Libya’s Political Impasse Delaying Prospects of Elections, Impacting Security Situation, New Mission Head Tells Security Council
Urging Mandate Extension to Buttress Political Process, Country Representative Welcomes ‘Glimmer of Consensus’ from 15-Nation Organ
A prolonged stalemate over the executive branch of Government and lack of concrete action by relevant actors are further delaying the prospects for the holding of inclusive, free and fair elections in Libya, the senior United Nations official in that country told the Security Council today, noting that its political impasse has adversely impacted the security situation.
Abdoulaye Bathily, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), briefing the Council for the first time since becoming Head of the Mission on 25 September, recalled that violent clashes in Tripoli on 27 August deepened tensions between eastern and western security actors, leading to fragile stability. The international community must support Libyan efforts in a coordinated manner, rally behind the United Nations and refrain from taking any action that could further deepen divisions, he said, calling on the Council to urge Libyan actors to work together towards elections.
He also reported that, despite significant differences on how Libyans want to overcome the current crisis, they are near unanimous in their condemnation of the presence of mercenaries, foreign fighters and foreign forces, and the incessant foreign interference in the country’s affairs. Noting his focused engagement with all Libyan institutional, political, security and civil society actors from across the country, he stressed that the solution to the crisis must come from inside Libya, based on the will of the Libyan people.
In the ensuing debate, several Council members expressed hope that the Special Representative’s engagement with all Libyan stakeholders will inject new momentum into the stalled political process, while others noted the Council’s forthcoming consideration of UNSMIL’s mandate and voiced their expectations of a one-year renewal. The Council’s most recent extensions of the Mission’s mandate within the past year provided only for short-term durations. (For background, see Press Release SC/14989.)
Ireland’s representative, urging all Libyan parties to renew momentum towards elections, and to refrain from inflammatory rhetoric or politicizing Libya’s natural resources, underscored that renewal of the Mission’s mandate for the standard twelve-month duration will provide much-needed stability and predictability to the Mission at a critical and sensitive juncture for Libya.
Norway’s representative, also underlining the need for a one-year extension of the Mission’s mandate, said that extension was necessary for UNSMIL to fulfil its role. Also stressing the need to implement the Strategic Review’s recommendations, she called for UNSMIL to have the necessary resources. In addition, there was a need to agree on a constitutional framework for the holding of elections and for a timeline to be established — a call echoed by other delegations.
Kenya’s representative, also speaking on behalf of Gabon and Ghana, emphasized that United Nations mediation and coordination support was critical to ensuring coherence in international support and preventing outside interference. The 5+5 Libyan Joint Military Commission efforts to implement the October 2021 Action Plan for the withdrawal of foreign forces, foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya must be supplemented by close collaboration between Libya, the United Nations, neighbouring countries and the African Union.
Mexico’s representative, in a similar vein, warned that external actors were fostering divisions between Libyans to promote their own geostrategic and economic interests. “Foreign interference in Libya must come to a stop and the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Libya must be respected,” he emphasized. He expressed hope that UNSMIL’s new mandate would consolidate the efforts to fight illicit flows of small arms and light weapons in Libya, in accordance with resolution 2616 (2021).
The representative of the Russian Federation, noting that the Mission had to operate without a chief for one year, said that while his delegation had previously insisted on a three-month technical extension of the Mission, it was now ready to consider extending that mandate for a lengthier duration, given the change in the Mission’s leadership. The Council must prevent outbreaks of violence from morphing into civil war, he said, underscoring the need for an inclusive political process, which includes representatives of the former regime.
The representative of the United States, joining other speakers, encouraged UNSMIL to also take the lead in establishing a transparent mechanism for the oversight and allocation of oil revenue. The non-transparent use of oil revenue for political and personal gain continued to prop up rival political figures, who divert funds to consolidate support, particularly among militias and foreign fighters. Welcoming the United Kingdom’s work on the draft resolution concerning UNSMIL’s mandate, he called on all members to continue productive engagement thereon, so that it has the year-long mandate it needs to accomplish its mission.
Libya’s representative, welcoming the “glimmers of consensus” that were beginning to emerge in the Council, said that UNSMIL’s mandate should be extended by consensus to buttress the political process in his country. The complex and protracted crisis cannot be solved through elections alone, he emphasized, calling for immediate logistical and technical support for the electoral process, as well as support for national efforts to end the cycles of conflict, violence, division and fragmentation. While the Libyan people will be able to extricate themselves from crisis, “they cannot be left alone to face their fate,” he said.
Also speaking today were representatives of the United Kingdom, Albania, France, Brazil, China, India and United Arab Emirates.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 11:28 a.m.
ABDOULAYE BATHILY, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), briefed the Security Council for the first time since becoming Head of the Mission on 25 September. He urged that the international community support Libyan efforts in a coordinated manner, rally behind the United Nations and refrain from taking any action that could further deepen divisions. There was no clear end in sight to the prolonged stalemate over the executive branch. Efforts to resolve the elections’ outstanding issues were not leading to concrete action by the relevant actors. In that regard, he said he decided to prioritize consultations with Libyan institutional, political, security and civil society actors from across the country, including the south, east and west sectors, to gain a better understanding of the current challenges and possible solutions, as well as the Libyan people’s aspirations. To this end, he met with the President of the Presidential Council and members of the Government of National Unity, including Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah, Minister of Foreign Affairs Najla Mangoush and others.
While there were significant differences on how Libyans want to overcome the current crisis, he highlighted the near unanimous condemnation of the presence of mercenaries, foreign fighters and foreign forces in the country and the incessant foreign interference in the country’s affairs. The solution to the crisis must come from inside Libya, based on the will of the Libyan people. Although the ceasefire has continued to hold, the security track needs to be reinvigorated due to being adversely impacted by the protracted political impasse. The violent clashes in Tripoli on 27 August deepened tensions between eastern and western security actors, leading to fragile stability. In addition, fighting between armed groups in Zawiya on 25 September trapped dozens of families for several hours and left at least three civilians dead, including a 10-year-old girl. The 5+5 Libyan Joint Military Commission has agreed to meet under United Nations auspices in Sirte next Thursday to discuss the resumption of the Commission’s activities to further implement the ceasefire agreement. He encouraged regular exchanges between the two Chiefs of Staff, to give momentum to steps towards the reunification of military institutions.
Giving an overview of other issues, he said that the annual reports of the national Audit Bureau and the Administrative Control Authority on the activities of public institutions, including the Central Bank of Libya and the Government of National Unity, were recently released. On 7 October, in the aftermath of clashes between rival human-trafficking gangs in the city of Sabratha, eleven charred bodies of persons believed to be migrants were discovered in a docked boat and four more bodies were found outside the boat bearing wounds. Libyan authorities must take immediate and credible measures to address the dire situation of migrants and refugees, and dismantle the related trafficking and criminal networks. Official statistics received by UNSMIL show that nearly 11,000 individuals, including 55 women, were in prisons run by the judicial police. In addition, nearly 6,000 individuals were in pretrial detention, including 113 women, while 135 juveniles were behind bars. The total number represents a 40 per cent increase from figures released in August 2021.
Turning to other stakeholder engagements, he recalled that a briefing organized by the co-chairs of the International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Working Group of the International Follow-Up Committee on Libya, in collaboration with the Presidency Council and the African Union, highlighted best practices, as well as the role of victims at the centre of effective, rights-based reconciliation processes and women’s meaningful representation and participation, among others. The Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Congo in his capacity as representative of the Chair of the African Union High-Level Committee on Libya briefed him on the outcome of the Union’s just-concluded meeting, where preparations for a national reconciliation meeting with Libyan counterparts were discussed.
“Legitimate institutions capable of providing for the basic needs of the people must be established on the basis of genuine political will,” he stressed, underscoring that the conducting of legislative and presidential elections is paramount in that process. He said he would intensify consultations with relevant actors towards an agreement on the necessary parameters to reach that objective, including during the upcoming summit of the League of Arab States. The Security Council must stress upon Libyan actors the need to work together towards elections, he said. Among other activities, he said that in the coming weeks, he will facilitate a meeting between the main leaders of the House of Representatives and High Council of State to understand the commitments announced in Rabat, Morocco on 21 October and agree on political, constitutional, legal and security measures to advance preparations for elections as soon as possible.
JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom) said that the Security Council should collectively urge all Libyan parties, and particularly Libya’s political leaders, to work constructively with the Special Representative and agree on a road map to elections as soon as possible. He urged all Libyan authorities to ensure a safe, secure and unhindered operating environment for civil society, amid reports of increased restrictions on civil society groups. Along with administrative impediments, civil society organizations have reportedly been facing an escalation of scrutiny of their operations. He stressed that a vibrant civil society is critical for the holding of free, fair and inclusive elections, and an essential component of a functioning democracy. He also called on all Libyan parties to protect the neutrality, integrity and reunification of public institutions to ensure that Libya’s wealth is used for the good of all Libyan citizens. Reports of the misuse of public funds damage the credibility of Libya’s institutions, which must be supported to serve the whole of Libya and all Libyan people. He said he looked forward to the renewal of UNSMIL’s mandate later this week, following constructive engagement among Council members on a draft resolution to that effect.
MONA JUUL (Norway) underlined the need to implement the Strategic Review’s recommendations, and for UNSMIL to have the necessary resources, adding that a one-year extension of the Mission’s mandate is necessary for it to fulfil its role. Expressing hope that the Special Representative will be able to engage with the Libyan parties as soon as possible to get the political process back on track, she emphasized the need to agree on a constitutional framework for the holding of elections and for a timeline to be established. Turning to the plight of migrants, whose situation is deteriorating, she condemned the killing of 15 migrants in Sabratha, and called on the Libyan authorities to ensure a thorough investigation of their deaths. Moreover, reports of violations and abuses of international law, including conflict-related sexual violence, along with continuing reports of acts of violence in detention centres against migrant and refugee children, were deeply concerning. She called on Libyan authorities to end arbitrary detention, in particular of children; release the unlawfully detained; and bring an end to ill-treatment in detention centres. Further, she reiterated the need for the full withdrawal of all foreign forces from Libya, and for a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme to be put in place with neighbouring countries.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation), noting that for one year, the Mission had to operate without a chief, welcomed the appointment of the Special Representative and called on him to step up mediation efforts and facilitate engagement of all Libyan stakeholders. Expressing concern about the destabilization within Libya and the increasingly frequent clashes between armed groups, he stressed that the Council must prevent outbreaks of violence from morphing into civil war. Rejecting short-sighted attempts to freeze the Libyan internal political conflict without real steps towards national reconciliation, he added that a possible way to break the deadlock was by achieving agreement on a draft future constitution and the conducting of nationwide elections. The establishment of artificial timelines will only get in the way, he cautioned, underlining the importance of an inclusive political process which includes representatives of the former regime. Reiterating his delegation’s position on the issue of ending foreign military presence, he stressed the need for gradual and phased withdrawal of all non-Libyan armed groups and military units. Earlier his delegation had insisted on a three-month technical extension of the Mission, he noted, but since the situation concerning the leadership of the Mission had changed, it was now ready to consider extending the Mission for a lengthier duration.
MARTIN KIMANI (Kenya), also speaking for Gabon and Ghana, welcomed the Special Representative’s focus on engaging with all Libyan parties, including civil society, women and youth groups, and called on all sides to utilize the mediation support of the United Nations. “All international support is valuable, but should be coordinated by the United Nations for the sake of ensuring a coherence of efforts,” he said, emphasizing that such coordination is critical for preventing outside interference. He called once again for the immediate withdrawal of foreign forces, foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya, and urged the 5+5 Joint Military Commission to continue to implement the Action Plan of October 2021 for their withdrawal. Those efforts must be supplemented by close collaboration between Libya, the United Nations, neighbouring countries and the African Union to monitor a withdrawal, alongside disarmament, demobilization and reintegration efforts in both Libya and countries of origin. “This needs to be done to avoid cyclic conflict and fragility in the Sahel region, which is already facing the adverse cross-border effects of the conflict in Libya.”
Underscoring the plight of migrants and refugees in Libya and the Mediterranean, he said that the conflict in Libya continues to expose the worst of humanity in the treatment of a vulnerable group of people seeking better lives. “We demand the humane treatment of the refugees, migrants and asylum-seekers as a basic requirement of international law and associated conventions.” The United Nations should monitor more closely the resources and information channels that enable such mistreatment. He went on to caution against the politicization and manipulation of the Libyan oil sector by external forces, emphasizing that Libya’s frozen assets belong to Libyans and are protected and preserved for Libyans. The administration of such resources should be carried out strictly in consultation with Libyan authorities, he added.
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico) voiced concern that external actors are fostering divisions between Libyans to promote their own geostrategic and economic interests. Such behaviour only leads to polarization between parties and complicates the prospects of the political process that the Council has mandated. “Foreign interference in Libya must come to a stop and the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Libya must be respected,” he emphasized. Also noting his concern over violations and abuses of migrants’ human rights, he called on the Libyan authorities to cooperate with United Nations agencies to guarantee the rights of all concerned, including the right to asylum or to a safe and dignified return. Recalling that all Member States need to comply with the measures taken by the Council to prevent the entry of weapons and ammunition into the country, he expressed hope that UNSMIL’s new mandate would consolidate efforts to fight illicit flows of small arms and light weapons in Libya, in accordance with resolution 2616 (2021).
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) said that inclusive and extensive consultations to find a compromise acceptable to all parties will help implement the Independent Strategic Review. Elections were the only way forward, he stressed, calling on Libyan stakeholders to come together and create the necessary conditions for inclusive, free and fair elections. He also welcomed the resumption of dialogue between the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the High Council of State in recent days. “Libyans deserve better than an endless political impasse, filled with heightened rhetoric in a zero-sum political game,” he said, underscoring that all Libyan-led and Libyan-owned stabilization processes should remain firmly anchored under the United Nations lead. He voiced his concern in regard to the dire humanitarian situation and respect for human rights, especially of migrants, refugees and internally displaced persons. Spotlighting the recent arrests of two key suspects for crimes against victims of human trafficking and human smuggling in Libya as the “right approach”, he called for more action in this respect.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) emphasized the need for a unified Libyan Government that represents all Libyans; the status quo leaves the country vulnerable to foreign interference and destabilization. The achievement of the ceasefire agreement must be conserved and fully implemented. The plan for the withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya must also be implemented and the process of the militias’ disarmament, demobilization and reintegration must be prioritized. The Libyan national armed forces need to be unified, he said, reaffirming support for the 5+5 Commission. He urged all Mediterranean countries to cooperate with the European Union Naval Force Mediterranean operation IRINI. Progress must be made towards a new political road map. Dialogue was needed regarding constitutional basis and sincere commitment from stakeholders for transparent, credible elections. There also needed to be a fair and transparent income distribution of oil revenue, he said, adding that the misappropriation of State funds must cease. Expressing alarm about reports of human rights violations, especially sexual violence against women and girls, he called for the prosecution of those responsible. France, he said, fully supports the mediation efforts of the Special Representative and the extension of the UNSMIL mandate by a year.
JEFFREY DELAURENTIS (United States), welcoming the Special Representative’s appointment, said that his arrival in Tripoli was providing an opportunity to reinvigorate the political process. He encouraged UNSMIL to take the lead on facilitating agreement on a constitutional basis and clear timeline for elections; establishing a transparent mechanism for the allocation of oil revenue; and securing commitment from all parties to refrain from the use of force. He urged the swift establishment of a credible, realistic electoral timetable. Those who obstruct or undermine the political transition in Libya may be subject to United Nations sanctions, and it must be made clear to Libyan leaders that the use of violence to advance political goals is unacceptable. He also said that the non-transparent use of oil revenue for political and personal gain continues to prop up rival political figures, who divert funds to consolidate support — particularly among militias and foreign fighters. A mechanism for the transparent oversight of Libya’s oil resources is therefore needed. Welcoming the United Kingdom’s work on the draft resolution concerning UNSMIL’s mandate, he called on all members to continue productive engagement thereon, so that it has the year-long mandate it needs to accomplish its mission.
THIAGO BRAZ JARDIM OLIVEIRA (Brazil) noted that the organization of the elections on a firm constitutional basis forms an important step towards unifying Libyan Government institutions. The disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of armed groups should be a priority in the security track, he said, acknowledging the contributions of the 5+5 Commission in tackling structural conditions related to armed violence. In this regard, he underlined the importance of regional coordination for the return of foreign fighters to their countries of origin. He further expressed concern over an impetus to increase oil output from Libya to respond to demands in the global oil market. In the absence of unified Government policy, including on fair and transparent revenue distribution, the management of natural resources in Libya, as a corollary of Libyan sovereignty, should remain as part of Libyan national development, rather than responding to foreign-driven interests and pressures. He also voiced concern over the persistence of the active management of Libyan assets frozen abroad, noting that it contradicts the aim of the sanctions regime.
DAI BING (China) said a political process was the only way to resolve the Libyan issue. However, it was still at an impasse. All parties in the country should step up consultations under the auspices of the United Nations and swiftly reach an agreement on the constitutional basis in order to hold elections and break the impasse as soon as possible. Voicing support for the new Special Representative, he added that Libya’s territorial integrity and sovereignty must be respected and solutions from outside not be imposed on the country. Also expressing support for the role of the 5+5 Commission, he added that foreign forces and mercenaries in Libya should withdraw immediately. Further, he added his support for the African Union in supporting reconciliation, which was the common aspiration of the Libyan people and the fundamental way to improve the humanitarian situation. The resumption of oil production would help with economic development and the people’s livelihood. China supported the Council in adopting a resolution that would keep UNSMIL functioning, he said.
RUCHIRA KAMBOJ (India) said that the immediate priority was to resolve all outstanding issues in reaching a constitutional basis for holding presidential and parliamentary elections. It was an urgent imperative to hold elections at the earliest possible time in a free, fair, inclusive and credible manner. Pointing out that the presence of foreign forces and mercenaries in the country was a violation of the Libyan Ceasefire Agreement of 2020, she also highlighted that such violations of Security Council resolutions, especially those on arms embargo, were continuing with disregard for peace and stability in the region. Voicing concern over the resurgence of terrorist activities, she reiterated that terrorist groups and affiliated entities must not be allowed to operate unchallenged in the country. Terrorism emanating from the State was bound to have cascading effects in the Sahel region. Therefore, it was important for the international community to address it at this stage to avoid collateral consequences in the African continent. “The political process in Libya should be fully Libyan-led and Libyan-owned with no imposition or external interference,” she underscored.
CÁIT MORAN (Ireland), expressing concern about the recent politically motivated violence in Tripoli, which resulted in 40 deaths and damaged critical civilian infrastructure, stressed the importance of holding free, fair and inclusive elections. All Libyan parties should renew momentum towards those elections, and refrain from inflammatory rhetoric or politicizing Libya’s natural resources. She also highlighted the troubling human rights situation in the country, including recent indications that death penalty sentences could be issued again. Civil society space was shrinking and women were expressly targeted for their activism, while migrants, refugees and children were among those held in dire detention conditions. The Organization and the Libyan authorities should work towards human-rights-based alternatives to detention. She reiterated support for a renewal of the Mission’s mandate for the standard 12-month duration, adding that this will provide much-needed stability and predictability to the Mission at a critical and sensitive juncture for Libya.
AMEIRAH OBAID MOHAMED OBAID ALHEFEITI (United Arab Emirates) encouraged the extension of the UNSMIL mandate for a year and underscored the importance of dismantling transnational organized crime networks. Turning to parliamentary and presidential elections, she spotlighted the need to maintain a constructive dialogue and consultations, and welcomed the meeting held in Morocco. “Paving a way for elections requires tangible measures,” she added. Underscoring the importance of achieving results on the political front, she called for the adoption of meaningful measures to unify military and administrative institutions and ensure the withdrawal of militias and foreign forces. In this regard, she highlighted the need to adhere to the Ceasefire Agreement. Spotlighting the importance of the economic and political trajectory, she called for maintaining transparency in the use of Libyan resources and guaranteeing the independence of all the financial institutions. She also strongly encouraged the participation of women in dialogue regarding all Libyan institutions, and called for efforts to counter defamation campaigns targeting women and activists.
TAHER M. T. ELSONNI (Libya), welcoming the appointment of the first African envoy for Libya, stressed that the establishment of a constitutional path to credible elections is a priority. He expressed hope that the Special Representative of the Secretary-General will be able to build on his predecessor’s achievements and not repeat the errors of the past. He spotlighted the Libyan people’s tremendously high expectations in this regard, emphasizing that “at the end of a protracted litany of crises”, 3 million people hope to have the opportunity to express their will. Welcoming the “glimmers of consensus” that are beginning to emerge in the Security Council — along with the appointment of a Special Representative of the Secretary-General after more than a year — he said that UNSMIL’s mandate should be extended by consensus to buttress the political process in his country. He also welcomed friendly States’ efforts to help Libya emerge from the current crisis, expressing hope that such efforts will coalesce to support a Libyan-led, Libyan-owned solution.
He went on to note that the crisis in Libya is complex and protracted, emphasizing that it cannot be solved through elections alone — though they are an important step to reach a solution. As such, he called for immediate logistical and technical support for the electoral process, which would demonstrate the international community’s commitment to supporting Libya. Support was also required for national efforts to end the cycles of conflict, violence, division and fragmentation, which can only be achieved through national reconciliation. Detailing national efforts towards this end, he urged United Nations support for the same. In the past, the political, economic and security processes have been emphasized; however, the most important process — national reconciliation — has always been lacking. Yet this cornerstone supports all others, and there is a “need to begin with the bedrock”, he stressed. He added that “the desire of the Libyan people needs to be heard” and, while the Libyan people will be able to extricate themselves from crisis, “they cannot be left alone to face their fate”.