Expected Council Action
In July, Council members are likely to be briefed on developments in Libya by Tarek Mitri, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).
The mandates of UNSMIL and the Panel of Experts (PoE) assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee expire on 13 March and 13 April 2015, respectively.
Key Recent Developments
The security situation in Libya remains volatile. Rogue General Khalifa Haftar attempted an unsuccessful coup on 14 February and has since targeted Islamist militias in Benghazi. Forces loyal to Haftar also attacked the General National Congress (GNC) in Tripoli on 18 May.
That attack came against the backdrop of the disputed 4 May GNC election of Ahmed Maiteeq as prime minister and subsequent cabinet approval, which were contested by interim Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni, who was mandated to serve after Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was sacked by the GNC on 11 March. Al-Thinni, who resigned after an attack on his family on 13 April, questioned the legality of the procedure that was used to elect Maiteeq, as have others who have argued there was no quorum for the 4 May vote by the GNC.
On 9 June, the Supreme Court ruled that the appointment was unconstitutional, thus leaving al-Thinni in office. Maiteeq and the deputy president of the GNC, Salah Makhzoum, said they would abide by the decision.
A protest march on 8 June calling for militias to disband reportedly ended with 31 killed and another 80 people wounded following clashes with the government-aligned Libya Shield militia outside its compound in Benghazi. Army chief of staff Major General Youssef al-Mangoush, who is officially in charge of the militia, resigned following the incident.
On 9 June, Mitri briefed the Council for the first time since Haftar began his operations. He said that Haftar had launched “Operation Libya Dignity”, a military offensive against groups Haftar had labelled as terrorists and blamed for the recent wave of violence and targeted assassinations in Benghazi and in eastern Libya. Avoiding any personal assessment, Mitri added that others viewed the offensive as an attempted coup.
Mitri further said that the continuing security crisis posed a threat to the political transition and that he would soon convene a meeting with major actors aimed at forging an agreement on the principles of political interaction, national priorities during the remainder of the transition and ways to address immediate security issues and other divisive matters. (Nevertheless, the dialogue that was planned for 18-19 June was postponed indefinitely in light of the objections by various parties to some of its proposed documents.)
Mitri also reported that the security situation continued to impede the functioning of the justice system, due to attacks on prosecutors and judges. Nonetheless, the trial of 37 former regime officials, including Saif al-Islam Qaddafi and Abdullah al-Senussi, had begun, though not without delays. UNSMIL had visited all defendants in Tripoli, Misrata and Zintan but was denied access to detainees held in al-Hadba prison. (On 21 May, the ICC reiterated its decision that Qaddafi, held in Zintan by local militia, should be tried in The Hague, and in a 13 May briefing to the Council, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda insisted that Libya should immediately surrender him to the Court.)
The Council also received during the meeting the periodic briefing by the chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Eugène-Richard Gasana (Rwanda). Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi (Libya) stated that in the last month, freedom of expression had been greatly compromised by abductions and assassinations of political activists and the reluctance of judges to carry out their duties because they feared for their lives. Dabbashi rejected the notion that Libya was divided and ruled by tribes.
Amidst the fragile security situation and the lack of government control over large parts of the country, elections were held on 25 June for a new House of Representatives to replace the defunct GNC. Prior to the election, Haftar declared that he would suspend all military operations on 25 June.
As requested by Mitri, Council members issued a press statement on 23 June welcoming the elections as an important step towards stable democratic governance. They called on all parties to ensure that the elections are peaceful and conveyed their intention to monitor the situation closely (SC/11447).
At press time, media reports indicate that turnout for the 25 June election was relatively low, with less than half of registered voters showing up to the polls. (Above 1.5 million voters were registered for the election, down from 2.8 million registered voters for the 2012 election.) Some polling stations stayed closed for security reasons and a couple of violent incidents occurred, with at least five people killed in clashes between government forces and militants and 30 wounded in Benghazi. In another incident, human rights activist Salwa Bughaighis was shot dead at her Benghazi home shortly after she had returned from voting.
On 16 June, US special forces in Libya seized Ahmed abu Khattala, indicted by a US federal court for the 11 September 2012 attacks on the US consulate in Benghazi. (According to the media, Khattala is currently aboard the USS New York en route to the US.) On 17 June, Ambassador Samantha Power (US) sent a letter to the President of the Council stating that the US had acted in accordance with its “inherent right of self-defense” under Article 51 of the UN Charter (S/2014/417). According to the letter, Khattala was planning future attacks against US targets and will be presented before a US federal court for prosecution.
Justice Minister Saleh al-Marghani of Libya stated in response that the US had no right to abscond with Khattala, while other officials characterised the operation as an attack on Libyan sovereignty.
An overarching issue is the current fighting between militias and factions of the army, as well as the challenges to the government and its lack of authority. The continued operations of Haftar and his suspected political intentions to side-line the government are a particular example.
Another issue is to monitor the post-election situation and to try to build political momentum through the new House of Representatives, which, it is hoped, will be perceived as legitimate.
The Council could issue a statement:
- condemning the use of violence against the legitimate authorities;
- calling on all sides to honour the election results and seize the opportunity to build up and strengthen democratic institutions;
- calling on the militias and army factions in Libya to refrain from using violence and to agree to work together for national reconciliation, justice, respect for human rights and the rule of law;
- threatening or adopting targeted sanctions against spoilers of the political process; and
- calling for improved coordination of international support under the auspices of UNSMIL.
The overall deterioration of the security and political situation in Libya are sources of concern for Council members. Yet due to differing points of view among Council members on how to address or characterise the actions of the government and different groups and militias, in particular those of Haftar, the Council has not been able to pronounce itself on the situation.
Nevertheless, after several months of silence on the situation, the need to at least monitor the situation closely prompted Council members to ask Mitri to brief them again in July, following the elections. It seems that one point of consensus among Council members is that Libya deserves closer Council attention due to the current state of affairs.
Council members are hoping that the election of a new parliament and the subsequent formation of a new government will allow Libya to revitalise the political process and create new momentum for establishing a functioning government. Together with the continued work of the Constitution Drafting Assembly on a new constitution, Council members hope that these developments will create a positive momentum that will reverse the deteriorating security and bring political stability.
The UK is the penholder on Libya.
UN DOCUMENTS ON LIBYA
|Security Council Resolutions|
|19 March 2014 S/RES/2146||This resolution imposed measures on vessels designated by the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee to be transporting crude oil illicitly exported from Libya.|
|14 March 2014 S/RES/2144||This resolution extended the mandate of UNSMIL until 13 March 2015 and the mandate of the Panel assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee until 13 April 2015.|
|26 February 2011 S/RES/1970||This resolution referred the situation in Libya to the ICC, imposed an arms embargo and targeted sanctions (assets freeze and travel ban), and established a sanctions committee.|
|26 February 2014 S/2014/131||The was the report of the Secretary-General on Libya.|
|Security Council Letter|
|17 June 2014 S/2014/417||This was from the US to the Council President about Khattala’s abduction by US special forces.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|9 June 2014 S/PV.7194||This was the latest briefing on Libya and the work of the Libya Sanctions Committee.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|23 June 2014 SC/11447||This welcomed the parliamentary election of 25 June 2014.|
|Sanctions Committee Document|
|15 February 2014 S/2014/106||This was the final report of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee.|
OTHER RELEVANT FACTS
Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNSMIL
Tarek Mitri (Lebanon)
UNSMIL Size and Composition
Strength as of 31 January 2014: 151 international civilians, 81 local civilians, 11 police officers and three UN volunteers.
16 September 2011 to present.