Expected Council Action
In September, Council members are likely to be briefed on developments in Libya by Bernardino León, the new Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), and then meet in consultations. The Council will also likely receive the periodic briefing by the chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Eugène-Richard Gasana (Rwanda), and hold consultations on the Libya sanctions regime.
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
Three years after the fall of Tripoli, the security situation has significantly deteriorated in the capital of Libya. On 23 August, after a five-week siege, Misrata-based militias and their Islamist allies took over the Tripoli International Airport, which had been held until then by Zintan-based militias that supported the 16 May failed coup by rogue general Khalifa Haftar. At press time, Misrata-based militias had consolidated their hold on Tripoli and fighting had expanded to the outskirts of the capital.
UNSMIL personnel, currently based in Tunisia due to the security situation, have concentrated their efforts on brokering a ceasefire in Tripoli. In a 17 August statement, UNSMIL deeply regretted the lack of response “to the repeated international appeals and its own efforts for an immediate ceasefire”. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, quoting the Crisis Committee of the Tripoli City Council, said some 7,240 families (around 43,500 people) have been displaced by the fighting in Tripoli. On 17-18 and 23 August airstrikes reportedly carried out by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates hit locations controlled by Misrata-based militias.
The security situation in Benghazi, where Haftar’s offensive started, remains critical. After overrunning a special-forces camp loyal to Haftar, Ansar al-Sharia—a terrorist group which is not listed under the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida sanctions regime—on 31 July proclaimed the establishment of an emirate in Benghazi. In a 21 August statement, UNSMIL condemned the fighting in Tripoli and Benghazi, “especially the indiscriminate shelling of residential neighbourhoods and public facilities as well as the use of aircraft in military operations”.
A newly formed House of Representatives—which took over from the General National Congress (GNC)—met for the first time on 2 August in Tobruk and elected Ageela Issa Gweider as its president. The constitutionality of House meetings—where Islamists hold significantly fewer seats than they did in the GNC—has been challenged by some. On 12 August, the House decided that the next President would be elected by a popular vote. On 25 August, the GNC, whose mandate has ended, appointed Omar al-Hassi as new prime minister in a move likely to exacerbate political tensions.
Regional actors have been alarmed by the crisis in Libya. During a 13-14 July conference hosted by Tunisia, neighbouring countries decided to form security and political committees to monitor developments in Libya. On 17 July, Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdulaziz addressed the Security Council and called for the establishment, under Chapter VII, of a UN stabilisation and institution-building mission for Libya. On 12 August, Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni called for the establishment of joint forces agreements with Algeria, Egypt and Tunisia to protect the borders. (This came after increasing rumours that Algeria and Egypt might intervene in the country.) On 14 August, the House of Representatives called for the intervention of the international community in Libya to protect civilians and Abdulaziz reiterated his call for intervention at a follow-up meeting of neighbouring countries held on 25 August in Egypt. On 23 August, the House of Representatives and the interim government adopted a plan aimed at maintaining security and stability in Libya. Among other requests to the Security Council, the plan included suggestions to review UNSMIL’s current mandate (S/2014/632).
At press time, UNSMIL staff remained in Tunisia and the UN Secretariat was undertaking a strategic review of the mission. The conclusions of this review are expected to provide the Council with options in the near future. On 14 August, the EU Special Representative for Libya, León, was appointed new Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNSMIL. He is expected to take over on 1 September. On 27 August the Council received the last briefing by outgoing head of UNSMIL, Tarek Mitri.
Gasana is likely to brief the Council on how the situation is affecting the work of the committee, such as the insufficient mechanisms to avoid possible violations of the arms embargo and the lack of centralised oversight of military procurement. Resolution 2174 adopted on 27 August imposed sanctions on individuals and entities obstructing or undermining the successful completion of the political transition and tightened the arms embargo.
Human Rights-Related Developments
In a statement released on 8 August, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed concern over the situation in Libya, particularly about reports of frequent indiscriminate shelling of heavily populated areas in Benghazi and Tripoli by rival sides, killing or injuring civilians, including children. OHCHR also raised concern about armed groups on both sides taking prisoners, with initial reports of torture being investigated, as well as continuing attacks against media professionals.
The main issue in Libya is how to achieve a ceasefire between warring parties in Tripoli and Benghazi. Continuous violations of international humanitarian law by the warring parties is a related issue.
An overarching set of key issues includes how to avoid the challenges to legitimate institutions, encourage a national political dialogue, the inclusiveness of the House of Representatives and the formation of a legitimate government following the 25 June parliamentary elections.
The threat that terrorist groups with regional reach could consolidate in Libya is also a key issue.
A neglected issue is the role of regional and international actors that are contributing to the escalation of conflict in Libya. The provision of funds, weapons and other support to warring factions—in contravention of the 1970 sanctions regime—is a related issue. The potential partiality of the listings by the sanctions committee is a further related issue.
The Council could adopt a resolution:
- urging all parties to agree on a ceasefire;
- refocusing UNSMIL’s mandate in the light of the current situation, prioritising its work on national dialogue, disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration as well as security sector reform;
- demanding that the militias and army factions in Libya disarm, refrain from using violence and agree to work together for national reconciliation, justice, respect for human rights and the rule of law; and
- calling on all member states to respect the arms embargo and threatening all those violating it with secondary sanctions.
It could also list Ansar al-Sharia under the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida Sanctions regime.
The sharp deterioration of the security and political situation in Libya continues to be a source of concern for Council members. Despite the increased level of attention, until late August Council members had limited their reaction to issuing several press statements. It seems the position of some Council members regarding the actions of the government and various groups and militias, in particular those of Haftar, has prevented the Council from tackling this situation actively. The failure to act more decisively is also affecting the already difficult situation in which UNSMIL is expected to implement its good-offices mandate: the myriad special envoys of international actors (including three permanent Council members) risks further increasing the confusion regarding negotiations for a ceasefire in Libya.
Following Abdulaziz’s call for a UN stabilisation and institution-building mission, it remained unclear how and whether Council members are planning on responding to this. In a 20 August interview with Le Monde, French President François Hollande expressed his deep concern over the situation in Libya and said the 2011 military intervention was not sufficient because it was cut short and had insufficient follow-up. In an 8 August interview with The New York Times, US President Barack Obama acknowledged that the US and its European partners underestimated the need for a plan to rebuild societies with no civic traditions after the revolution succeeded in Libya.
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 transporting crude oil that had been 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.|
|17 March 2011 S/RES/1973||This resolution was adopted with ten votes and five abstentions and authorised all necessary measures—excluding an occupation force—to protect civilians in Libya and enforce the arms embargo, imposed a no-fly zone, strengthened the sanctions regime, and established a panel of experts.|
|26 February 2014 S/2014/131||The was the report of the Secretary-General on Libya.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|17 July 2014 S/PV.7218||This was a briefing by Mitri with the participation of Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdulaziz|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|23 July 2014 SC/11489||This press statement welcomed the announcement of the final results of the parliamentary elections and urged the expeditious seating of the Council of Representatives.|
|17 July 2014 SC/11479||This press statement condemned the recent violence in Libya, including the fighting around Tripoli International Airport.|
|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
Bernardino León (Spain)
UNSMIL Size and Composition
Strength as of 30 April 2014: 166 international civilians, 76 local civilians, 13 police officers and three UN volunteers.
16 September 2011 to present.