March 2015 Monthly Forecast

Posted 27 February 2015
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AFRICA

Libya

Expected Council Action

In March, the Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). Bernardino León, the Special Representative and head of UNSMIL, is expected to brief on developments and the Secretary-General’s latest report.

The Council will also likely renew the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, and expects a briefing by its chair, Ambassador Hussein Haniff (Malaysia).

The mandates of UNSMIL and the Panel expire on 13 March and 13 April, respectively.

Key Recent Developments

Following the 15 February beheading of 21 Coptic Christians, including 20 Egyptians, in Sirte by a Libyan branch of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), León briefed the Council on 18 February along with representatives from Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Italy and Algeria. While Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed El Hadi Dayri called for the lifting of the arms embargo for the government, León emphasised how the success of the political dialogue and the formation of a national unity government are essential to combat terrorism.

Despite the growing threat of terrorism, continuous violence on the ground and outstanding political divides, León pursued the efforts to facilitate a political dialogue. On 14-15 and 26-27 January, two rounds of talks were held in Geneva, although the former parliament, the General National Congress (GNC) refused to participate. (The GNC does not accept the legitimacy of the House of Representatives, which is the internationally recognised parliament.) On 17 January, Council members welcomed the first round of talks and strongly urged all relevant Libyan stakeholders to attend the next round. The next day the GNC agreed to participate in the talks on the condition that they take place in Libya. On 11 February, a new round of talks, which included the GNC, was held in the Libyan city of Ghadames, where León held separate meetings with the parties. On 23 February, the House decided to suspend its participation.

Despite some preliminary talks, violence persists between Misrata-based and Islamist militias (collectively known as Libya Dawn) and Zintan-based militias and elements of the army commanded by rogue General Khalifa Haftar (Operation Dignity).

Although fighting appears to have moved away from Tripoli, the situation in the capital continues to be extremely fragile. On 27 January, Council members condemned a deadly terrorist attack against the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli claimed by ISIS. Despite the slight improvement in the humanitarian situation in Tripoli, political and human rights activists, media professionals and other public figures have been targeted since the takeover of the city by Libya Dawn forces, according to a 23 December 2014 report issued by UNSMIL and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Fighting continues in Benghazi, where forces loyal to Haftar are still conducting a military operation targeting the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries—an alliance that comprises Al-Qaida affiliate Ansar al-Sharia along with other armed groups. UNSMIL has received reports of indiscriminate shelling by both sides, as well as indiscriminate airstrikes by the air force aligned with Haftar.

On 13 December 2014, Libya Dawn launched an operation to take Libya’s two largest oil export terminals, Es-Sider and Ras Lanuf. The fighting shut down the terminals’ operations, resulting in a reduction of Libya’s overall oil production from 900,000 barrels per day last October to 325,000 barrels per day in January.

According to UNSMIL, many of the violations and abuses described in the 23 December 2014 report “potentially fall under the jurisdiction of the ICC, which is continuing to investigate the situation in Libya.” However, the cooperation between Libya and the ICC has been contentious. Following the 10 December 2014 ICC decision on the non-compliance of Libya with the Court on the case against Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the matter was referred to the Security Council.

On 13 February, the Secretariat circulated a strategic assessment of the UN presence in Libya, with recommendations to focus on mediation, support to key institutions (such as the electoral commission, the central bank or the Constitutional Drafting Assembly), provision of essential services, human rights reporting and advocacy as well as coordination of international engagement on Libya.

Sanctions-Related Developments

The 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee members discussed the final report of the Panel of Experts on 20 February. The report highlights how arm transfers to Libya, exempted by the Committee or not, have contributed to the consolidation of militias on the ground. The report also provides recommendations to make the sanctions regime more effective.

Human Rights-Related Developments

The Human Rights Council will consider the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Libya and on related technical support and capacity-building needs (A/HRC/28/51), during its 28th session in March. The report finds that Libya is facing the worst political crisis and escalation of violence since the 2011 armed conflict, with a multitude of heavily armed groups exercising effective control on the ground, committing violations of international human rights and humanitarian law with impunity amid the broadening political crisis. The report documents that during 2014, civilians were victims of indiscriminate artillery and air attacks as well as numerous incidents of targeted violence, with cases of harassment, intimidation, torture, numerous abductions and summary executions of human rights defenders, civil society activists, journalists and other media professionals, as well as members of the judiciary, politicians and law enforcement officers. Hospitals, schools, as well as airports and other public infrastructure were attacked and damaged, or used for military purposes. The report also highlights the extremely vulnerable situation of migrants in Libya and the thousands of people in detention with no access to justice. It finds little progress on the establishment of a new fact-finding and reconciliation commission or measures of redress for victims and emphasises the need to strengthen state institutions, ensure accountability for human rights violations and support the ongoing political dialogue. While the continuing violence has had a disastrous impact on the running of some key institutions, in particular the justice system, others continue to function but need support, most notably the Constitution Drafting Assembly, according to the report.

Key Issues

A key issue in Libya is how to achieve a ceasefire between warring parties. Stopping continual violations of international humanitarian law by the 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/al-Bayda in order to avoid a de facto partition of the country. Supporting the dialogue process facilitated by León is a related issue.

The growing threat of terrorist groups with regional reach in Libya is an urgent issue.

An urgent issue is the role of regional and international actors that are contributing to the escalation of conflict in Libya.

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 international crimes;
  • authorising member states to enforce the arms embargo on the high seas or in the air and to prevent the illicit export not only of crude oil but of its derivatives and other natural resources;
  • establishing control mechanisms to ensure the neutrality of the Central Bank of Libya;
  • threatening all member states violating the arms embargo with secondary sanctions;
  • further specifying the designation criteria for spoilers undermining the political process in Libya; and
  • refocusing UNSMIL’s mandate as suggested by the Secretary-General.

An additional 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

The tension between countering terrorism and the need for a political solution to the conflict in Libya is framing discussions in the Council. As a response to recent terrorist attacks, the position of the internationally recognised Libyan government, supported by Egypt and echoed in the Council by Jordan, has been to push for lifting the arms embargo for the government. At press time Council members were negotiating such a resolution drafted by Jordan, although it was unclear if it would garner enough support given the opposition of some Council members worried about the impact of lifting the arms embargo on conflict dynamics on the ground and their preference to wait for the political dialogue to yield results. Earlier, a UK-drafted press statement, reiterating that there is no military solution to the political crisis in Libya, had been dropped following Jordan’s concerns over its possible interpretation as questioning Egyptian airstrikes targeting ISIS in Derna on 16 February.

The UK is the penholder on Libya.

UN DOCUMENTS ON LIBYA

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 Statements
20 February 2015 SC/11792 This condemned a bomb attack in al-Qubbah claimed by ISIS.
15 February 2015 SC/11782 This condemned the murder of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya.
27 January 2015 SC/11754 This press statement condemned the terrorist attack against the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli, which resulted in several deaths and injuries.
17 January 2015 SC/11738 This was a press statement welcoming the 14-15 January round of talks in the Libyan dialogue hosted by UNSMIL in Geneva and strongly urged all relevant Libyan stakeholders to attend the next round of talks.
Security Council Meeting Records
18 February 2015 S/PV.7387 This was a briefing focused on counter-terrorism in Libya with the participation of Libya, Egypt, Italy, Algeria and Tunisia.
17 December 2014 S/PV.7345 This was a briefing on the steps taken by the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee to ensure compliance by member states with the sanctions regime.
Security Council Letter
29 December 2014 S/2014/953 This transmitted the ICC decision on the non-compliance of Libya to the Security Council.
Secretary-General’s Report
13 February 2015 S/2015/113 This was a strategic assessment of the UN presence in Libya.