Expected Council Action
In March, the Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). Tarek Mitri, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNSMIL, is expected to brief the Council on the Secretary-General’s latest report.
The Council will also likely renew the mandate of the Panel of Experts (PoE) assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee and the Council expects a briefing by its chair, Ambassador Eugène-Richard Gasana (Rwanda).
The mandates of UNSMIL and the PoE expire on 16 March and 14 April, respectively.
Key Recent Developments
In a 16 December 2013 presidential statement, the Council expressed its “grave concern at the worsening security situation and political divisions” in Libya. Armed clashes between Tabu and Tuareg groups and militias associated with the former Qaddafi regime in the southern city of Sabha have resulted in more than 120 casualties since mid-January. On 18 January, the General National Congress (GNC) declared a state of emergency in the south.
Political leaders and security force members continue to be targeted. The Deputy Industry Minister was killed in Sirte on 11 January and Deputy Prime Minister al-Sidiq Abdelkarim survived an assassination attempt on 29 January. The disruption of oil production by federalist regional leaders seeking to profit from the oil trade in the east and clashes between rival militias that resulted in the closure of oil facilities and power stations seriously impacted the economy and produced water and electricity shortages in the Cyrenaica region and its capital, Benghazi.
The lack of stability in the country has sparked anti-government protests. On 14 January, armed protestors attacked the GNC, demanding Prime Minister Ali Zeidan’s resignation. On 21 January, the Islamist Justice and Construction Party pulled its five ministers from the cabinet. There have been several attempts to pass a motion of no-confidence at the GNC, but they have fallen short of support among members. On 14 February, Major General Khalifa Haftar, a leading figure in the 2011 revolution, announced a coup against the government, which was denied by the government the same day. On 18 February, militias from Zintan gave the GNC a five-hour ultimatum to dissolve that was not finally upheld.
Deadlock in the GNC over the roadmap for the transition process and popular protests as a result of its inaction have fueled political divisions. In the last two months, UNSMIL held five consultative meetings with political factions to alleviate divisions. Consensus was not reached, and on 16 February, members of the GNC, whose mandate some believed was set to expire by 7 February, extended it until the end of the year and agreed on early elections. (On 3 February, the GNC had revised the roadmap for the transition providing for the approval of amendments to the Constitutional Declaration and a new election law in case the 60-member Constitution Drafting Assembly (CDA) is unable to complete its work within four months. CDA elections had to be held in two rounds on 20 and 26 February because violent incidents prevented electoral material from reaching some polling stations.)
Saif Al-Islam Qaddafi, whose case was referred to the ICC in resolution 1970, remains in jail in Zintan, held by a militia despite repeated calls by the court for his surrender. In an 11 October 2013 decision, Pre-Trial Chamber I concluded that the case against former intelligence chief Abdullah Al-Senussi, also referred by resolution 1970, was being investigated by Libya, thus making it inadmissible before the ICC. (Al-Senussi’s counsel appealed the decision.) A decision from the Pre-Trial Chamber on a request for a “finding of non-compliance” for the non-surrender of Qaddafi is now expected. Such a finding might result in the re-referral of the case to the Security Council to ensure compliance by Libya.
The final report of the PoE was circulated to Council members on 15 February. The report identifies the proliferation of weapons to and from Libya as a major challenge for the stability of the country and the region given that “most weapons are still under the control of non-state armed actors and border control systems remain ineffective”.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 18 February, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) called on the GNC to reconsider two recent legislative amendments: a revision to the Penal Code imposing prison sentences on any person “undermining the February 17 revolution” or “publicly insulting one of the legislative, executive or judicial authorities” and a regulation authorising relevant ministries to take necessary measures to discontinue and prevent the broadcasting of satellite channels that are deemed hostile to the revolution. The OHCHR pointed out that the February 17 revolution, whose third anniversary was celebrated the day before, had included a guarantee of freedom of expression and opinion among its key goals. Furthermore, the OHCHR condemned recent cases of reported violence and intimidation against members of the media and called for investigations into these attacks.
An overarching issue is the deteriorating security situation due to the existence of militias that challenge the state’s monopoly on the legitimate use of force. The fragility of the government and the continual threats against the GNC are related issues.
Breaking the stalemate in the political process and ensuring the swift work of the CDA is a key issue. Ensuring the inclusivity of the entire political process is a related issue. (Tabu, Amazigh and Tuareg groups boycotted the elections for the CDA in late February.)
A pressing issue is ensuring the protection of UNSMIL staff so it can carry out its mandate. (A 21 November 2013 letter from the Secretary-General recommended the establishment of a guard unit consisting of up to 235 military personnel to protect UN facilities and personnel in Tripoli. The Council took note of this arrangement in a 27 November 2013 letter [S/2013/705].
Addressing the highly diversified range of arms trafficking to and from Libya—which include state-sponsored traffic by air and traffic by terrorist and criminal entities by land and sea to neighbouring countries—as stated in the PoE report is a key issue. Ensuring proper transfer of military materiel to the government through centralised oversight, more clarity regarding focal points for military procurement and enhanced capacity to secure stockpiles, is a related issue.
Options for the Council include adapting UNSMIL’s mandate to the current security situation and prioritising key tasks within its broad mandate, such as:
- stressing the good offices role of the Secretary-General and the facilitation and provision of technical support to the upcoming constitution-drafting and electoral processes;
- monitoring and protecting human rights; and
- highlighting the importance of sufficient funding for UNSMIL’s work on countering illicit proliferation of arms and disposing of ammunition through the UN Mine Action Services.
Regarding the mandate of the PoE, the Council could incorporate some of the recommendations in the report such as:
- clarifying the mechanisms by which frozen assets are disposed of; and
- calling on the government to ensure clearer procurement procedures for military materiel and more precise end-user certificates.
Although unlikely, the Council could impose sanctions against armed militias and other spoilers that significantly undermine state authority and its monopoly on the legitimate use of force.
Although the deterioration of the security situation and the fragility of the political transition are sources of common concern for Council members, considerable differences arise when identifying causes for the current sources of instability in Libya and their regional impact. Council members also differ on the tone to use in Libya-related outcomes. (The particular order of sentences within a paragraph—with the idea that the first sentence of every paragraph sets its tone—and the order of the paragraphs within the statement were thoroughly discussed in the negotiation of the 16 December 2013 presidential statement.)
The UK is the penholder on Libya.
UN Documents on Libya
|Security Council Resolution|
|14 March 2013 S/RES/2095||This resolution extended UNSMIL’s mandate by 12 months and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee for 13 months.|
|Security Council Presidential Statement|
|16 December 2013 S/PRST/2013/21||This was presidential statement expressing concern over the worsening security situation and political divisions in Libya.|
|5 September 2013 S/2013/516||This report of the Secretary-General on UNSMIL highlighted the internal and regional dynamics and the deteriorating security situation.|
|Security Council Letters|
|27 November 2013 S/2013/705||This was an exchange of letters regarding the establishment of a guard unit to protect UNSMIL.|
|21 November 2013 S/2013/704||This was an exchange of letters regarding the establishment of a guard unit to protect UNSMIL.|
Other Relevant Facts
Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNSMIL
Tarek Mitri (Lebanon)
UNSMIL Size and Composition
Strength as of 31 December 2013: 148 international civilians, 79 local civilians, 11 police officers, three UN volunteers.
16 September 2011 to present