Expected Council Action
In March, the Security Council will hold a briefing, followed by consultations, on the situation in Libya. As the Secretary-General is yet to appoint a Special Envoy, a representative of the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs may brief the Council. The chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, Ambassador T.S. Tirumurti (India), is also scheduled to brief on the committee’s activities.
Key Recent Developments
Since the Council last discussed Libya on 24 January, the situation in the country has continued to be marked by political turmoil following the postponement of elections that were scheduled to take place on 24 December 2021. On 10 February, the House of Representatives appointed former interior minister Fathi Bashagha as interim prime minister; however, Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah, the incumbent prime minister elected on 5 February 2021 by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF), remains in office and has challenged the legitimacy of Bashagha’s appointment. The House of Representatives’ announcement came shortly after an apparent assassination attempt on Dbeiba by unknown assailants in Tripoli.
The House of Representatives justified Bashagha’s appointment by citing the failure to hold elections under Dbeibah’s leadership. It appointed a committee to chart a new roadmap for elections within 14 months. That new political roadmap was put to a vote before the House of Representatives on 16 February and adopted as an amendment to Libya’s transitional constitution. It envisages the creation of a new electoral commission and a 24-member committee consisting of representatives from Libya’s three regions to draft a new constitution.
Dbeibah has reportedly said that he would only step down after the completion of national elections. On 21 February, he announced a new electoral roadmap with a view to holding elections by June. This roadmap reportedly suggests a plan to organise parliamentary elections by 24 June and hold a constitutional referendum on the same day. The newly elected parliament would then be inaugurated and would endorse a final constitutional text, after which presidential elections would take place. Dbeibah’s opponents have argued that his term ended with the failure to hold the poll on 24 December. Notwithstanding Dbeibah’s announcement, the House of Representatives and Bashagha continue working towards the formation of a new cabinet and the implementation of the House of Representatives’ roadmap.
Reacting to Bashagha’s appointment in an 11 February statement, UN Secretary-General António Guterres took note of the vote of the House of Representatives to designate a new prime minister and called on all parties and institutions to continue to ensure that such decisions are taken in a transparent and consensual manner. He also appealed to them to preserve the stability of Libya as a top priority.
Special Advisor to the Secretary-General on Libya Stephanie Williams has continued her outreach efforts with Libyan stakeholders. On 13 February, she met separately with Bashagha and Dbeibah, and stressed the need to maintain calm and stability in the country. She also stressed the importance of a sustained and continued focus on holding free, fair and inclusive national elections within the shortest timeframe possible. On the same day, Bashagha announced that he was starting consultations to form his cabinet. At time of writing, his proposed cabinet nominations were scheduled for a vote of confidence in the House of Representatives on 28 February.
On 17 February, Libya marked the 11th anniversary of its revolution amid fears that the rivalry between Bashagha and Dbeibah could plunge the country into another cycle of instability and violence.
In a 22 February tweet, Williams said that she had met with representatives of the High Council of State, who reportedly briefed her on progress in developing the electoral roadmap. A few days earlier, a Government of National Unity spokesperson had accused Williams of bias—an accusation later refuted by the Deputy Head of the Presidential Council, Abdullah Al-Lafi, who stressed that the advisor was unbiased and “keen on building bridges with all Libyan parties”, according to media reports.
The High Council of State met on 24 February to discuss its position on the rival prime ministers and rejected the House of Representatives’ initiative to appoint Bashagha as prime minister.
Human Rights-Related Developments
In resolution 48/25 of 4 October 2021, the Human Rights Council (HRC) extended the mandate of the fact-finding mission on Libya for nine months. The HRC also requested that the mission present a follow-up report to the Council at its 49th session, which will take place between 28 February and 1 April.
Key Issues and Options
A key issue for the Council is how to resolve the current political impasse following the decision of the House of Representatives to designate a new prime minister. The Council has been focused on promoting the unification of Libyan state institutions after years of two de facto parallel governments—one based in Tripoli and the other in Tobruk—a situation that developed during the process of forming Libya’s democratic state after the toppling of the Qaddafi regime in 2011. Council members may call on all parties to avoid a reversal of the gains made toward re-unifying Libya’s state institutions.
The other priority issue is related to the organisation of national elections and how to support Libyan parties in agreeing on an electoral roadmap with the broad support of all segments of Libyan society. In this regard, Council members may appeal to all parties and institutions to sort out their differences and work together towards holding national elections in the shortest timeframe possible.
Recent political developments may also place renewed focus on the question of the leadership of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). Resolution 2519 of 31 January recalled that the mission should be led by a Special Envoy. At the time of writing, the Secretary-General’s appointment of the Special Envoy remained pending.
An option for the Council is to issue a statement calling on Libyan political actors and state institutions to preserve the country’s unity and stability, address their political differences through dialogue, and remain focused on organising elections to meet the aspirations of the Libyan people.
How the Council react to the recent political developments remains to be seen. On 14 February, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova expressed the hope that “Libya’s new government led by Bashagha will be able to unify the Libyan society which will help to successfully cope with difficult tasks of the transitional period, including preparations to hold nationwide elections”.
Council members may differ in their calls for the appointment of a Special Envoy. Some may urge the Secretary-General to make this appointment expeditiously, while others, especially the US, may place more emphasis on expressing support for Williams’ mediation efforts.
UN DOCUMENTS ON LIBYA
|Security Council Resolutions|
|31 January 2022S/RES/2619||This resolution extended UNSMIL’s mandate until 30 April 2022 as set out in resolution 2542 of 15 September 2020 and paragraph 16 of resolution 2570 of 16 April 2021.|
|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, was a technical renewal of UNSMIL’s mandate as set out in resolution 2542 of 15 September 2020 and paragraph 16 of resolution 2570 of 16 April 2021.|
|15 September 2020S/RES/2542||This resolution renewed UNSMIL’s mandate until 15 September 2021; it was adopted with 13 votes in favour and two abstentions (China and Russia).|
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|24 November 2021S/PRST/2021/24||This presidential statement welcomed the Paris International Conference and the Libya Stabilisation conference; expressed support for the parliamentary and presidential elections set to take place on 24 December; underlined the importance of an inclusive and consultative electoral process; and urged Libyan stakeholders to commit to accepting the election results.|
|15 July 2021S/PRST/2021/12||This presidential statement welcomed the second Berlin Conference on Libya, which was held on 23 June 2021.|
|17 January 2022S/2022/31||This report covered developments in Libya between 25 August 2021 and 17 January 2022.|
|Security Council Letters|
|6 August 2021S/2021/716||This was the letter from the Secretary-General transmitting the strategic review of UNSMIL.|