Expected Council Action
In November, the Council is expected to receive 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, Jürgen Schulz, the Deputy Permanent Representative of Germany. Additionally, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda will deliver her semi-annual briefing on recent developments concerning cases in Libya.
The mandate of UNSMIL expires on 15 September 2020, and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee expires on 15 February 2020.
Key Recent Developments
On 22 October, Council members held their annual joint consultative meeting with the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) in Addis Ababa. This was the first time since 2011 that Libya was on the agenda. It is also proving a difficult issue in the negotiations on the joint communiqué that is issued following these annual meetings. The situation has been a source of tension between the Council and PSC in the past, with the PSC frequently feeling sidelined in efforts to address the crisis.
On 16 October, the three African members of the Council (Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea and South Africa) requested consultations under “any other business” to discuss the AU proposal for a joint AU-UN special envoy for Libya. This idea had featured in a communiqué issued after the last AU PSC ministerial meeting on Libya on 8 October, supporting an 8 July decision by the AU High Level Committee on Libya that such a joint envoy be appointed. During the consultations, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo briefed on the situation in Libya. The African members proposed elements to the press, and later a press statement, that would, among other things, have taken note of the proposal, which was not agreeable to all members.
Libya’s capital, Tripoli, continues to be the scene of fighting that started on 4 April when 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) based there. Libya does not have professional security forces, and the GNA currently relies on armed groups for its security. After initial military gains by the LNA around Tripoli, the front lines have remained mostly static since mid-April, with continuing air strikes and indiscriminate artillery shelling of densely populated civilian areas as well as an increase in the use of drones, as reported by DiCarlo. The conflict is fuelled by support from other governments, including military support channelled to both the GNA and the LNA in violation of the UN arms embargo.
On 6 September, UNSMIL condemned an attack “conducted by General Haftar’s forces” that targeted the Equestrian Club in Tripoli, injuring children. An UNSMIL assessment mission confirmed the civilian nature of the targeted site, on which four bombs were dropped.
Haftar’s offensive halted a UN-supported political process and caused indefinite postponement of the National Conference, which had been scheduled for 14-16 April. The aim of the National Conference was for Libyans to agree on the holding of parliamentary and presidential elections and a constitutional referendum.
In August, Salamé proposed three steps for an end to the conflict: a humanitarian truce during Eid al-Adha, including confidence-building measures between the parties; a high-level conference of “concerned countries”; and a “Libyan meeting of leading and influential personalities from all over the country”. The GNA agreed to the truce, as did the LNA, which had initially rejected it and then limited the truce on their part to the suburbs of Tripoli and for only a few days. More recently, and in support of Salamé’s second step, a series of meetings on Libya were held in Berlin in October, convened by Germany and co-led with UNSMIL; attendees included Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Turkey, the UK, the United Arab Emirates, the US, the AU, the Arab League and the EU.
The number of internally displaced people stands at 301,407, according to 18 October estimates by UNHCR. Of those, 128,000 have been displaced since the attack on Tripoli in early April.
At press time, the UN’s 2019 humanitarian response plan for Libya of $201.6 million was funded at 45.8 percent, with $109.3 million outstanding.
The Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee continues to brief the committee on an ad-hoc basis on the numerous violations of the UN arms embargo.
Human Rights-Related Developments
During its 42nd session, the Human Rights Council received an oral update on Libya on 25 September from Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore, who highlighted the level of civilian casualties in Tripoli and beyond, adding that since April, at least 46 attacks have been directed against health workers and health facilities. Gilmore also noted that serious human rights violations are widespread in Libya, including summary executions, abductions, enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment, and gender-based violence, including conflict-related sexual violence. She also called for “a dignified, human rights-based solution for migrants stranded in Libya”, which must include the closure of migrant detention centres.
Women, Peace and Security
In his latest annual report on women, peace and security, the Secretary-General writes that the UN “received reports of intimidation, including social media attacks, against women activists and lawmakers in Libya and others living abroad”. He names as “a stark example” the 17 July forced disappearance of Seham Sergiwa, a member of the House of Representatives. During a 4 September Council meeting on Libya, Marwa Mohamed, Head of Advocacy and Outreach of Lawyers for Justice in Libya, referred to Sergiwa’s case as well, pointing out that she had “expressed political views critical of the offensive of the LNA on Tripoli”. Speaking on the situation in general, Mohamed said that “since 2014, women human rights defenders have been routinely subjected to gender-based violence and threats, including physical assault, abductions, sexual violence, as well as gender-related slurs and smear campaigns”. Together with a lack of accountability, this had “effectively forced women out of public life”.
Key Issues and Options
Council members are following closely the progress made by Salamé in his proposed three steps. In case of significant progress at the political level, the Council may consider endorsing any advances. Bearing in mind the complexities of the situation in Libya, the Council could add a request for more frequent written reporting by the Secretary-General so all members can stay more closely informed of developments.
An ongoing issue is the military escalation, which threatens to deepen long-standing political and economic divisions between different parts of Libya. 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, a Council visiting mission to Libya or a full-fledged visit by the Libya Sanctions Committee could be considered.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Libya remains a divisive issue within the Council. 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.
Libya also continues to be a difficult issue in the relationship between the Council and the AU.
The UK is the penholder on Libya, sharing the pen with Germany on the sanctions file. Schulz, Germany’s Deputy Permanent Representative, chairs the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON LIBYA
|Security Council Resolutions|
|3 October 2019S/RES/2491||This resolution renewed the authorisation for member states, acting nationally or through regional organisations, 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.|
|12 September 2019S/RES/2486||This was a resolution extending UNSMIL’s mandate until 15 September 2020.|
|10 June 2019S/RES/2473||This resolution 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 15 February 2020 adopted with 13 votes in favour and two abstentions (China and Russia).|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|3 October 2019S/PV.8631||This was the adoption of resolution 2491.|
|8 May 2019S/PV.8523||This was the semi-annual briefing by ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on recent developments concerning cases in Libya.|