May 2021 Monthly Forecast

AFRICA

Libya

Expected Council Action

In May, the Security Council is expected to receive briefings by the Special Envoy to Libya and head of the UN Support Mission for Libya (UNSMIL), Ján Kubiš, and the chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, Ambassador T.S. Tirumurti, the Permanent Representative of India. Two Secretary-General’s reports are also due in May: on UNSMIL and on the implementation of resolution 2491. Additionally, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda will deliver her semi-annual briefing on recent developments concerning cases in Libya.

The authorisation given through resolution 2526 (to inspect vessels believed to be in violation of the arms embargo) expires on 5 June, and the authorisation given through resolution 2491 (to inspect vessels suspected of being used for migrant smuggling or human trafficking) expires on 3 October. The mandate of UNSMIL expires on 15 September. Measures related to the illicit export of petroleum from Libya expire on 30 July 2022, and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee expires on 15 August 2022.

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 2020. 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.

On 23 October 2020, the 5+5 Joint Military Commission (5+5 JMC)—consisting of five representatives each from the LAAF and the GNA—signed a permanent ceasefire agreement. The 5+5 JMC also expressed its intention to set up a monitoring mechanism for the implementation of the agreement. On 16 April, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2570, approving UN support for the Libyan Ceasefire Monitoring Mechanism (LCMM).

Also on 16 April, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2571, renewing the measures related to the illicit export of petroleum from Libya until 30 July 2022 and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee until 15 August 2022.

The Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF)—consisting of 75 participants representing the main Libyan geographical, social and political constituencies—decided on a “political roadmap” on 15 November 2020. The roadmap calls for parliamentary and presidential elections to be held on 24 December 2021. Until then, an interim “Government of National Unity” (GNU) is in place, as elected by the LPDF in early February, with Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah as prime minister and Mohammad Younes Menfi as president of the Presidency Council. The cabinet passed a vote of confidence in the House of Representatives on 5 March, and the GNU was sworn in on 15 March. A planned cabinet meeting in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi had to be postponed when civilians and armed men affiliated with the LAAF prevented an advance team for Prime Minister Dbeibah from leaving the airport following their arrival.

Migrants and refugees continue to use the Central Mediterranean route to try to reach Europe through Libya. According to the International Organization for Migration, 138 people died and 219 went missing between 1 January and mid-April. On 21 April, a rubber boat carrying 130 people sank off the coast of Libya. No survivors were reported.

On 29 April, Council members held an informal interactive dialogue on Libya with a focus on the issue of foreign fighters and mercenaries in the country. Kubiš and Raisedon Zenenga, the UNSMIL Coordinator, briefed.

According to the terms of the 23 October 2020 agreement, the ceasefire includes the departure of foreign fighters and mercenaries from all sovereign Libyan spaces (land, sea and air) within three months from that day. That deadline passed on 23 January, and foreign fighters and mercenaries continue to be present in Libya. The Panel of Experts assisting the Libya Sanctions Committee has reported the presence of foreign fighters from Chad, Sudan (some trained by the United Arab Emirates, reportedly the largest military backer of the LAAF), and Syria, as well as mercenaries employed by the Wagner Group, a Russian private military company. The Kremlin denies any connection to the company.

Human Rights-Related Developments

During its 46th session, the Human Rights Council adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Libya on 16 March without a vote (A/HRC/46/102), following its consideration of the report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review on Libya (A/HRC/46/17). Out of 285 recommendations received, Libya supported 181 while 104 were noted. On 7 April, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) published its decision that Libya violated the human rights of Magdulein Abaida, an activist working on women’s rights, by failing to investigate and prosecute her unlawful arrest and torture by a militia group affiliated with the government, the Martyrs of 17 February Brigade.

CEDAW issued its decision after considering a complaint by Abaida, who fled Libya in 2012 after being harassed, tortured and forced to close down her women’s rights organisation, Hakki (“My Right”). Committee member Nahla Haidar said: “We invited Libya to respond to the complaint on four occasions from 2018 to 2020, and we regret that the state party did not respond to our requests”. This is the first case in which the CEDAW found a violation of the rights of a human rights defender.

Key Issues and Options

Council members are following closely the progress made towards the implementation of resolution 2570 and the preparations for the 24 December parliamentary and presidential elections. Non-compliance with the arms embargo by multiple international actors, including the presence of foreign fighters and mercenaries, is an ongoing issue for the Council. Following Kubiš’ briefing, Council members could issue a press statement reinforcing these points.

Council and Wider Dynamics

Resolution 2570 reiterates the Council’s position that states withdraw “all foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya without delay”, but a number of countries, including a permanent member of the Council, have failed to respect this so far. All foreign sponsors but Turkey deny their role in Libya.

Divisions remain between Council members on Libya. The chair of the Libya Sanctions Committee was last able to brief the Council in September. Since then, the committee has been unable to agree on the chair’s statement to the Council. (Sanctions committee decisions and statements require consensus.) Ahead of the bimonthly briefing on UNSMIL in November 2020, Russia raised an objection to an assessment by the Panel of Experts that a merchant vessel had potentially violated the arms embargo by carrying jet fuel from the UAE to Benghazi in September 2020; it raised the same objection again ahead of January’s bimonthly briefing on UNSMIL. Similar dynamics played out ahead of the 24 March briefing.

The UK is the penholder on Libya. T.S. Tirumurti, India’s Permanent Representative, chairs the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee.

UN DOCUMENTS ON LIBYA

Security Council Resolutions
16 April 2021S/RES/2571 (2021) This renewed the measures related to the illicit export from Libya of petroleum until 30 July 2022 and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee until 15 August 2022.
28 April 2021S/RES/2570 In this resolution, the Council strongly urges member states to withdraw “all foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya without delay”.
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.
Security Council Letters
19 April 2021S/2021/380 This was the summary of the Informal Experts Group’s 1 April meeting on Libya.