November 2021 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 October 2021
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Expected Council Action

In November, the Security Council is expected to discuss Libya on two occasions. The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Libya and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Ján Kubiš, is expected to brief the Council on recent developments regarding the country, and the chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, Ambassador T.S. Tirumurti, the Permanent Representative of India, will brief on the activities of the sanctions committee. The Council will also receive the semi-annual briefing by ICC prosecutor Karim Khan concerning cases in Libya. This will be Khan’s first Council briefing on Libya after having succeeded Fatou Bensouda as ICC prosecutor on 16 June.

Key Recent Developments

Since the Council last met to discuss Libya on 10 September, there have been two key developments. First, on 8 October, the 5+5 Joint Military Commission (JMC)—which comprises five representatives each from the former Government of National Accord (GNA) and from the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF, also known as the Libyan National Army, or LNA)—agreed on an Action Plan for the withdrawal of mercenaries and foreign fighters from the country. Second, the Government of National Unity (GNU) closed the legislative gaps to pave the way for presidential and legislative elections.

The 5+5 JMC Action Plan, which was agreed in Geneva following discussions from 6 to 8 October, foresees “the withdrawal of all mercenaries, foreign fighters and foreign forces from the Libyan territory in a phased, balanced and synchronized manner”, according to an 8 October 5+5 JMC statement. The 5+5 JMC also stressed the need for the Libyan ceasefire monitoring mechanism to be fully operational, including through the deployment of UN monitors, prior to the commencement of the plan. This development follows a statement by Libyan Foreign Affairs Minister Najla al-Mangoush during a 3 October news conference in Kuwait, confirming reports that some fighters have left the country, which she called “a very modest start”. On 21 October, al-Mangoush convened a ministerial-level Libya Stabilization Conference in Tripoli, with the participation of representatives from, inter alia, Algeria, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Qatar, Spain, Sudan, Tunisia, the UAE, the US, the Arab League, and the UN. This initiative focused on economic and security developments, and aimed to support the work of the 5+5 JMC. In a press statement concluding the conference, al-Mangoush emphasised Libya’s commitment to Libya-related Security Council resolutions, the political roadmap issued by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF)—an assembly consisting of 75 participants representing the main Libyan geographical, social and political constituencies responsible for charting the way towards elections—and to the conclusions of both Berlin conferences on Libya, to the need to create an environment conducive to the holding of elections in December, and to the government’s support for the 5+5 JMC and its efforts to fully implement the ceasefire agreement. She also welcomed the role of the UN and regional organisations in supporting Libya and the return of several embassies to the country.

Regarding elections, the speaker of the House of Representatives, Aguila Saleh, signed a presidential elections law on 9 September. The move followed months of inconclusive consultations on a legislative and constitutional basis for elections by the LPDF. Saleh was criticised for reportedly bypassing due process and consultations while creating favourable conditions for LAAF General Khalifa Haftar to run in the upcoming elections. The law allows for military officials to stand in presidential elections if they resign from the armed forces at least three months before election day. (According to news reports, Haftar stepped down from his military duties on 22 September.)

The signing of the law triggered the eastern-based House of Representatives to pass a vote of no confidence in the GNU, but the vote was rejected by the western-based High Council of State, illustrating tensions between the two government entities. The GNU, however, remains in office, albeit in a caretaker capacity.

On 4 October, Libya’s parliament passed a law on legislative elections that will allow parliamentary polls to go ahead. The following day, parliament postponed the legislative elections from 24 December to January 2022, while maintaining the 24 December date for presidential elections. The official candidate registration period is scheduled to open mid-November, but several Libyan political actors in addition to Haftar have reportedly already indicated their interest in the presidential race, including Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, the son of deposed Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.

Saif al-Islam Qaddafi has been on a UN sanctions list since 2011 and is subject to investigation by the ICC. Resolution 1970 of 26 February 2011 referred the situation in Libya to the ICC, and the court updates the Council regularly on its investigations into crimes committed in Libya since 15 February 2011, when violence erupted in Benghazi, triggering protests across the country. The court has outstanding arrest warrants for three individuals:

  • Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, sought for two counts of alleged crimes against humanity;
  • Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf Al-Werfalli, a brigade commander allied with Haftar and sought for allegedly ordering and committing war crimes (pending verification of his reported death on 24 March); and
  • Al-Tuhamy Mohamed Khaled, sought for allegedly perpetrating serious crimes, including torture (pending verification of his recently reported death in Egypt).
Human Rights-Related Developments

During its 48th session, the Human Rights Council (HRC) considered the report of the independent fact-finding mission on Libya during an interactive dialogue on 7 October (A/HRC/48/83). The report found reasonable grounds to believe that war crimes had been committed in Libya, while the reported violence perpetrated in prisons and against migrants may amount to crimes against humanity. On 11 October, the HRC adopted resolution 48/25 without a vote, extending the mandate of the fact-finding mission for nine months (A/HRC/48/L.25). It requested the fact-finding mission to present a follow-up report to the HRC at its 49th session, with the participation of the Special Representative for Libya, and to present a comprehensive report at the HRC’s 50th session. In a press briefing on 12 October, a spokesperson for the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed extreme worry over the continued suffering of migrants and asylum seekers in Libya, including a recent “increase in heavy-handed security operations and raids targeting migrants and asylum seekers”, resulting in killings, serious injuries and “a rise in detentions in appalling conditions”.

Key Issues and Options

A key issue for the Council is how to support the withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya. One possible option for the Council would be to issue a statement referencing the 5+5 JMC Action Plan to show its support for the initiative while also calling for immediate action in this regard. The Council has, in the past, endorsed several outcome documents on Libya, such as the 23 October 2020 ceasefire agreement or the conclusions of both Berlin conferences on Libya. In an 8 October statement, UNSMIL welcomed the 5+5 JMC Action Plan for the withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries and called on all member states to support its implementation.

Maintaining the electoral calendar and ensuring elections are held in a free, fair, inclusive, and credible manner is another key issue for the Council. With the 24 December election day approaching, the Council may use the upcoming briefing to reinforce the importance of maintaining electoral timelines, and members may consider a press statement urging all Libyan stakeholders to advance electoral preparations. The same statement could reinforce the points made in the Council’s 15 July presidential statement, including the call for the withdrawal of all foreign forces and mercenaries and full respect for the arms embargo on Libya.

Council Dynamics

Libya has been a controversial file in the Council. In September, the Council adopted two technical rollovers of UNSMIL’s mandate—resolution 2595 of 15 September, extending the mandate for two weeks until 30 September and resolution 2599 of 30 September, extending the mandate for four months until 31 January 2022. Disagreements in the negotiations on these texts focused on language relating to the withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries and provisions on the implementation of the recommendations of the independent strategic review of UNSMIL, which the Council requested in resolution 2542. Russia, in particular, had difficulties with language proposed in the initial drafts on the resolutions proposed by the UK, the penholder on Libya.

International attention to Libya remains high. France intends to host an international conference on Libya on 12 November to discuss the upcoming elections and the withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries. The US has also continued to be vocal about the importance of the elections. In a press conference, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price explained that the US has increased its diplomatic focus on Libya—including through the work of US Special Envoy to Libya Richard Norland—for Libya to become “sovereign, stable, unified and secure” and led by a democratically elected government.


Security Council Resolutions
30 September 2021S/RES/2599 This resolution extended the mandate of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) until 31 January 2022. The text, which was unanimously adopted, renewed UNSMIL’s mandate as set out in resolution 2542 of 15 September 2020 and paragraph 16 of resolution 2570 of 16 April.
29 September 2021S/RES/2598 This resolution renewed for another year the authorisation for member states to inspect vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya that they have reasonable grounds to believe are being used for migrant smuggling or human trafficking.
Security Council Presidential Statements
15 July 2021S/PRST/2021/12 This presidential statement welcomed the second Berlin Conference on Libya which was held on 23 June 2021. The Council stressed the importance of free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections and called on the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) to take steps to facilitate the electoral process. The statement also calls for the full respect of the 23 October 2020 ceasefire agreement, including through the withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries, and expresses concern regarding the impact of the conflict on neighbouring countries.
Security Council Letters
6 August 2021S/2021/716 This was the letter from the Secretary-General transmitting the strategic review of UNSMIL.