Expected Council Action
In January 2018, the Council is expected to receive a briefing from the Special Representative and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Ghassan Salamé, followed by consultations.
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
December 2017 marked the two-year anniversary of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA), signed on 17 December 2015. Some actors on the ground saw this anniversary as a deadline for the legitimacy of the LPA and the institutions it created. Particularly, Khalifa Haftar, the head of the so-called Libyan National Army (LNA), repeatedly threatened to take action to avoid an institutional vacuum as the perceived deadline approached, and LNA elements attacked offices of the High National Elections Commission in the east.
At a Council briefing and consultations on 16 November 2017, Salamé raised the potential for military escalation in December. On 14 December 2017, the Council adopted a presidential statement emphasising the continuity of the LPA throughout Libya’s transitional period and rejecting incorrect deadlines that undermined the UN-facilitated political process. It also stressed, recalling its resolution 2259, adopted soon after the signing of the LPA, “that any attempt, including by Libyan parties, to undermine the Libyan-led, UN-facilitated political process is unacceptable”. Disregarding the statement, in a televised speech on 17 December, Haftar questioned the validity of the LPA and the institutions it established, including the Government of National Accord.
When he previously briefed the Council, Salamé updated Council members on his efforts to facilitate talks among Libyans. In October 2017, he organised for the first time meetings between delegations from the Tobruk-based House of Representatives and the Tripoli-based High Council of State, which constituted a mutual recognition of the two assemblies. Convergence started to emerge on key issues (including the separation of the executive authority into a three-member Presidency Council and a ministerial cabinet), but other questions remained outstanding. Chief among them was agreeing which office would include the responsibility of supreme commander of the armed forces.
Other issues he reported working in parallel on included:
- brokering an agreement on a limited set of amendments to the LPA;
- organising a national conference (scheduled for February 2018);
- encouraging progress toward finalising a new Libyan constitution; and
- preparing for parliamentary and presidential elections, including through UN support to the High National Elections Commission (it launched a voter registration campaign in early December 2017).
Violence in Libya continues, and clashes among armed groups in the east and the west have persisted. Briefing the Council, Salamé highlighted the violations of international humanitarian law and the impunity and lawlessness prevailing in the country. On 17 December 2017, the mayor of Misrata, Mohammed Eshtewi—who was going to participate in talks with rival militias from Zintan—was fatally shot by unknown assailants.
The situation of refugees and migrants in Libya continues to be critical. Following reports of migrants being sold into slavery in Libya, France requested an urgent meeting of the Council on 28 November 2017. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi and Director General of the International Organization for Migration William Lacy Swing briefed the Council. Grandi said that the grave abuses perpetrated against migrants and refugees along the central Mediterranean routes could no longer be ignored. In a presidential statement adopted on 7 December 2017, the Council condemned the “heinous abuses of human rights which may also amount to crimes against humanity”.
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda briefed the Council on 8 November 2017 and presented an update on the arrest warrants outstanding since the ICC referral in 2011 (LNA commander Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf al-Werfalli, former official of the Muammar Gaddafi regime Al-Tuhamy Mohamed Khaled, and Saif al-Islam Gaddafi). Reportedly, the three individuals remain at large. She also described how the ICC continues to monitor what may amount to international crimes, both as part of the ongoing conflict and regarding the situation of migrants and refugees.
Human Rights-Related Developments
In a 14 November 2017 statement, High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said the suffering of migrants detained in Libya is “an outrage to the conscience of humanity” and that the “dire situation has now turned catastrophic”. According to the statement, UN human rights monitors visited four Department of Combatting Illegal Migration facilities in Tripoli from 1 to 6 November and were shocked to see “thousands of emaciated and traumatized men, women and children with no access to the most basic necessities, and stripped of their human dignity”. The statement urged Libyan authorities to take concrete steps to stamp out human rights violations and abuses in centres under their control, remove those reasonably suspected of carrying out violations, investigate and prosecute those responsible, and publicly signal that such abuses will no longer be tolerated.
A 30 November 2017 joint statement by nine special procedures of the Human Rights Council called on the government of Libya to take urgent action to end the trade of enslaved people in the country and to hold the perpetrators accountable. “It is now clear that slavery is an outrageous reality in Libya”, the statement said.
On 1 December 2017, UNSMIL released a human rights report on civilian casualties for November, which documented 16 civilian casualties (six deaths and ten injuries), a drop from previous months. The majority of civilian casualties were caused by gunfire, explosive remnants of war or other unknown explosives, and shelling.
Key Issues and Options
Generally, Council members could continue to discuss and devise ways to support, collectively and bilaterally, the UN-led mediation efforts in Libya. At the appropriate time and in support of Salamé’s mediation efforts, Council members could undertake a visiting mission to Libya and neighbouring countries to engage with key stakeholders to ensure progress in the implementation of the UN action plan.
The Council could issue a statement condemning any unilateral actions that undermine the political process and question the LPA as the only framework for the political transition. It could also recall that these actions constitute designation criteria in the 1970 sanctions regime.
A long-standing issue for which the Council is responsible, but which continues to be unresolved, is the impact that the freezing of assets resulting from resolution 1970 is having on Libya’s wealth. In his November 2017 briefing, Salamé criticised the mismanagement of frozen assets (by not being reinvested) and urged the Council to revisit this issue. Since 2015, the Panel of Experts has recommended the Sanctions Committee to issue guidance allowing for the reinvestment of frozen assets to prevent economic losses in funds belonging to the Libyan people. The Council has also received several letters from Libya in this regard, but the Sanctions Committee has not taken up this issue. An option in this context would be for the Council to make a point of addressing this issue through its 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Council dynamics on Libya have not always been easy. Despite unanimous outcomes, its members have often had different sensitivities over the way forward to achieve a solution. It remains to be seen whether and to what extent recent outcomes, such as the endorsement of the UN Action Plan and the presidential statement ahead of the 17 December 2017 anniversary, signal increased convergence among Council members.
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.|
|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.|
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|14 December 2017 S/PRST/2017/26||This statement emphasised that the Libyan Political Agreement is the only viable framework to end the Libyan political crisis.|
|7 December 2017 S/PRST/2017/24||This statement expressed grave concern about reports of migrants being sold into slavery in Libya.|
|10 October 2017 S/PRST/2017/19||This endorsed the UN action plan for the resumption of an inclusive Libyan-owned political process.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|28 November 2017 S/PV.8114||This was a meeting on slavery and trafficking of sub-Saharan African migrants in Libya, requested by France. High Commissioner for Refugees Flippo Grandi and Director of the IOM William Lacy Swing briefed the Council.|
|17 November 2017 S/PV.8106||This was a briefing for the Council to explore the challenges to peace and security in the Mediterranean region.|
|16 November 2017 S/PV.8104||This was a briefing from the Special Representative and head of UNSMIL, Ghassan Salamé and the chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Olof Skoog (Sweden).|
|8 November 2017 S/PV.8091||This was a briefing by ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, expressing concerns at the discovery in the town of al-Abyar of the bodies of 36 people who appear to have been tortured and executed.|