Expected Council Action
In April, the Council is expected to receive a briefing from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Martin Kobler. The Council also expects a briefing by the chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Olof Skoog (Sweden).
The mandates of the Panel of Experts of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee and UNSMIL expire on 31 July and 15 September, respectively.
Key Recent Developments
Efforts to reach an inclusive and sustainable political settlement in Libya continue to falter. Kobler told the Council in a briefing on 8 February that, as a response to the political deadlock, visions from the east, south and west of Libya have started to converge on possible amendments to the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA). In January, a letter to the Security Council from the President of the House of Representatives, Agila Saleh, advocated that the Presidency Council be reduced from nine members to three, and that its decision-making processes be restructured. Agila Saleh also called for the composition of the State Council to be reconsidered and for article 8 of the LPA, regarding the authority of the supreme commander of the armed forces, to be amended. In late January, members of the Libyan Political Dialogue held a consultative meeting to discuss this proposal. Even though the delegation of the House of Representatives was recalled to Tobruk and did not participate, those present issued a communiqué after the meeting, identifying key challenges to the implementation of the LPA and agreeing in principle on some of the House proposals. So far, divisions among members of the House have led to the failure to appoint a new delegation, and a 7 March vote rejected the LPA. The Libyan Political Dialogue has not met since January.
Several initiatives involving regional actors, such as Algeria, Egypt and Tunisia, have taken place over the last two months to try to address the political stalemate. On 14 February, Egypt attempted to convene a meeting between the head of the Presidency Council, Faiez Serraj, and General Khalifa Haftar. At the last minute, however, Haftar refused to participate in direct talks, and both leaders spoke separately with General Mahmoud Hegazy, the chief of staff of the Egyptian army. In March, the EU joined the UN, the League of Arab States, and the African Union (AU) to form a Quartet to mobilise support for a political settlement in Libya.
Despite diplomatic efforts, violence has escalated. In March, the Benghazi Defense Brigades temporarily took over two key ports in Libya’s Oil Crescent (Ras Lanuf and Es-Sidr) that were, and remain, under the control of Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA). In Benghazi, the LNA’s renewed offensive to take over the eastern district of Ganfouda has resulted in war crimes, according to human rights organisations. In the south, the LNA has repeatedly clashed with Misrata-based militias.
The Presidency Council continues to have limited capacity to deliver on the ground and relies heavily on the loyalty of militias, some of which are from the western city of Misrata. In Tripoli, these militias clashed with rival ones supporting Khalifa Gwell, the self-appointed prime minister of a so-called national salvation government announced in 2015, until a ceasefire was agreed on 15 March. However, tensions among Misrata-based militias resulted in the toppling of the Misrata municipal council on 20 March. On 23 March, the Appeals Court of Tripoli temporarily suspended a Memorandum of Understanding between the Presidency Council and Italy on migration, questioning the legitimacy of the Presidency Council to sign such agreement.
The situation of migrants and refugees in Libya, which was characterised in December 2016 as a “human rights crisis” by UNSMIL and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, continues to be critical. A 28 February report by the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) detailed how migrant and refugee women and children who are trying to reach Europe through Libya are being beaten, raped and starved in detention centres run by militias that are described as “living hellholes”.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 21 March, the Human Rights Council (HRC) held an interactive dialogue at its 34th session to discuss the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, prepared in cooperation with UNSMIL, on the situation of human rights in Libya (A/HRC/34/42). The report concluded that armed groups, some of whom act on behalf of the state, are primarily responsible for grave violations and abuses of human rights. These included unlawful killings, sexual abuse, and abduction of children; torture, abduction for ransom, extortion, forced labour, and killing of migrants; and the abduction and murder of media professionals, activists, and human rights defenders. The report said that it was critical that the Government of National Accord move to establish a professional army, police and other security forces; prioritise disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programmes; and implement the justice and rule of law provisions of the LPA. While acknowledging it as the most prominent effort to bring accountability for past crimes, the report argued that the trial of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and 36 other members of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime raised “serious concerns,” including regarding the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges, the right to a public trial, the right to call and examine witnesses, and the right not to be compelled to confess guilt or incriminate oneself. In a statement on 21 February, the High Commissioner had described the trial as a “missed opportunity for justice”.
On 24 March, the HRC adopted resolution 34/18 requesting the High Commissioner to provide an oral update, along with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Libya (a previous such joint briefing took place in September 2016), at its September session, and to present a written report during at its 37th session in 2018.
The overarching issue is to ensure that the parties agree on a consensual solution to end the political deadlock that addresses the issues raised by those refusing to support the LPA.
Related issues are maintaining the relevance of UN mediation efforts, and pressing external actors to exercise leverage to encourage engagement in the political process and to ensure the coherence of their mediation efforts with a Libya-led process under the aegis of the UN.
Options for the Council include holding an unscripted and frank discussion to re-assess and seek agreement on a political strategy for Libya.
As soon as the strategic assessment review of the UN presence in Libya is completed, the Council could adopt a resolution prioritising a limited set of tasks that UNSMIL can realistically achieve to align the mission’s mandate with the political, security and operational realities on the ground.
Council members could also organise a visit to Libya and the region to hold discussions with the parties, including spoilers, and regional stakeholders to help overcome the political deadlock.
Council members generally support UNSMIL’s mediation efforts but have arguably failed to set a clear direction to reach and support a political settlement. Some Council members have engaged with parallel institutions, including providing various degrees of support to Haftar’s forces. In response to the current deadlock, there seems to be a consensus among Council members about the need to amend the LPA. In his 1 December 2016 report, the Secretary-General suggested a review of the international community’s approach to the Libyan democratic transition process, should efforts to adopt a new constitution and establish democratically elected institutions within a reasonable timeframe fail. Although it renewed UNSMIL’s mandate in December, the Council—which includes key actors regarding Libya, such as Egypt and Italy, as well as the permanent members—has yet to have such a strategic discussion.
Following the US decision to block the appointment of Salam Fayyad, former prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, as head of UNSMIL on 11 February, the Secretary-General has yet to appoint another candidate.
The UK is the penholder on Libya and Skoog chairs the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON LIBYA
|Security Council Resolution|
|13 December 2016 S/RES/2323||This was a resolution extending UNSMIL’s mandate until 15 September 2017.|
|Security Council Letter|
|24 January 2017 S/2017/65||This was on the proposed amendments to the LPA.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|8 February 2017 S/PV.7879||This was a meeting on the situation in Libya.|