on issues such as the election timetable, he stressed that the international community must support the country in attaining national reconciliation and long-term stability. Underscoring the important role of regional organizations such as the Arab League and the African Union, he encouraged the appointment of an African candidate as the Special Representative for Libya. The ceasefire agreement is the cornerstone of stability in Libya and the region, he said, also encouraging all parties to resolve difference concerning oil revenue management and distribution.
MOHAMED ISSA ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates) said that while the political process is threatened by the competition for power and potential for renewed clashes among armed groups, efforts by Libyan parties to diffuse tensions are nonetheless encouraging. He called for ending transitional phases to realize the will of the Libyan people in conducting free, fair and inclusive presidential and parliamentary elections and welcomed the understanding achieved among Libyan parties during consultations in Cairo over the constitutional basis for the polls. The United Arab Emirates values Egypt’s role in this regard, he said, and expressed hope that a similar agreement among Libyan parties will be achieved on the remaining issues during the June meeting. A comprehensive national reconciliation hinges on initiating dialogue that includes all parts of Libyan society, he said, stressing that these efforts will support confidence-building measures among all parties and political actors in the country. They will also preserve the unity of the Libyan State. Stressing that the 5+5 Libyan Joint Military Commission must maintain its impartiality, he urged it to resume its meetings and to safeguard security and military gains, particularly in combating extremism, terrorism, infiltration of borders and smuggling. “All vital Libyan institutions must be unified and not politicized,” he said. Libya’s resources and wealth must be managed equitably and transparently, and efforts to enforce the rule of law intensified. He looked forward to the restructuring of UNSMIL, in line with recommendations contained in the independent strategic review report.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France), stressing that the status quo is not an option for Libya, called on all stakeholders to participate in genuine dialogue and work to establish a unified and inclusive Government fully capable of ruling across the entire territory. Recalling that the postponement of the elections opened a period of instability, he voiced support for the mediation efforts of the United Nations. Calling for a new road map for the holding of elections, he stressed that all parties must refrain from all violence and incitements to hatred. Expressing support for the 5+5 Libyan Joint Military Commission, he noted that its work is essential to the recovery of Libyan sovereignty. Expressing concern about the continued oil blockade, he said the establishment of a transparent and equitable management of this revenue is crucial.
T. S. TIRUMURTI (India), speaking in his national capacity, underscored the imperative that all outstanding political issues are resolved peacefully by the parties concerned, keeping the larger interests of the Libyan people in mind. He reiterated the importance of holding presidential and parliamentary elections soon, which is critical to maintaining momentum generated by the signing of the ceasefire agreement. Libya’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity must be safeguarded, notably through a Libyan-led and owned political process that is free from external interference. He called for progress in the complete withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries, as their presence is detrimental to stability in the country and the region. Stressing the need for planning in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of armed groups and non-State armed actors, he said Libya needs an inclusive and comprehensive national reconciliation process. Highlighting training camps for Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and its affiliates in southern Libya, he urged the Council to focus on eliminating every threat posed by these and other terrorist groups.
MONA JUUL (Norway) said the United Nations plays a critical role in assisting the Libyan-led and Libyan-owned political process — particularly in bringing the parties together to discuss the much-needed constitutional arrangements. The Joint Committee’s initial agreement on 137 articles is an encouraging sign of progress, she said, urging the parties to build on that consensus to reach agreement on the remaining articles when they meet again in June. “The only viable path to legitimate political leadership is allowing the Libyan people to choose their leaders,” she said, warning against attempts to seize or retain political power through violence. Calling on the parties to exercise maximum restraint, refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric and ensure the protection of civilians, she stressed that the work of the 5+5 Libyan Joint Military Commission must not obstructed by the ongoing political tensions. The disruption of oil production must also be avoided, as natural resources are a source of essential income for the Libyan people and are important to the global energy supply in a time of increasing demand. The oil sector must not be politicized, and the ongoing oil blockade must be lifted, enabling full oil production and export, she said.
ALICIA GUADALUPE BUENROSTRO MASSIEU (Mexico), noting with regret that the parties did not reach agreement on fundamental issues, including on the electoral process, said the fact that two Governments claim control over the country is a threat to the stability of the region. Any political arrangement that leads to the formation of a Government without popular support leads to instability, she cautioned, adding that the Council must use all instruments at its disposal to respond to the expectations of 3 million Libyans who registered to vote last December. Calling for the appointment of a Special Representative to head UNSMIL, she expressed concern about the prolonged lack of leadership of the Mission. The recent armed clashes in Tripoli are a reminder that the conflict can escalate at any moment, she said, adding that the current instability has allowed various armed groups to prey on immigrants, intimidate activists and limit the civic space.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States), citing an ongoing flow of weapons and foreign fighters, said Libyans are still being robbed of the peace they deserve. She urged all armed groups to cease fighting and instead to preserve the 2020 ceasefire and the goals of the 5+5 Libyan Joint Military Commission. Citing a deeply troubling trend of Libyan leaders courting violent extremists and using restrictive laws to crack down on civil society, silence critics and shore up power, she said: “This is not what a free, fair and open Libya looks like.” While welcoming recent moves towards creating a constitutional basis for the conduct of elections, she wondered how long the 3 million Libyans who registered for the elections will have to wait for them. Clarifying that those who obstruct the political transition may face sanctions, she said Libya’s leaders can choose to move towards a unified country with a Government striving to meet the needs of its people and respect human rights, or backslide into disunity and the possibility for further violent conflict. It is still possible to rekindle the unity that led to the signing of the ceasefire and road map. However, that opportunity is shrinking. It is time Libyan leaders do right by their people, she said.
TAHER M. T. ELSONNI (Libya) said that the Libyan people have heard enough of the same speeches from the Council, and he was here to convey the messages of citizens. Libya is facing challenges due to a proxy war, foreign intervention and terrorist activities. It’s a nightmare, and the Council remains unable to intervene. That’s the view of the Libyan people, he said. Noting that many political processes have led to the road map the Council approved, he said that despite many attempts to complete the transition phase, the process is failing, with the elections scheduled for 24 December not having taken place. The Libyan people have lost faith in the Council and the international community. Libya citizens are now asking what the role is of United Nations resolutions. The Council has not been able to agree on the appointment of a new Special Envoy, who will be the ninth such envoy in 11 years. Cases of trafficking of migrants are growing, with no sanctions imposed on those traffickers. The economy is facing major challenges. What is the solution to all these problem, he asked, underscoring the need to end foreign interference, hold fair elections and achieve genuine reconciliation.