Expected Council Action
The Council is expected to renew the authorisation for member states to inspect vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya that they have reasonable grounds to suspect are being used for migrant smuggling or human trafficking.
The Council is also likely to express its support to the action plan presented by the Secretary-General in late September and follow closely the UN efforts to jumpstart the political process in Libya.
Key Recent Developments
The central Mediterranean route from Libya to Italy continues to be the most active route into Europe for migrants and refugees. According to a 7 September report of the Secretary-General, the UN has recorded over 2,410 deaths and disappearances in the Mediterranean Sea and 123,994 arrivals in Europe by sea in 2017. Since its establishment, EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia has rescued some 40,000 persons in the Mediterranean. Many search and rescue operations are conducted by international NGOs despite pressure from the Libyan coast guard and efforts to constrain their work, including through an EU proposal to enact a code of conduct that has been condemned by human rights organisations.
The Libyan coast guard, which receives training from Operation Sophia, has been criticised by OHCHR, UNSMIL, and the Panel of Experts of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee for its responsibility for human rights violations and even the involvement of some of its members in smuggling activities. Aggressive interception attempts by the coast guard have resulted in the capsizing of several boats.
On 25 July, the EU Council extended the mandate of Operation Sophia until 31 December 2018 and decided to set up a monitoring mechanism for trainees that would, among other things, ensure the long-term efficiency of the training of the coast guard, as recommended by a 13 December 2016 report by OHCHR and the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).
At a 20 September meeting on the margins of the high-level segment of the General Assembly, Secretary-General António Guterres outlined a comprehensive strategy and an action plan for the engagement of the UN system in Libya. The plan includes a proposal to agree in the following sequence upon:
- a political package that addresses the amendments required to the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA);
- the organisation of a national conference to consult with the largest spectrum of Libyan perspectives and consensually fill important positions;
- agreement on a constitution once changes have been made to the current draft in light of the discussions at the national conference; and
- holding parliamentary and presidential elections within one year.
This is in line with the issues that the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNSMIL, Ghassan Salamé, identified as outstanding in his 28 August briefing to the Council. In particular, he stressed the need to amend the LPA and reach an agreement on the legal and political significance of the end of the transitional period outlined in the LPA in order to avoid an institutional vacuum. The elements that would need to be addressed have to do with the mandate and structure of the Presidency Council (PC), the establishment of a national unity government separate from the PC, the authority of the supreme commander of the armed forces, and the role and membership of the High State Council.
Human Rights-Related Developments
In his opening statement at the 36th session of the Human Rights Council’s (HRC) on 11 September, High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said that he is “appalled at the horrific abuses migrants face after being intercepted and returned to Libya. Extrajudicial killings, slavery, torture, rape, human trafficking and starvation are only some of the abuses reportedly inflicted on migrants in both official and informal detention centres in the country”. During its 36th session, the HRC received an oral update from the High Commissioner on the human rights situation in the country.
Key Issues and Options
Given the reports from different UN entities regarding the violations of the rights of refugees and migrants transiting through Libya, when renewing the authorisation, the Council could emphasise language regarding the protection of human rights, as well as respect for international refugee law.
The Council, which is expected to throw its weight behind the action plan, could discuss and devise ways in which Council members could support, collectively and bilaterally, the UN-led mediation efforts. The Council could also decide to follow one of the conclusions of the strategic assessment review of the UN presence in Libya and allow Salamé enough political space to engage in good offices to bring about a settlement. Member states’ pressure to rush an agreement with imposed deadlines has not brought about progress in the past.
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 have so far been divided over the way forward to achieve a solution. In the absence of progress in the political process, several member states undertook initiatives to bring some of the key stakeholders together. With the momentum created by those meetings, the appointment of Salamé and the increased engagement of the Secretary-General, in September, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2376, which supported the Secretary-General’s call to consolidate the various initiatives under the leadership of the UN and underscored the central role of the UN in facilitating a Libyan-led political solution.
Speaking at the 14 September meeting of the Council, Ambassador Elmahdi S. Elmajerbi (Libya) highlighted the need for international support to address the smuggling of migrants and expressed his country’s frustration at the fact that the need to tackle the root causes of the crisis was not included in resolution 2376.
The UK is the penholder on Libya, and Sweden chairs the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON LIBYA
|Security Council Resolutions|
|14 September 2017 S/RES/2376||This extended UNSMIL’s mandate until 15 September 2018.|
|6 October 2016 S/RES/2312||This was a resolution that renewed the provisions of resolution 2240 aimed at disrupting human trafficking and the smuggling of migrants on the high seas off the coast of Libya.|
|7 September 2017 S/2017/761||This was on the implementation of resolution 2312.|
|22 August 2017 S/2017/726||This was Secretary-General’s report on Libya.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|14 September 2017 S/PV.8048||This was the meeting at which resolution 2376 was adopted.|
|28 August 2017 S/PV.8032||This was a briefing by Salame.|