Libya/Security Challenges in the Mediterranean
Expected Council Action
In November, the Council is expected to receive briefings from the Special Representative and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Ghassan Salamé, and from the chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Olof Skoog (Sweden). Also this month, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda will deliver her semi-annual briefing on recent developments concerning cases in Libya.
During its presidency, Italy is planning to hold a ministerial-level briefing on security challenges in the Mediterranean.
UNSMIL’s mandate expires on 15 September 2018, and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee expires on 15 November 2018.
Key Recent Developments
On 10 October, the Council adopted a presidential statement endorsing the UN action plan for the resumption of an inclusive Libyan-owned political process. Secretary-General António Guterres and Salamé presented the action plan at a 20 September meeting on the margins of the high-level segment of the General Assembly. It 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 before 20 September 2018.
To implement the first phase, Salamé organised several meetings in October of a joint drafting committee, which includes members of both the Tobruk-based House of Representatives and the Tripoli-based High Council of State. The objective of these meetings, which took place in Tunis, was to agree on the amendments to the LPA. While convergence has started to emerge on key issues (including the separation of the executive authority into a three-member Presidency Council and a ministerial cabinet), other questions remain outstanding. Chief among them is agreeing which office will include the responsibility of supreme commander of the armed forces. Khalifa Haftar, the head of the so-called Libyan National Army, has repeatedly expressed in public that the transitional period outlined in the LPA will end in December and threatened to take actions to avoid an institutional vacuum.
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, whose extradition has been sought by the ICC, was set free by the Abu-Bakir al-Siddiq Brigade, a Zintan-based militia, in June. On 14 June, 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. She stated that the arrest warrant issued for him in 2011 for crimes against humanity remains valid “regardless of any purported amnesty law”. The 1970 Sanctions Committee, under which he is listed, has yet to update his believed status and location. While the case against former Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi was found inadmissible before the Court in 2013, Bensouda had expressed in the past her intention to review her office’s assessment of the al-Senussi case as new information becomes available.
On 24 April, the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber I unsealed the arrest warrant, first issued in April 2013, for former internal security chief Mohamed Khaled al-Tuhamy, allegedly responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Libya in 2011. Al-Tuhamy remains at large, and the case will remain in the pre-trial stage until he is arrested and transferred to the ICC’s seat in The Hague.
On 15 August, Pre-Trial Chamber I issued an arrest warrant for Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf Al-Werfalli, a commander in the Al-Saiqa Brigade, which is participating in General Khalifa Haftar’s Operation Dignity in Benghazi. According to the warrant, Al-Werfalli appears to be directly responsible for the death of 33 persons in Benghazi or surrounding areas between June 2016 and July 2017, either by personally killing them or by ordering their execution. The persons killed appear to have been detained and to have been either civilians or persons hors de combat. The prosecutor has called upon Libyan authorities to arrest and surrender Al-Werfalli and has appealed to the international community, including the Security Council, to cooperate and assist Libya to ensure that this happens without delay. Despite reports that the General Command of the Libyan National Army had arrested Al-Werfalli, the Prosecutor has publicly stated that she has received reports alleging that the suspect is at large and may have been involved in additional killings since the ICC arrest warrant was issued.
Background for the Briefing
Italy has organised a briefing that is expected to address, in a holistic manner, the challenges to peace and security in the Mediterranean. While the Council tackles some of the conflicts with impact on the region separately (Libya, Syria, the Sahel), the objective behind this meeting is to identify the linkages between some of the larger trends that feature in these conflicts. The briefing is expected to focus on the root causes of the security challenges in the Mediterranean and to consider initiatives to promote regional stability. Among the issues that are expected to be discussed are the global threat of terrorism and violent extremism, and the destabilising role of illicit trafficking and transnational organised crime. The meeting is expected to provide an opportunity to tackle the factors that lead to displacement, such as the limited socio-economic development, the absence of state authority and accountable institutions or the impact of climate change. Council members are expected to stress the importance of upholding human rights and international refugee law while addressing these phenomena.
The Council does not address the regional dimension of these challenges in the Mediterranean regularly. However, the Council adopted resolution 2240 on 9 October 2015 authorising member states to inspect vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya when they have reasonable grounds to suspect that they are being used for migrant smuggling or human trafficking. The resolution constituted the legal basis for the deployment by the EU of the Operation EUNAVFOR MED Sophia in the Mediterranean. Two additional tasks were later assigned to the operation: training the Libyan Coast Guard and Navy, and an authorisation to inspect, on the high seas off the coast of Libya, vessels bound to or from Libya that the operation has reasonable grounds to believe are violating the arms embargo.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 27 September, the Human Rights Council (HRC) received an oral update from Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore, who stated that across Libya armed groups were defining the overall human rights situation, which was characterised by hostage-taking, torture, and men, women and children being killed with impunity. Migrants in Libya continued to be held arbitrarily for indefinite periods and in inhumane conditions, she said.
On 10 October, High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein visited Tripoli for one day and held discussions with the head of the Presidency Council, Fayez Sarraj, and other officials, including the head of the department responsible for managing migration detention centres. He also visited one of the country’s main prisons and a camp for displaced persons. In a 12 October statement, the High Commissioner said the focus of his visit was on arbitrary detention, torture, and other grave violations. His statement noted that the human rights challenges in Libya are massive and called for a concerted effort by the government and all stakeholders, including the UN and the international community, to improve the situation.
Key Issues and Options
Generally, the Council could discuss and devise ways in which Council members could support, collectively and bilaterally, the UN-led mediation efforts in Libya. Regarding the perceived end of the transitional period outlined in the LPA, the Council could, after seeking Salame’s advice, issue a statement calling on the parties to act with restraint and continue to engage in the political dialogue beyond December, reiterating the Council’s support for the UN action plan and its timeline.
To address issues of substance that might be better discussed in a closed-door setting, Council members could organise an informal interactive dialogue to focus on options for following up ICC decisions on Libya (as the ICC is not a UN entity, the Prosecutor is not allowed in Council consultations under current practice).
Council and Wider Dynamics
While all Council members supported endorsing the UN action plan, there were different positions regarding the degree of detail that the presidential statement should include on the sequencing of its implementation. In particular, two Council members maintained that including too much detail would affect the flexibility of the good offices work of Salamé. Other controversial issues were the inclusion of language on potential spoilers of the process and how to refer to counter-terrorism efforts, with one member opposing a reference to leadership of Fayez Sarraj, the head of the Presidency Council, in this field. This illustrates the dynamics on Libya: despite unanimous Council outcomes, its members have so far been divided over the way forward to achieve a solution.
The semi-annual briefings by Bensouda on Libya have had limited impact, given the reluctance of the Council to follow up regarding the difficulties in implementing ICC decisions. Council members have often reverted to general exhortations rather than addressing non-compliance in a more forceful and effective way.
The UK is the penholder on Libya, and Sweden chairs the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON LIBYA
|Security Council Resolutions|
|5 October 2017 S/RES/2380||This renewed 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.|
|14 September 2017 S/RES/2376||This extended UNSMIL’s mandate until 15 September 2018.|
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|10 October 2017 S/PRST/2017/19||This endorsed the UN action plan for the resumption of an inclusive Libyan-owned political process.|
|22 August 2017 S/2017/726||This was Secretary-General’s report on Libya.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|28 August 2017 S/PV.8032||This was a briefing by Salame.|
|8 May 2017 S/PV.7934||ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda briefed Council members on the progress of her Office’s investigations on Libya.|