September 2017 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 September 2017
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Expected Council Action 

In September, the Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).

UNSMIL’s mandate expires on 15 September, and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee expires on 15 November 2018.

Key Recent Developments

Deep divisions remain between the parties despite the growing consensus regarding the need to amend some provisions of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA). Outstanding issues are related to the mandate and structure of the Presidency Council and the authority of the supreme commander of the armed forces. Members of the delegations appointed by the eastern-based House of Representatives and the Tripoli-based High State Council have met informally in the Netherlands in recent months, but no formal negotiations have taken place. On 25 July, French President Emmanuel Macron convened a meeting between the head of the Presidency Council, Faiez Serraj, and the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), Khalifa Haftar, with the participation of the newly-appointed Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Ghassan Salamé. In a joint declaration after the meeting, Serraj and Haftar committed to a ceasefire and to the holding of presidential and parliamentary elections as soon as possible. In his 22 August report, the Secretary-General warned that only a broad political agreement among political factions, competing state institutions, and security and societal actors “can create the enabling environment for elections.”

On 29 July, the consensus committee of the Constitutional Drafting Assembly (CDA) adopted a draft constitution that requires approval in a referendum. Several members of the CDA challenged the legality of the proceedings. During a luncheon with Council members in August, Secretary-General António Guterres announced his intention to convene a meeting on Libya in the margins of the high-level segment of the General Assembly in September. At the meeting, Guterres is expected to outline a comprehensive strategy and an action plan for the engagement of the UN system in Libya. In his 28 August briefing, Salamé stressed that one of the most immediate tasks is to build a consensus on the meaning of the upcoming two year anniversary of the LPA and the end of the transitional period in December.

The security situation continues to be volatile. Despite efforts to implement security arrangements, the Presidency Council continues to rely mostly on militias nominally loyal to it. While Haftar declared the “liberation of Benghazi from terrorism” on 5 July, fighting continues in some neighbourhoods. The LNA is also conducting military operations in Derna, resulting in the worsening of the humanitarian situation there. In another example of bilateral initiatives by member states seeking to advance the political process, Egypt convened two meetings between military delegations from Misrata and the LNA in late July. While it does not hold territory in Libya, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) remains active.

The strategic assessment of the UN’s role in Libya conducted by the Department of Political Affairs recommended that the mission continue to focus on good offices and mediation efforts to:

  • backstop the political transition in Libya by supporting key Libyan institutions;
  • support efforts to secure uncontrolled arms and counter their proliferation;
  • promote respect for and the protection of human rights and the rule of law; and
  • coordinate international engagement.

In line with the recommendations of the review, the Secretary-General intends to reconfigure the senior leadership structure of UNSMIL, including by appointing a Deputy Special Representative for Political Affairs. The mission will increase its presence in Tripoli first, with a plan to open offices in other regions at a later date. UNSMIL’s guard unit (composed of Nepalese troops) is expected to arrive in Tripoli in September.

The situation of migrants and refugees in Libya, which was characterised in December 2016 as a “human rights crisis” by UNSMIL and OHCHR, continues to be critical. According to the International Organization for Migration, almost 98,000 persons had reached Italy in 2017 via the central Mediterranean Sea route as of 20 August. It is estimated that more than 2,200 refugees and migrants have died or gone missing trying to cross from Libya this year.

On 15 August, Pre-Trial Chamber I of the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf al-Werfalli, a commander of the LNA allegedly responsible for war crimes committed between June 2016 and July 2017 in eastern Libya. Following the release of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi from Zintan, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda called on the Libyan authorities, the Security Council, state parties to the Rome Statute, and all other states to provide her office with any information regarding Gaddafi’s whereabouts. He remains at large, and the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee has so far not updated his listing to reflect the current situation.

Sanctions-Related Developments

Resolution 2362, adopted on 29 June, added refined petroleum products to the commodities banned from illicit export from Libya. As a result of this change, the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee designated two vessels for transporting gasoil illicitly exported from Libya. The listings were made on 21 July and 2 August; the flag states of the vessels were Tanzania and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Human Rights-Related Developments 

In a statement on 15 August, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, warned that a new code of conduct, drawn up by Italy and supported by the European Commission, imposes procedures on organisations rescuing migrants and refugees from the Mediterranean Sea that “could reduce the ability of NGOs to carry out life-saving activities” and result in more deaths. The code of conduct seeks to prevent privately operated ships from ferrying refugees to safety in Italy from waters off the Libyan coast. Callamard also warned that the European Commission’s funding for the Libyan border and coast guards could lead to refugees and migrants who are returned to Libya being subjected to further “appalling violence”. Noting that refugees and migrants in Libya face abuse and extreme violence, with some “being deliberately killed [and] others…dying as a result of torture, malnutrition and medical neglect”, Callamard said that although the Libyan coast guard’s search and rescue capabilities were in need of improvement, “this cannot happen in the absence of demonstrable guarantees that the rights of intercepted migrants and refugees will be respected”. On 17 August, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Felipe González Morales, and the Special Rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, released a statement echoing Callamard’s warnings and expressing concern that the European Commission was effectively trying to move Europe’s borders to Libya.

During its 36th session in September, the Human Rights Council is set to hold an interactive dialogue on Libya in which the High Commissioner for Human Rights will present on oral update on the human rights situation in the country.

Key Issues and Options 

The strategic assessment recommended that the mission prioritise reaching a political agreement. While most agree on the need to end the political deadlock, deciding how to address the issues raised by those refusing to support the LPA remains elusive. The Council could visit Libya and the region to show a unified front, rebuild credibility among Libyans, underscore the added value and relevance of UN mediation efforts, and press external actors to ensure the coherence of their mediation efforts.

The Council could renew UNSMIL’s mandate for a year, as recommended by the Secretary-General. While no radical changes may be made to the mandate, the Council could set a clear direction to reach and support a political settlement, by allowing Salamé the time and space to deliver results and by proactively supporting the work of the mission throughout the mandating cycle.

Council and Wider Dynamics 

While the Council has expressed its unanimous support for efforts to reach a political settlement within the framework of the LPA, its members remain divided over the way forward to achieve a solution, including regarding the legitimacy of the different Libyan institutions and the role that Haftar may play in the future. As an illustration of this dynamic, Council members struggled to find a compromise over how to refer to Haftar in the 27 July press statement. In the end, he was referred to as “Commander of the LNA”, in response to concerns that spelling out the reference to the LNA as the Libyan National Army would seem to imply an official role that some challenge.

The UK is the penholder on Libya, and Sweden chairs the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee.

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Security Council Resolutions
29 June 2017 S/RES/2362 This was a resolution renewing the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee and the measures regarding attempts to illicitly export oil from Libya.
12 June 2017 S/RES/2357 This was a resolution which renewed for an additional year the measures contained in resolution 2292 on the arms embargo.
13 December 2016 S/RES/2323 This was a resolution extending UNSMIL’s mandate until 15 September 2017.
Secretary-General’s Report
22 August 2017 S/2017/726 This was Secretary-General’s report on Libya.
Security Council Press Statement
27 July 2017 SC/12933 This welcomed the meeting between Serraj and Haftar as well as the joint declaration they issued.
Security Council Meeting Record
28 August 2017 S/PV.8032 This was a briefing on the situation in Libya.