December 2014 Monthly Forecast

Posted 26 November 2014
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AFRICA

Libya

Expected Council Action

In December, the Council will be briefed on developments in Libya, likely by Bernardino León, the Special Representative and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). The briefing will be followed by consultations. The Council will also likely receive the periodic briefing by the chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Eugène-Richard Gasana (Rwanda), followed by consultations on the Libya sanctions regime.

The mandates of UNSMIL and the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee expire on 13 March and 13 April 2015, respectively.

Key Recent Developments

Briefing Council members on 4 November, León gave a bleak assessment of the situation in Libya. He echoed his previous statement from a 28 October press conference in Tripoli, where he said that Libya was “getting very close to the point of no return”. León reported on the two meetings of members of the House of Representatives (some of whom had previously boycotted the work of the House) in Ghadames on 29 September and in Tripoli on 11 October that he had facilitated and the challenges he encountered in getting them to negotiate in good faith. A 6 November ruling by the Supreme Court declared the Tobruk-based House of Representatives unconstitutional obliged UNSMIL to re-evaluate the mediation strategy.

Clashes continue in southwest of Tripoli between Misrata-based and Islamist militias (Libya Dawn) and Zintan-based militias that supported the failed 16 May coup by rogue General Khalifa Haftar. A 30 October report by Amnesty International concluded that “militias and armed groups on all sides have committed serious human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, some of which amount to war crimes”. Briefing the Council on 11 November, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda highlighted how political instability and the worsening of the security situation “clearly cannot be conducive to closing the impunity gap in Libya”.

There has been continual violent fighting in Benghazi—between forces loyal to Haftar and the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries—since the 15 October operation by Haftar and elements of the Libyan National Army to retake the city. The operation, which has been publicly supported by Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni and the House of Representatives, had reached a death toll of 254 as of 3 November. In a 13 November statement, UNSMIL expressed grave concern over reports of indiscriminate ground and aerial attacks on crowded residential areas in Benghazi. On 19 November, a 12-hour unconditional humanitarian truce was brokered by León in Benghazi to allow for the evacuation of civilians and the retrieval of bodies from the affected areas. Local press reported that the truce’s full length was not respected by the parties.

On 9 November, two explosions occurred in Shahat, apparently targeting a meeting between León and Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni. On 19 November, the Derna and Benghazi branches of Ansar al-Sharia were designated for sanctions under the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida sanctions regime at the request of France, the UK and the US. (Ansar al-Sharia is in control of Derna, a town in eastern Libya where three activists where recently beheaded.) The terrorist group, which has a strong influence in the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries, is also responsible for the systematic targeting of human rights activists, members of the judiciary and security institutions in Benghazi.

Regional actors continue to be involved in the crisis in Libya. Recently both Algeria and Sudan offered to facilitate peace talks. On 21 October, the Turkish special envoy to Libya, Emrullah İşer, met with the self-declared prime minister, Omar al-Hassi, in the latter’s first public meeting with a foreign representative. On 13 November, car bombs exploded outside the embassies of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates in Tripoli. Council members condemned the attacks in a press statement (SC/11646). (United Arab Emirates and Egypt have reportedly supported Haftar’s military operation with airstrikes.) 

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that two million people may have been affected by the conflict in Libya. More than 330,000 are considered to be particularly at risk, which includes almost 290,000 internally displaced persons and some 37,000 refugees and asylum-seekers.

On 14 November the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee met and discussed challenges faced by the Panel of Experts in conducting its investigations. The meeting was attended by Libya and other regional states.

Human Rights-Related Developments

In a press briefing on 14 November, the spokesperson for the High Commissioner for Human Rights voiced alarm over the escalating violence in Libya with reports of increased human rights abuses, beheadings of activists and the recent closure of the National Council of Civil Liberties and Human Rights in Tripoli. On 9 November, armed men in military uniform arrived at the National Council, led by a man known for his support of Libya Dawn, locked the building and said that anybody attempting to re-open it would be arrested. The spokesperson for the High Commissioner stressed the importance of allowing the National Council to function smoothly and independently at a time when Libyans are facing serious human rights violations and need independent monitoring in the country. The spokesperson added that the recent dramatic increase in the use of car bombs, with civilians as the main victims, illustrates the rapidly deteriorating security and human rights situation in the country

Key Issues

The main issue in Libya is how to achieve a ceasefire between warring parties in Tripoli and Benghazi. Continual violations of international humanitarian law by the warring parties is a related issue.

An overarching issue is bridging the political divisions in Libya and ending the current standoff between institutions in Tripoli and Tobruk and avoid a de facto partition of the country.

The threat that terrorist groups with regional reach could proliferate in Libya is an urgent 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.

Options

The Council could adopt a resolution:

  • urging all parties to agree on a ceasefire;
  • expressing concern about attacks against civilians in Libya that can amount to crimes under international human rights and humanitarian law;
  • 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;
  • urging the parties to respect the neutrality of the National Oil Company, the sovereign wealth fund and the Central Bank of Libya; and
  • calling on all member states to respect the arms embargo and threatening all those violating it with secondary sanctions.

A further option for the Council is to impose measures under resolution 2174 (travel ban and assets freeze) against armed militias and other spoilers that threaten the peace, stability or security of Libya.

Council and Wider Dynamics

Following the worsening security situation, the limited traction of the process facilitated by León and the ruling of the Supreme Court, some Council members have raised the possibility of discussing the imposition of sanctions on those undermining the successful completion of the transition. However, Council members seem to be aware of the fact that the imposition of sanctions has to be done in a way that does not undermine current mediation efforts.

Given that proposals to list individuals obstructing the political transition are expected to come from member states, it remains to be seen how countries with vested interests in Libya are going to use this card and its impact on the perception of UNSMIL as an honest broker in the political process.

The UK is the penholder on Libya.

UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions
27 August 2014 S/RES/2174 This was a resolution imposing sanctions on individuals and entities obstructing or undermining the successful completion of the political transition and tightening the arms embargo.
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.
Security Council Press Statement
13 November 2014 SC/11646 This press statement condemned the terrorist bomb attacks against the embassies of Egypt and the UAE in Tripoli.
Sanctions Committee Document
18 November 2014 SC/11655 This was a press release noting that the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee met on 14 November with Libya and other regional states.
Security Council Meeting Record
11 November 2014 S/PV.7306 This was the eighth briefing by the ICC Prosecutor on Libya.