Expected Council Action
In June, the Council is expected to renew the authorisation for member states, acting nationally or through regional organisations, to inspect vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya bound to or from the country that they have reasonable grounds to believe are violating the arms embargo. The current authorisation expires on 15 June.
The mandate of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) expires on 15 September, and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the sanctions committee expires on 12 November.
Key Recent Developments
The inspection authorisation, initially issued through resolution 2292 in 2016, was renewed last year through resolution 2357 with an added request to the Secretary-General to report to the Council within 11 months on its implementation.
Deep divisions remain between the parties in Libya. Despite the signing of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) on 17 December 2015, little progress has been achieved in establishing unified and legitimate institutions that are able to deliver basic services to the Libyan population again.
Special Representative and head of UNSMIL Ghassan Salamé has been focusing on implementing a UN action plan that the Council endorsed in October 2017. This plan involves working in parallel to amend the LPA, organise a national conference, finalise a new constitution, and prepare for parliamentary and presidential elections. Briefing the Council on 21 May, Salamé shared his continued assessment that “the parties are unwilling to make the necessary concessions” in order to agree on the necessary amendments to the LPA.
Despite the emphasis of Libyan stakeholders on the importance of holding elections, Salamé has continued to warn that before credible elections can be conducted, adequate conditions must be in place. These include further voter registration, prior commitment by the parties to accept the results, proper funding, strong security arrangements, and legislation to regulate the holding of elections.
Salamé has mentioned the need to bring Libyans together around a common national narrative. To that end, 42 inclusive public consultations have taken place in 27 locations since April. These consultations are part of a ‘National Conference’ process leading up to a special event to be held later this year, where the results of the consultations with the Libyan people will be presented.
The situation in the south remains precarious as inter-tribal tensions reinforce existing rivalries among supporters of the Libyan National Army (LNA) and those nominally affiliated with the Presidency Council of the Government of National Accord. In recent weeks, fighting has increased in the south of Libya, notably in the city of Sabha. In Derna in north-eastern Libya, General Khalifa Haftar’s forces have continued to fight for control of the city. Haftar, head of the LNA, was hospitalised in Paris on 8 April. He returned to Libya on 26 April, looking healthy, according to some accounts, despite rumours of his ill-health or demise.
To address the multiplicity of armed actors in Libya, UNSMIL has started a broad dialogue to explore the means and conditions for their reintegration into civilian life or into state military and security institutions. Salamé said during his latest briefing to the Council that the strategy was in the final stages of consultation with the Libyan authorities.
Migrants and refugees in Libya continue to suffer from human rights violations and abuse, including arbitrary detention and forced labour, reportedly inflicted by state officials, armed groups, smugglers, traffickers and criminal gangs. On 19 March, Italy impounded a migrant rescue boat operated by an NGO and detained its crew on human trafficking charges. The ship was released on 16 April; the criminal charges were subsequently dropped.
In his briefing to the Council on 21 May, the chair of the 1970 Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Olof Skoog (Sweden), reported on the expiration of the listing of two vessels on 18 and 29 April, respectively. In addition, he noted that proposals to designate six individuals under the assets freeze and travel ban measures were being considered in the context of migrant exploitation and abuse. At press time, no decision had been made by the committee.
In March, for the first time in five years, an investigative team from the ICC Office of the Prosecutor was able to travel to Libya. Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, whose extradition the ICC has sought, has been at large since he was freed by the Abu-Bakr al-Siddiq Brigade, a Zintan-based militia, in June 2017. In late March, a spokesman for Saif al-Islam Gaddafi declared that he was planning to run in the upcoming presidential elections. Former internal security chief Mohamed Khaled al-Tuhamy, allegedly responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in 2011 in Libya, remains at large as well.
Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf Al-Werfalli, a commander participating in General Khalifa Haftar’s Operation Dignity in Benghazi, 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, according to the ICC arrest warrant. Additional extrajudicial executions became public in January. Video footage showing his announcement that, on the instructions of the LNA General Command, he would turn himself in to the military police in eastern Libya was posted on social media on 6 February. To date, Al-Werfalli has not been surrendered to the ICC and his whereabouts are unclear.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 10 April, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UNSMIL published a joint report on human rights concerns regarding detention in Libya, covering 17 December 2015 to 1 January. According to the report, armed groups in Libya, including those affiliated with the state, hold thousands of people in prolonged arbitrary and unlawful detention and submit them to torture and other human rights violations and abuses. In October 2017, roughly 6,500 people were thought to be held in official prisons overseen by the Judicial Police of the Ministry of Justice, while thousands more were held in a multitude of other facilities nominally under the Ministries of Interior or Defence or run directly by armed groups, the report said.
Key Issues and Options
The immediate issue for the Council in June is whether to renew the high-seas ship inspections authorisation granted to member states under resolution 2292.
The Council could again hold an informal interactive dialogue with the Commander of the EU Mission EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia and a representative of the European External Action Service, as they did before last year’s authorisation renewal. In addition to the information provided by the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of resolution 2357, this exchange might help address the concerns of delegations about the effectiveness of the authorisation in deterring violations of the arms embargo.
Council and Wider Dynamics
When the resolution was first adopted, China and Russia had put forward concerns related to the flag state’s rights. Considering that the authorisation has not resulted in the detection of arms smuggling in the past year, members could argue that a re-authorisation has little added value at this point. Making a statement after last year’s authorisation, Russia emphasised its expectation for more effective inspections. At press time it was not clear whether these concerns would be addressed.
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.
|26 February 2011 S/RES/1970
|This resolution referred the situation in Libya to the ICC, imposed an arms embargo and targeted sanctions (assets freeze and travel ban) and established a sanctions committee.
|11 May 2018 S/2018/451
|This was the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of resolution 2357.
|7 May 2018 S/2018/429
|This was the Secretary-General’s latest report on UNSMIL.
|Security Council Meeting Records
|21 May 2018 S/PV.8263
|This was a briefing by the Special Representative and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Ghassan Salamé, and the chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Olof Skoog (Sweden).