June 2015 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 June 2015
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AFRICA

Libya

Expected Council Action

In June, the Council will be briefed on developments in the Libya political process by Bernardino León, the Special Representative and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). The Council will also receive the periodic briefing by the chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Ramlan Ibrahim (Malaysia), 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 15 September and 30 April 2016, respectively.

Key Recent Developments

Briefing Council members on 29 April, León said he had shared a draft agreement with the parties providing for the formation of a government of national unity, with the House of Representatives as the legislative body and a new High State Council as an advisory body. He told Council members of his intention to convene the first direct talks among armed groups in early May, and to finalise an agreement before the start of Ramadan (17 June). So far, the parties have objected to the proposal made by León and have yet to meet again. The round of talks with the armed groups that was planned for early May was cancelled.

Despite UNSMIL’s mediation efforts, fighting continues between the two main coalitions—Misrata-based and Islamist militias (collectively known as Libya Dawn) and Zintan-based militias and elements of the army commanded by General Khalifa Haftar (Operation Dignity). There were renewed outbreaks of violence in several neighbourhoods in Tripoli in mid-April and May, military operations are ongoing in Benghazi and there were renewed clashes between Tabu and Touareg tribes in southern Libya.

Violations of human rights and international humanitarian law are ongoing. In mid-May, UNSMIL condemned the shelling of residential areas in Benghazi, Gheryan, al-Zawiya and the loss of civilian lives, including children. On 15 May, UNSMIL released a briefing note reporting on the spike in abductions of civilians since March by both Libya Dawn and Operation Dignity. UNSMIL has documented how those abducted are usually at risk of torture and other ill-treatment. UNSMIL also reported abductions committed by the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council (BRSC), which is dominated by Ansar al-Sharia, an Al-Qaida affiliate. According to resolution 2213, adopted on 27 March, human rights and humanitarian law violations are considered designation criteria for sanctions. A resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council on 27 March requested the High Commissioner to urgently dispatch a mission to investigate violations and abuses of international human rights law committed in Libya since the beginning of 2014.

Groups pledging allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) continue to clash with both warring coalitions, notably in Sirte and Derna. Fighting also persists between Operation Dignity and the BRSC in the east. A string of suicide bombings in al-Qubba (19 May), Sirte (20 May) and Misrata (21 May) were claimed by ISIS.

On the smuggling of migrants on the Mediterranean Sea, coming mostly through Libya, the Council was briefed about the EU response on 11 May by Federica Mogherini, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The Council was also briefed by the permanent observer of the AU to the UN, Ambassador Téte António, and Peter Sutherland, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for international migration. In an informal interactive dialogue held afterwards, Mogherini discussed the need for a resolution that would authorise an EU operation to use all necessary measures to inspect, seize and dispose of vessels when there are grounds to believe that they are participating in the smuggling of migrants. Such a mission (EU NAVFOR Med) was established by the EU Council on 18 May and at press time negotiations were ongoing among some Council members on a draft resolution authorising the mission. According to the International Organization for Migration and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 141,000 persons (including migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees) travelled from Libya to Italy across the Mediterranean in unseaworthy boats in 2014, and up to 1,800 have drowned in the sea since the beginning of January.

Briefing the Council on 12 May, the ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, referred to the 10 December 2014 ICC decision on the non-compliance of Libya with the Court regarding the case against Saif al-Islam Gaddafi. (The Court referred the matter back to the Council given the failure of Libya to comply with the ICC in accordance with article 87.7 of the Rome Statute.) Bensouda encouraged the Council not only to press Libyan authorities to comply but also to consult with the Court to resolve any problems that may impede or prevent the execution of this decision.

Sanctions-Related Developments

Resolution 2213, adopted on 27 March, reiterated the Council’s willingness to impose sanctions on those threatening the peace, stability or security of Libya. A confidential annex to the 23 February final report of the Panel of Experts to the 1970 Sanctions Committee included a proposed list of 13 people who were found to be obstructing or undermining the successful completion of the political transition. (This designation criterion was established in resolution 2174 of 27 August 2014.) Even though León has repeatedly emphasised the usefulness of sanctions to advance the political process, no member state has submitted a name to the Committee for listing.

Key Issues

An overarching issue is achieving a ceasefire between warring parties and supporting the dialogue process facilitated by León to bridge the current standoff between institutions based in Tripoli and Tobruk/al-Bayda. Related to this is the role of regional and international actors that are contributing to the escalation of conflict in Libya.

Stopping continual violations of international humanitarian law by the parties is an urgent issue, together with ensuring that accountability mechanisms are addressed in the UN-facilitated talks.

The growing threat posed in Libya by terrorist groups with regional reach is of increasing urgency.

An immediate issue for Council members is the impact on the political process and the mediation of the effort to obtain Libya’s consent for the EU operation.

Options

The Council could impose sanctions on leaders of armed groups and other spoilers that threaten the peace, stability or security of Libya, and/or on those violating, or assisting in the evasion of, the provisions of the arms embargo on Libya as per resolution 2213.

Council and Wider Dynamics

On several occasions, Council members have asked León to assess the usefulness of imposing sanctions on spoilers to the political process in Libya, but it seems that some permanent members are reluctant to use this tool. No discussion in the 1970 Sanctions Committee has taken place on the possibility of new listings.

On 11 May, Council members, at the request of Chile, held an informal interactive dialogue with Bensouda. The briefing was an opportunity to follow-up on Court decisions on Libya and it showed how, in addition to the difficulties posed by members that are not parties to the ICC, Council members that are parties to the Rome Statute have not been able to find a common voice on this issue.

The negotiations on the EU draft aimed at tackling the smuggling of migrants on the Mediterranean were still ongoing at press time between some Council members and the Libyan authorities. (For at least one permanent member the consent of the Tobruk/al-Bayda-based government seems to be indispensable for the adoption of the resolution.) In the past, it has been difficult to get agreement on resolutions authorising the interception of vessels, whether in the context of the implementation of sanctions or counter-piracy measures. Some Council members feel strongly about not contravening the principle of freedom of navigation codified in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. As such, they have tended to focus their discussions in the past on such issues as the procedures to authorise interdiction, whether the consent of the flag state is required and the maritime zones where the interdiction is authorised to happen. In the informal interactive dialogue with Mogherini, some Council members inquired about the potential impact that requesting consent from Libya could have on the political process.

The UK is the penholder on Libya.

UN DOCUMENTS ON LIBYA

Security Council Resolutions
27 March 2015 S/RES/2214 This was a resolution that focused on counter-terrorism efforts.
27 March 2015 S/RES/2213 This resolution renewed UNSMIL and the 1970 Libya Panel of Experts.
Security Council Meeting Records
12 May 2015 S/PV.7441 This was the ninth briefing on Libya by the ICC Prosecutor.
11 May 2015 S/PV.7439 This was a briefing on the smuggling of migrants on the Mediterranean Sea.
Human Rights Council Document
27 March 2015 A/HRC/RES/28/30 This resolution requested the High Commissioner to dispatch a mission to investigate human rights violations in Libya since 2014.