Expected Council Action
In July, the Council is expecting briefings 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, the Deputy Permanent Representative of Germany, Ambassador Jürgen Schulz.
UNSMIL’s mandate expires on 15 September 2019, and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee expires on 15 February 2020.
Key Recent Developments
On 4 April, General Khalifa Haftar, head of the eastern-based militia known as the Libyan National Army (LNA), launched an offensive towards Tripoli and against the internationally recognised and UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) located there. After initial military gains by the LNA around Tripoli, the frontlines have remained mostly static, with increasing air strikes and indiscriminate artillery shelling of densely populated civilian areas. Reports indicate that individuals listed for targeted sanctions by the Council have participated in the fighting. An attempt to adopt a UK-drafted resolution calling for a ceasefire failed in mid-April mainly due to last-minute US resistance. As the LNA’s focus has shifted to Tripoli, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant has conducted attacks in LNA-dominated areas of the country, including on infrastructure. Haftar continues to present himself as fighting against terrorists and violent extremists, which has brought him support from a number of UN member states, including some Council members. Haftar’s offensive halted a UN-supported political process and caused indefinite postponement of the National Conference, originally scheduled for 14-16 April, which was intended for Libyans to agree on the holding of parliamentary and presidential elections as well as a constitutional referendum. The head of the GNA, Libya’s prime minister Fayez al-Sarraj, has stated that he will not negotiate a political solution with Haftar.
As for the humanitarian consequences of the attack on Tripoli, around 94,000 people have been displaced, according to the International Organization for Migration. At 25 June, the World Health Organisation put the number of deaths at 739, including 41 civilians, and 4,407 wounded, including 137 civilians.
At press time, the UN’s 2019 humanitarian response plan for Libya of $201.6 million was funded at 28.4 percent, with $144.4 million outstanding.
On 10 June, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2473, renewing 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. Ahead of the renewal, Council members held an informal interactive dialogue with the Deputy Secretary-General for Common Security and Defence Policy and Crisis Response at the European External Action Service, Pedro Serrano de Haro Soriano. The EU military operation in the Southern Central Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR MED Operation SOPHIA) is the only regional arrangement operating under the authorisation. Belgium, Côte d’Ivoire, France, Germany, Indonesia, South Africa and the UK made statements after the vote, focusing on the ongoing armed conflict in Libya and related violations of the UN’s arms embargo.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 7 June, a spokesperson for the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed deep concern over the conditions in which migrants and refugees are being held in detention in Libya as well as the ongoing reports of disappearances and human trafficking after people are intercepted at sea by the Libyan Coast Guard. According to the statement, more than 2,300 people have been detained after interception at sea since the start of the year. The spokesperson also said that conditions at Zintan Detention Centre in Tripoli “amount to inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, and may also amount to torture.” Some 3,400 migrants and refugees remain detained in Tripoli, according to UN figures.
On 31 May, the 1970 Committee was briefed in informal consultations by the Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative in Libya Stephanie T. Williams and by Lipika Majumdar Roy Choudhury, the coordinator of the Panel of Experts assisting the committee. Williams discussed possible violations of the arms embargo since the launch of the LNA’s attack on Tripoli. Choudhury presented the interim report of the Panel of Experts as well as later developments, including acts by individuals that met the designation criteria for targeted sanctions.
On 26 March, German-Tunisian national Moncef Kartas, one of the panel’s arms experts, was arrested and detained on espionage charges by Tunisian authorities “in violation of the privileges and immunities that have been granted to Mr. Kartas”, according to the UN Spokesperson. On 21 May, a Tunisian appeals court decided to release Kartas, and he was able to return to Germany. The case against him is still open.
Key Issues and Options
An ongoing issue is the military escalation, which threatens to exacerbate long-standing political and economic divisions between the east and west of Libya. The conflict is fuelled by military support channelled to both the GNA and the LNA, in violation of the arms embargo, and militia members that are on the sanctions committee’s list of individuals designated for targeted sanctions participate in the fighting. Reports of mercenaries being part of the conflict are increasing as well. Progress on the political track as well as the question of a more equitable distribution of Libya’s wealth have stalled.
As long as the Council is unable to agree on an outcome on Libya, Council members could use the open briefing to make statements either in their national capacity or in some joint configurations to show their dissatisfaction with the blocked Council and their concern about the situation on the ground. Individual Council members could use their influence to put pressure on the parties and countries to adhere to the arms embargo. In the longer term, visiting missions to Libya by the Council or the sanctions committee could be an option.
Council and Wider Dynamics
The Council remains deeply divided on the question of any Council action on Libya. The US seems to be opposed to any Council call for a ceasefire. Council resolutions and presidential statements routinely call upon UN member states to cease support for parallel institutions in Libya, but some countries, including permanent members of the Council, fail to respect these calls and also continue to support Haftar militarily. Militias affiliated with the GNA also receive military support from abroad. Reportedly, Turkey and Qatar support the GNA militarily while Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates provide military support to the LNA. Political support for Haftar comes from France, Russia, and the US.
The UK is the penholder on Libya, sharing the pen with Germany on the sanctions file. Schulz chairs the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON LIBYA
|Security Council Resolutions
|10 June 2019S/RES/2473
|S/RES/2473 (10 June 2019) renewed 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.
|5 November 2018S/RES/2441
|This was a resolution extending the mandate of the Panel of Experts and renewing measures related to the illicit export of crude oil from Libya until 20 February 2020 adopted with 13 votes in favour and two abstentions (China and Russia).
|3 October 2018S/RES/2437
|This resolution 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.
|13 September 2018S/RES/2434
|This was the resolution extending UNSMIL’s mandate until 15 September 2019.
|10 May 2019S/2019/380
|This was the Secretary General’s report on the implementation of resolution 2420, authorising 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.
|7 January 2019S/2019/19
|This was the Secretary-General’s report on UNSMIL.
|31 August 2018S/2018/807
|This was the Secretary-General’s report on migrants and trafficking in persons in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya and inspection and seizure of vessels off the coast of Libya.
|Security Council Meeting Records
|10 June 2019S/PV.8540
|S/PV.8540 (10 June 2019) was the adoption of resolution 2473.
|21 May 2019S/PV.8530
|This was the latest briefing by the Special Representative and head of UNSMIL, Ghassan Salamé.
|8 May 2019S/PV.8523
|This was the semi-annual briefing by ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on recent developments concerning cases in Libya.
|Sanctions Committee Documents
|12 June 2019SC/13840
|SC/13840 (12 June 2019) was a press release about the committee’s 31 May informal consultations at which it received briefings by the Deputy Special Representative for Political Affairs in Libya, Stephanie T. Williams, and the coordinator of the Panel of Experts on the panel’s interim report.
|5 September 2018S/2018/812
|This was the final report of the Panel of Experts.