Expected Council Action
In November, the Security Council is expected to receive a briefing by the Acting Special Representative and head of the UN Support Mission for Libya (UNSMIL), Stephanie Williams, and the chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, Günter Sautter, 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 Council may also adopt a resolution supporting compliance of all national and international stakeholders with the 23 October ceasefire agreement between the Libyan conflict parties. If the measures implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are still in place, the meetings are likely to be held as videoconferences.
Measures related to the illicit export of petroleum from Libya expire on 30 April 2021, and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee expires on 15 May 2021. The authorisation given through resolution 2526 (to inspect vessels believed to be in violation of the arms embargo) expires on 5 June 2021. UNSMIL’s mandate expires on 15 September 2021. The authorisation given through resolution 2491 (to inspect vessels suspected of being used for migrant smuggling or human trafficking) expires on 3 October 2021.
Key Recent Developments
A 14-month-long assault by the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF, also known as the Libyan National Army) under General Khalifa Haftar against Libya’s capital, Tripoli, and the internationally recognised Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) based there was halted by armed groups supporting the GNA in June. Both the LAAF and the GNA receive foreign military backing in violation of UN sanctions. Turkey’s support for the GNA eventually turned the conflict in its favour. A stalemate between armed forces continues around Sirte. The town has strategic significance because of its proximity to Libya’s oil crescent, where most of the country’s oil export terminals are located, which is part of the two-thirds of Libyan territory that remains under Haftar’s control.
On the political situation, as a result of the Berlin Conference on Libya in January, negotiations between Libyan parties along three tracks (economic, political and security) are underway, with varying levels of progress. The Council endorsed the conclusions of the Berlin Conference in resolution 2510 of 12 February, on which Russia abstained. Regarding the security track, the 5+5 Joint Military Commission conducted its fourth round of talks in Geneva in October. The 5+5 Joint Military Commission consists of five representatives each from the GNA and the LAAF. These talks marked the first time that the representatives met directly; in the previous rounds, UNSMIL had conducted shuttle diplomacy between the two parties. During a 23 October press conference, Williams announced that the representatives had signed a “complete, countrywide, and permanent ceasefire agreement with immediate effect”. According to the terms of the agreement, the ceasefire includes the departure of foreign fighters and mercenaries from all sovereign Libyan spaces (land, sea and air) within three months starting the same day. The agreement also contains an immediate suspension of foreign military training, including the departure of respective training personnel; issues of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of armed elements; and the intention to set up a monitoring mechanism for the implementation of the agreement. The signatories to the agreement further included a request for UNSMIL to share the agreement with the Council, and for the Council to adopt a resolution supporting compliance of all national and international stakeholders with the ceasefire agreement. On 27 October, Council members issued a press statement welcoming the agreement.
Resolution 2510 requested the Secretary-General to report on several aspects, including on “proposals for effective ceasefire monitoring under the auspices of the UN”. Resolution 2542 of 15 September renewing UNSMIL’s mandate until 15 September 2021 requested the Secretary-General to submit that information “no later than 60 days after the adoption of this resolution”.
On 2 October, the Council adopted resolution 2546, renewing for 12 months 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.
The EU removed Aguila Saleh, the head of the House of Representatives—which is aligned with Haftar—from its sanctions list on 2 October “in light of his recent constructive engagement in support of a negotiated political solution to the Libyan crisis”. Saleh had been listed by the EU on 1 April 2016 as obstructing the implementation of the UN-brokered Libyan Political Agreement and the formation of the GNA.
The Secretary-General, during a 5 October high-level virtual event on Libya he co-chaired with Germany, called the persistent violations of the arms embargo a “scandal”, saying this called into question “the basic commitment to peace of all involved“.
On 14 October, the GNA announced that it had arrested Abd al Rahman al-Milad, who was sanctioned by the Council on 7 June 2018 for his involvement in trafficking and smuggling of migrants and related human rights violations. At the time of his listing, he was the head of the regional unit of the Libyan Coast Guard in Zawiya but lost this position shortly after the listing. The latest final report of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee of 29 November 2019 names al-Milad as reportedly working with GNA-affiliated fighters. UNSMIL welcomed the arrest.
A confidential report by the Panel of Experts that was leaked to the press in early May said that the Russian private military company Wagner Group had deployed around 1,200 mercenaries to fight for Haftar, according to the media. The Kremlin denies ties to the Wagner Group despite accusations to the contrary by various sources. On 15 October, the EU sanctioned Russian national Yevgeniy Prigozhin, describing him as a “businessman with close links” to the Wagner Group, including financial links. Among the reasons given for his listing is the “delivery of arms as well as deployment of mercenaries into Libya” supporting the LAAF. The Wagner Group is also named by the EU as having “participated in multiple military operations” against the GNA.
UNSMIL has remained without an appointed head since 2 March when Ghassan Salamé announced his resignation as Special Representative and head of UNSMIL, citing stress-related health reasons. Resolution 2542 split the role of Special Representative into a Special Envoy of the Secretary-General and an UNSMIL Coordinator, following pressure by the US. Council members have not been able to agree on candidates put forward by the Secretary-General since March.
COVID-19 case numbers in Libya continue to rise sharply. As at 30 October, Libya had 60,628 confirmed cases.
Human Rights-Related Developments
During its 45th session, the Human Rights Council (HRC) heard as part of an interactive dialogue an oral update from the Fact-finding Mission on Libya, established by the HRC in June through resolution 43/39. The chair of the mission, Mohamed Auajjar, noted that due to the broad mandate of the mission, this allowed for flexibility to “consider a range of potential violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law committed by all parties” in Libya since 2016. Williams, who also participated in the interactive dialogue, noted that accountability for various human rights and humanitarian law violations was the only way to ensure justice for the crimes as well as sustainable peace in Libya. She furthermore observed that UNSMIL called for the immediate closure of government-managed migration detention centres and illegal detention facilities under the control of armed groups that were connected to the trafficking of migrants. She emphasised that thousands were denied access to basic services with the level of human suffering being “simply unacceptable”.
Key Issues and Options
The ongoing conflict in Libya and related non-compliance with the arms embargo by multiple international actors have been ongoing issues for the Council, together with the implementation of the Berlin Conference’s conclusions. One option for the Council is to follow-up on the request contained in the ceasefire agreement to adopt a resolution supporting the implementation of the agreement.
Council and Wider Dynamics
The Council continues to be divided over Libya. Council outcomes routinely call upon UN member states to cease support for parallel institutions in Libya and refrain from interfering in the country, but some countries, including members of the Council, fail to respect these calls.
France has shown political support for Haftar while his largest military backer is the United Arab Emirates. Mercenaries from several countries are reportedly fighting on both sides, as acknowledged in the ceasefire agreement. All foreign sponsors but Turkey deny their role in Libya.
The UK is the penholder on Libya, sharing the pen with Germany on the sanctions file. Günter Sautter, Germany’s Deputy Permanent Representative, chairs the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON LIBYA
|Security Council Resolutions|
|2 October 2020S/RES/2546||This renewed for 12 months 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.|
|15 September 2020S/RES/2542||This extended UNSMIL’s mandate until 15 September 2021; it was adopted with 13 votes in favour and two abstentions (China and Russia).|
|5 June 2020S/RES/2526||This resolution renewed for 12 months 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.|
|12 February 2020S/RES/2510||This endorsed the conclusions of the Berlin Conference on Libya.|
|11 February 2020S/RES/2509||This renewed the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee until 15 May 2021 as well as the measures related to the illicit export from Libya of petroleum until 30 April 2021.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|2 October 2020SPV.8763||This was the adoption of resolution 2546.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|27 October 2020SC/14339||This was was on the ceasefire agreed between representatives of the GNA and the LAAF.|