Expected Council Action
In April, the Security Council will receive the semi-annual briefing of ICC prosecutor Karim Asad Ahmad Khan concerning the court’s cases in Libya. Consultations on the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) are anticipated. The Council is also expected to renew the mandate of UNSMIL.
Key Recent Developments
Khan last briefed the Council on the court’s work in Libya on 23 November 2021, including outstanding arrest warrants issued by the court and the status of ongoing investigations. Libya is one of two country situations (Sudan is the other) that the Council has referred to the court for investigations. The Council referred Libya to the ICC through resolution 1970 of 26 February 2011, which also invited the prosecutor to brief the Council on the status of investigations every six months. Three outstanding arrest warrants pertaining to Libya are currently before the court. One is for Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, the son of deposed Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi. In November 2021, Saif al-Gaddafi, who is sought on two counts of alleged crimes against humanity, announced his candidacy for the Libyan presidential elections.
Libya continues to be mired in political turmoil. More than three months after presidential and parliamentary elections were postponed, no new date for the polls has been determined. On 10 February, the House of Representatives appointed former Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha as interim prime minister while the incumbent prime minister, Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah, was still in office. (Dbeibah was elected in February 2021 by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum to head the interim Government of National Unity, or GNU.) As a result, the country finds itself with two parallel governments, raising fears of a possible return to violence.
The election has also become a major bone of contention with the two sides proposing competing electoral roadmaps. The House of Representatives tasked Bashagha to organise elections within the next 14 months, while Dbeibah proposed a roadmap for holding elections in June. The UN and several member states have continued attempts to mediate between the two competing political factions with the goal of reaching agreement on a common path forward that would also be acceptable to the Libyan people.
When referring to Libya’s political situation, the UN has emphasised that elections should be held as soon as possible and that a political consensus supported by Libyans is necessary. Special Advisor to the Secretary-General on Libya Stephanie Turco Williams has engaged with Bashagha and Dbeibah, while reiterating the need for elections to take place “in a timely manner with a sound constitutional basis” to respect the aspirations of the 2.8 million Libyans who have registered to vote.
Williams has also suggested the formation of a “6+6” constitutional committee to develop a consensual constitutional basis for holding elections. The committee would include six members of the House of Representatives and six members of the High Council of State, the executive institution and constitutional authority established by the 2015 Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) that is mandated to propose policies and recommendations on various issues, including the LPA’s implementation. At the time of writing, meetings to clarify the constitutional basis for elections have commenced in Tunisia under UN auspices, but only the High Council of State has sent representatives. Media reports indicate that several members of the House of Representatives rejected William’s proposal to form a joint committee.
During a visit to Tripoli, US Ambassador to Libya Richard Norland spoke on 17 March with the President of the GNU’s Presidency Council, Mohamed Younis al-Menfi, and with Dbeibah, encouraging them to hold elections as soon as possible and urging Dbeibah to engage with Bashagha to avert an escalation of tensions that could lead to violence. (In recent weeks, military forces from both sides have increased their presence in the area around Tripoli, but the security situation has thus far remained calm.)
Bashagha and Dbeibah reportedly met on 18 March in an effort to defuse tensions around Tripoli and to find a way forward on a political consensus. While committing themselves to denounce violence, they do not appear to have reached a political agreement. Pending clarification of the legislative framework for elections, the head of Libya’s High National Electoral Commission (HNEC), Emad al-Sayeh, confirmed during a 19 March meeting with Norland that the HNEC was ready to hold elections once a political agreement had been reached to chart the way forward.
Women, Peace and Security
Jazia Jibril Mohammed Shuaiter—a legal scholar, activist and candidate in the upcoming parliamentary elections—briefed the Council on 16 March. In her brief, Shuaiter stressed the importance of maintaining peace, re-establishing consensus among the Libyan political parties and adopting a permanent constitution. She also underscored the need for free, inclusive, and fair elections and called for the Council to support international election monitoring. Shuaiter also called on the Council to urge the Libyan leadership to comply with “all the ratified treaties and conventions to respect women and ensure a gender perspective in all policies, legislation and national strategies”.
Key Issues and Options
How UNSMIL can support a solution to the current political impasse and pave the way for elections will be a key issue for the Council in advance of the mission’s upcoming mandate renewal. While UNSMIL’s renewal in September was expected to restructure the mission to address the political situation following the October 2020 ceasefire agreement, the formation of the GNU and the scheduling of national elections on 24 December 2021, Council members have been unable to agree on the mission’s future and have instead adopted three short-term mandate extensions.
Another issue for the Council remains the mission’s leadership. No successor has yet been identified to former Special Envoy Jan Kubiš, who resigned in November 2021, or for the position of Special Representative that is expected to replace the Special Envoy under UNSMIL’s proposed restructuring. Special Advisor Williams continues to lead mediation efforts on the ground.
The Council may consider requesting more frequent reporting from UNSMIL on the situation in the country, particularly regarding progress with finding political consensus and organising elections. The Council may also consider issuing a statement calling on all parties to reach a political consensus based on dialogue and urging them to maintain a stable security environment.
Council dynamics regarding the future of the mission and UNSMIL’s leadership remain difficult. When the Council last met to discuss the situation in Libya on 16 March, several Council members voiced their support for a substantive mandate renewal in April. Whether the Council can agree on such a renewal, especially without a prospective candidate to lead the mission, remains unclear. There is unity, however, on the need for Libyan political stakeholders to agree on a plan for holding elections to fulfil the aspirations of the Libyan people. Russia, the only Council member to have openly supported Bashagha, nonetheless signalled its intent during the 16 May Council meeting to respect any leadership decisions Libyans may take. Several Council members—including France, the UK and the US—expressed support for Williams and her initiatives on the ground, but Russia reiterated its call for the Secretary-General to quickly appoint a new head of UNSMIL, stating that the prospective candidate should be acceptable to Libyans, regional stakeholders and the Council. The three African members of the Council (Kenya, Gabon and Ghana) expressed a preference for an African candidate to lead the mission.
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 2021S/RES/2595||This unanimously adopted resolution extended UNSMIL’s mandate until 30 September 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|
|17 November 2021s/2021/958||This was a letter submitted to the Council by Germany, France, Italy and Libya transmitting the declaration of the 12 November 2021 Paris Conference on Libya.|
|6 August 2021S/2021/716||This was the letter from the Secretary-General transmitting the strategic review of UNSMIL.|