Expected Council Action
Council members will be watching developments in Libya closely following the adoption of resolution 2259 on 23 December 2015. Resolution 2259 welcomed the signing of the Libyan Political Agreement and the formation of the Presidency Council, calling on it to form a government within 30 days.
The mandates of UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee expire on 15 March and 30 April 2016, respectively.
Key Recent Developments
On 17 November 2015, Martin Kobler took over from Bernardino León as Special Representative of the Secretary-General. León last briefed the Council on 5 November 2015. In that briefing, León blamed the leaderships of the House of Representatives and the General National Congress (GNC) for delaying a vote on the outcome of the Libyan dialogue process (an October political agreement providing for the formation of a presidency council and a government of national accord). Despite expressions of support from members of both parliaments, their presidencies refused to hold votes on the text.
Furthermore, on 6 December 2015, an agreement was reached between some members of both parliaments (including their two vice-presidents) in Tunisia on a “declaration of principles” outlining a different roadmap for the political process that would substitute for the agreement proposed by UNSMIL. In an 8 December joint declaration, the governments of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, the US and the EU reaffirmed their strong support for the UN-facilitated Libyan political agreement “as the only way forward to resolve Libya’s political, security and institutional crises”. They highlighted that the “declaration of principles” had been announced by a very small number of members of the House and the GNC, and asserted that “no last minute attempt to derail the UN-driven process will succeed.” On 15 December, Agila Saleh Essa Gwaider and Nouri Abusahmain, presidents of the House and the GNC respectively, met in Malta in an attempt to give momentum to a parallel negotiation track not facilitated by the UN.
On 11 December 2015, Kobler briefed the Council on the 10-11 December round of the political dialogue he convened in Tunis. He said there was agreement on several issues among dialogue participants, such as that the Libyan Political Agreement would be the basis for the political settlement and would not be reopened. The date for signing the agreement was scheduled for 16 December 2015, and Kobler called on all political and security actors to create a conducive environment to enable the future government to assume its responsibilities in Tripoli. In this regard, he called on the GNC to allow free access to all security actors, particularly in Tripoli. (The signing date was later postponed to 17 December.)
Kobler also conveyed several demands made by dialogue participants, such as the need for the Council to support unequivocally the outcomes of the Libyan political dialogue and the Political Agreement; the importance of ensuring that technical support to the future government is quick, visible, tangible and sustainable in order to ensure that the government can deliver as soon as possible; and the need to address the humanitarian situation and the terrible plight endured by the civilian population.
On 13 December 2015, Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni and US Secretary of State John Kerry hosted a high-level ministerial conference on Libya in Rome. The member states present (including permanent members of the Council, some European countries and regional stakeholders) issued a communiqué recognising and supporting the institutions validated by the political agreement and pledging support for a government of national accord as the sole legitimate government of Libya. They announced that they would cease official contacts with individuals claiming to be part of institutions not validated by the agreement.
On 17 December, participants in the political dialogue, including from the House and the GNC, as well as Libyan political parties, civil society, municipalities and women’s groups, signed the Political Agreement in Skhirat, Morocco. In a statement welcoming the signing, the UN Secretary-General said that “the door will remain open to those who wish to join on the road to peace” and that the UN “will continue to work to broaden the basis of support for the new Government”. On 23 December, the Council adopted resolution 2259 welcoming the signing of the Libyan Political Agreement and the formation of the Presidency Council calling on it to work expeditiously within 30 days to form a government and to finalise interim security arrangements necessary for stabilising Libya.
The security situation continues to be critical, particularly in Benghazi. UNSMIL has repeatedly condemned the indiscriminate shelling of residential areas there by all parties. In the south, Qatar recently brokered a ceasefire agreement between Tuareg and Tebu tribes.
The increasing presence of terrorist groups continues to be a threat to Libya and the region. A 22 September 2015 report of the Monitoring Team of the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee stated that the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has clearly demonstrated its intention to control additional territory in Libya, given the country’s strategic location as a transit point within the region. The report also highlights that ISIS in Libya is the only affiliate that has benefited from support and guidance by ISIS’ core in Iraq and Syria. At the briefing, Kobler said that “mobilising international support to assist Libyan authorities to take decisive measures to combat, contain and eliminate [the] imminent danger [of ISIS] is a must”. Contingency planning to support counter-terrorism efforts in Libya once a government of national accord is sworn in has been ongoing by France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and the US, in discussion with the UN and the EU.
On 5 November 2015, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a Council briefing that all parties to the conflict are committing large-scale crimes, including those under ICC jurisdiction. A 16 November report released by UNSMIL and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights established that all parties in Libya’s conflict are committing breaches of international law that may amount to war crimes, including abductions, torture and killing of civilians.
According to OCHA, 2.4 million people, of whom 435,000 are estimated to be internally displaced, are in need of humanitarian assistance, in addition to several hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants.
Human Rights-Related Developments
UNSMIL and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights jointly published a report on 16 November 2015, covering 1 January to 31 October 2015. The report documents indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas, abduction of civilians, torture, executions and deliberate destruction of property. It also highlights abuses faced by internally displaced people, human rights defenders, migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. It concludes that all parties to the conflict appear to be committing violations of international humanitarian law, including those that may amount to war crimes, and gross violations of international human rights law, including torture, enforced disappearance and unlawful killings. The report said all parties are also conducting military operations that appeared to violate the principles of distinction and proportionality.
An overarching issue is how to ensure the broad acceptance of the legitimacy of a Political Agreement that is not signed by all relevant actors, how to bring on board those unwilling to sign the agreement, how to maintain the engagement of the parties in the process, and how to isolate spoilers actively undermining the process.
A key issue is ensuring that military actors are brought into the political process to address the implementation of the ceasefire and other security arrangements provided for in the agreement. Stopping violations of international humanitarian law by the parties is a related issue.
The growing threat in Libya of terrorist groups with regional reach is an urgent issue.
Options for Council members on Libya include:
- reiterating that the door will remain open to others who may wish to sign it and stressing the role that UNSMIL will continue to play in facilitating the broadening of its basis and its implementation;
- visiting Libya to hold discussions with the parties and regional stakeholders to exert the collective leverage of the Council in order to bring on board those who have not signed the Political Agreement;
- authorising interdiction of vessels suspected of being involved in violations of the arms embargo;
- establishing a mechanism to ensure the independence and neutrality of the Central Bank of Libya as well as the National Oil Company and its support to the government of national accord; and
- imposing sanctions on spoilers.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Council members generally support UNSMIL’s mediation efforts and have repeatedly stated that there can be no military solution to the crisis in Libya. There is also a feeling of urgency among Council members given the growing threat of ISIS in Libya. However, in consultations, at least one Council member warned against rushing the signing of a peace agreement.
Until now, disagreements over how to support mediation efforts, including the use of UN sanctions, have hindered the Council’s engagement on Libya. Divergences might again arise as the Council welcomes the Political Agreement and recognises the legitimacy of the government of national accord, over deciding what action to take regarding those who decide not to sign or accept its authority. In addition, once the government is sworn in, Council members might have different perspectives regarding the kind of international engagement the Council should support against terrorist groups like ISIS in Libya.
The UK is the penholder on Libya.
|Security Council Resolution|
|23 December 2015 S/RES/2259||Welcomed the signing of the Libyan Political Agreement.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|7 November 2015 SC/12108||This was a press statement expressing concern about activities which could damage the integrity and unity of the Libyan State financial institutions and the National Oil Company and highlighted the importance of these institutions continuing to function for the benefit of all Libyans.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|11 December 2015 S/PV.7577||This was a briefing by Kobler and Ambassador Ramlan Ibrahim (Malaysia) as chair of the 1970 Sanctions Committee.|
|5 November 2015 S/PV.7550||This was a briefing on the situation in LIbya.|
|5 November 2015 S/PV.7549||This was a briefing by the prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda.|