Expected Council Action
In June, the Council will hold a briefing, followed by consultations, on the situation in Libya. As the Secretary-General has 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), may also brief on the committee’s activities.
The Security Council is also expected to vote on a draft resolution renewing for one year 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 Libya, that they have reasonable grounds to believe are violating the arms embargo. The current authorisation expires on 3 June. The Secretary-General’s annual report on the implementation of the measures was issued on 28 April.
Key Recent Developments
The Security Council first adopted the measures in support of the full implementation of the arms embargo on Libya in resolution 2292 of 14 June 2016. The interception of vessels bound to or from Libya was intended to curb the flow of arms to the country and to support the two-way arms embargo imposed on the country in resolution 1970 of 26 February 2011. The UK, the penholder in 2016 for resolution 2292, said in its explanation of vote that adopting those measures was a sign of support for the then-Government of National Accord (GNA) to facilitate its extension of state authority across the country. The UK also acknowledged that the arms embargo had not fully stopped the flow of weapons into the country, saying that resolution 2292 detailed concrete steps to curb the flow of arms.
The GNA has since been succeeded by the interim Government of National Unity (GNU), whose prime minister, Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah, was elected in February 2021 by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF)—an assembly consisting of 75 participants representing the main Libyan geographical, social and political constituencies, which was responsible for charting the way towards elections. Dbeibah’s leadership, however, is currently being challenged by a rival prime minister. On 10 February, the Tobruk-based House of Representatives appointed former Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha prime minister, following the indefinite postponement of presidential and parliamentary elections that had been scheduled for 24 December 2021 under Dbeibah’s leadership. The stand-off culminated when violent clashes erupted in Tripoli on 17 May between forces loyal to Dbeibah and those supporting Bashagha, as the latter attempted to move his parallel government to the capital. After Bashagha abandoned his attempt, the situation in Tripoli returned to calm, as it remains at the time of writing. (Bashagha has appointed a parallel cabinet, which held its first meeting on 21 April in Sirte, where Bashagha has established his seat.)
The Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the inspection authorisation (published in late April before the violent clashes in Tripoli) attests to its continued validity. Amid ongoing efforts by the UN to foster agreement among Libya’s state institutions on a constitutional basis for holding the postponed elections, the report says that “the arms embargo can continue to help facilitate a conducive environment for advancing the political process”. The report also references the finding of the 1970 Libya sanctions committee’s Panel of Experts that while fewer violations of the arms embargo had occurred during the 4 June 2021 and 28 April reporting period, armed groups active across Libya had acquired new types of military equipment.
The EU naval operation EUNAVFOR Med Irini has remained the only regional organisation acting under the authorisation to inspect vessels. EUNAVFOR Med Irini reported that between 16 April 2021 and 15 April 2022, it conducted 3,642 hailings (calling on other vessels), 141 friendly approaches (consensual visits to vessels that can be carried out without flag state approval and without the use of enforcement measures), and 11 vessel inspections. It attempted, but did not carry out, three additional inspections because of an explicit refusal of consent by the flag state of the respective vessels. (The authorisation requires good-faith efforts to first obtain the consent of the vessel’s flag state prior to any inspections and calls upon all flag states to cooperate with such inspections.) None of the inspections resulted in the identification of prohibited cargo.
In his current report, the Secretary-General has expressed his appreciation for the efforts of the EU, through Operation Irini, to contribute to the full implementation of the arms embargo. He also highlighted the information the mission shares with the experts as an important contribution to the implementation of the arms embargo.
On 29 April, the Council adopted resolution 2629, renewing the mandate of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) for three months. The resolution shortened the reporting cycle from 60 to 30 days. The Council last met on the situation in Libya on 26 May to receive an updated account of developments and UN activity. Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo briefed, noting a persisting political deadlock which hampered progress on the political, security and economic fronts, despite sustained UN mediation efforts.
In June, the Security Council is expected to receive the final report of the Panel of Experts, which is due before 15 June. The 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee met with the panel on 20 May to discuss the report and its recommendations. Following its submission to the Council, the document will be published.
Key Issues and Options
The recent clashes in Tripoli attest to the precarious security situation rooted in the absence of a unified political front. A key concern for the Council will be how to foster common political ground between the two rival governments so that they can agree on a constitutional framework to pave the way for the holding of Libya’s long-delayed elections. The Council may consider increasing UNSMIL’s advisory capacity with additional experts on constitutional and electoral matters.
Since the Council first authorised inspections in 2016 to enforce the arms embargo, the annual renewals have been through a short text with technical updates. Given the continued need for full implementation of the arms embargo, the Council may consider another 12-month technical renewal.
How to fully implement the Libya arms embargo has been a long-standing issue for the Council. One option is for the Libya sanctions committee—which like all sanctions committees consists of the 15 members of the Council—to consider briefing interested member states on the inspection authorisation and other arms embargo measures to raise awareness and build capacity for their implementation. In addition, Council members could encourage member states to increase inspections authorised by resolution 2292 to complement the efforts of the EU operation.
Council dynamics regarding Libya continue to be difficult. Different views among Council members regarding the role of UNSMIL, its leadership appointments, and its structure have resulted in several short renewals of the mandate since September 2021. The core mandated tasks, however, have been maintained as set out in resolution 2542 of 15 September 2020 and paragraph 16 of resolution 2570 of 16 April 2021.
The Council’s authorisations to inspect vessels suspected of violating the arms embargo have always been unanimous. However, Russia has voiced concerns over the implementation of these resolutions, including cautioning that the measures may be used to broaden the activities of the EUNAVFOR operations. As one example, Russia disagreed with the finding that jet A-1 fuel, seized in December 2020 from the vessel Royal Diamond 7 travelling to Libya from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), was “likely to be used for military purposes” and fell under the arms embargo. Others, including the European Council members, maintained that the seizure was in line with relevant Security Council resolutions.
It has become regular practice for the Council to have an informal interactive dialogue (IID) ahead of the renewal of the authorisations to discuss their implementation. This year’s IID took place on 24 May. Stefano Tomat, the Director of the Integrated Approach for Security and Peace Directorate of the European External Action Service, participated in the meeting and briefed Council members on the recent activities of Operation Irini.
European member states have traditionally held the pen for the renewal of the measures. This year the penholder is France.
UN DOCUMENTS ON LIBYA
|Security Council Resolutions|
|3 June 2021S/RES/2578||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.|
|14 June 2016S/RES/2292||This was a resolution providing a one year authorisation for member states to inspect, in the high seas off the coast of Libya, vessels bound to or from Libya.|
|26 February 2011S/RES/1970||This resolution referred the situation in Libya to the ICC, imposed an arms embargo and targeted sanctions (assets freeze and travel ban) and established a sanctions committee.|
|20 May 2022S/2022/409||This report covered developments in Libya between 18 January and 20 May.|
|28 April 2022S/2022/360||This was the annual report on the implementation of resolution 2578.|
|Security Council Letters|
|8 March 2021S/2021/229||This letter contained the final report of the Panel of Experts on Libya established pursuant to Security Council resolution 1970.|