Expected Council Action
In July, the Council is expected to hold a briefing, followed by consultations, on the situation in Libya. The Council is expected to vote on a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), which expires on 31 July, in accordance with resolution 2629. The Council may also vote to renew the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee by 15 July, and measures related to the illicit export of petroleum from Libya, in accordance with resolution 2571.
Key Recent Developments
Following the postponement of the national elections planned for 24 December 2021, a stand-off has persisted between two rival political factions in Libya. One faction is led by incumbent prime minister Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah, elected in February 2021 to head the interim Government of National Unity (GNU) 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—and the other by former Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha, who was elected interim prime minister by the House of Representatives (the Libyan legislature based in Tobruk) on 10 February.
The impasse between the factions led by Bashagha and Dbeibah, who is insisting on handing over power only after elections take place, led to violent clashes in Tripoli on 17 May, when Bashagha attempted to move his parallel government to the capital. Tripoli returned to relative calm after Bashagha abandoned his attempt, but the security situation remained unstable. A 10 June UNSMIL statement said that the mission “received reports of clashes in Tripoli last night between armed groups, which endangered the lives of civilians, and separately of mobilization of armed groups, along with heavy weapons, from areas surrounding Tripoli”.
UN Special Advisor on Libya Stephanie Turco Williams, who at the time of writing was expected to leave the post at the end of June, initiated a dialogue forum—hosted in Cairo—to accelerate holding Libya’s long-delayed elections and promote dialogue between the rival political factions, which have put forward competing electoral roadmaps. Participating were members of the House of Representatives and of the High Council of State (the executive institution and constitutional authority established by the 2015 Libyan Political Agreement that is mandated to propose policies and recommendations on various political issues).
In relation to the dialogue forum in Cairo, two rounds of negotiations were held in April and May to discuss the constitutional basis for holding elections; the participants agreed on several provisions of the draft constitution. The third and final round of negotiations took place from 12 to 19 June to address outstanding issues. In a 20 June press statement, Williams said that “the Joint Committee achieved a great deal of consensus on the contentious articles in the Libyan Draft Constitution” but that “differences persist on the measures governing the transitional period leading to elections”. She called on “the Presidencies of the two Chambers to meet within ten days at an agreed upon location to bridge outstanding issues”. On 23 June, Williams announced on Twitter that “Speaker of the House of Representatives Aguila Saleh and President of the High Council of State Khaled Al-Mishri have accepted my invitation to meet at the UN Office at Geneva 28-29 June to discuss the draft constitutional framework for elections”.
Since September 2021, the Council has renewed UNSMIL’s mandate four times through short-term extensions because of disagreements among Council members concerning the length of the mandate, the restructuring of the mission, and language regarding the appointment of UNSMIL’s leadership. (For background, see our 13 September 2021, 1 October 2021, 31 January and 29 April What’s in Blue stories.) Most recently, on 29 April, the Council adopted resolution 2629, renewing the mandate of UNSMIL until 31 July. The resolution maintained UNSMIL’s core mandated tasks, as set out in resolution 2542 of 15 September 2020 and paragraph 16 of resolution 2570 of 16 April 2021. It authorised the mission’s restructuring, replacing the Geneva-based Special Envoy with a Tripoli-based Special Representative, supported by two Deputy Special Representatives. It also shortened the reporting cycle from 60 to 30 days. (At the time of writing, the search continues for a Special Representative.)
On 20 June, Council members discussed Libya under “any other business”, at the request of Russia. The meeting focused on the LPDF road map with a briefing by Assistant Secretary-General for the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific Mohamed Khaled Khiari. The LPDF roadmap set 22 June as the expiration date of the transitional period. In a 22 June press briefing, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General Farhan Haq noted that the roadmap set 22 June as the deadline “provided that presidential and parliamentary elections are held by then, which has not been the case”. Ahead of the 20 June meeting, Russia circulated a draft presidential statement that, among other issues, noted the end of the timeline set out by the LPDF roadmap on 22 June and called on the Secretary-General to appoint his Special Representative before the expiration of UNSMIL’s mandate on 31 July. At the time of writing, it seemed unlikely that the presidential statement would be adopted.
The Council last met on the situation in Libya on 27 June to receive an updated account of developments and UN activity. Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo briefed. She emphasised that “the UN’s priority in Libya remains to facilitate a return to the electoral process, based on a sound and consensual constitutional basis for elections”. Bushra Alhodiri, Operation Manager of the Fezzan Libya Organisation, briefed as a member of civil society via video teleconference from Libya. (For more, see our What’s in Blue story of 24 June.)
Human Rights-Related Developments
A 28 March press statement on the release of a report of the Independent Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) on Libya (A/HRC/49/4) noted that “continuing serious human rights violations and a culture of impunity prevailing in different parts of Libya are impeding the transition to peace, democracy and the rule of law”.
During its 50th session, the Human Rights Council (HRC) is expected to hold an interactive dialogue on 6 July with the FFM on Libya and consider its report (not yet available at the time of writing) on the situation of human rights in Libya (A/HRC/50/63). The HRC is expected to consider adopting a resolution on the extension of the mandate of the FFM on Libya before the end of the session on 8 July.
On 24 May, the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanction Committee transmitted its final report to the Council. Among other things, it noted that most of Libya is controlled by armed groups; designated terrorist groups continue to be active in the country; and while there was a decrease in military hostilities, serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law persisted on a large scale with impunity. The report found that the arms embargo continued to be violated with impunity, the assets freeze was not uniformly implemented and there was “one alleged attempt to illicitly export crude oil” during the reporting period. On 26 May, Ambassador T.S. Tirumurti (India) briefed the Council on the committee’s activities.
On 3 June, the Council adopted resolution 2635, renewing for one year the authorisation for member states to inspect vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya by a vote of 14 in favour, with Russia abstaining. (For more, see our What’s in Blue story of 2 June.)
Key Issues and Options
A key issue remains the precarious security situation linked to Libya’s uncertain electoral path. A related 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. Council members could consider holding a closed Arria-formula meeting with Libyan civil society representatives to help generate ideas on how to promote dialogue between the rival political factions in Libya and support an inclusive political process leading to elections. When renewing the mission’s mandate, options Council members might consider could include increasing UNSMIL’s advisory capacity with additional experts on constitutional and electoral matters. Another option would be to increase the mission’s capacity in relation to economic issues and human rights.
Another issue for the Council remains the mission’s leadership. The departure of Williams, who led mediation efforts on the ground, is coming at a politically sensitive time in the country. No successor has yet been identified to succeed 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, as decided in resolution 2629.
Council dynamics on Libya are difficult, leading to challenging negotiations on the UNSMIL mandate renewal resolutions in recent months. During negotiations on resolution 2629 in April, disagreements apparently centred on the length of the mission’s mandate and the duration of the Secretary-General’s reporting cycle. The UK (as penholder) initially circulated a short draft text that would have renewed the mission’s mandate for one year and maintained the regular 60-day reporting period. Russia, however, expressed a preference for a shorter text and insisted on a three-month renewal and a shortening of the reporting period, which the penholder eventually reflected in the draft.
On 29 April, following the unanimous adoption of resolution 2629, 14 Council members (all except India) delivered explanations of vote. Many Council members, including the US and European Council members, expressed regret over the Council’s inability to agree on a substantive resolution and a longer mandate renewal. Russia, on the other hand, noted the need for a short-term mandate renewal to maintain pressure on reforming UNSMIL’s leadership structure and called for the prompt appointment of a Special Representative.
At the briefing on 27 June, members such as the UK and US expressed their preference for a longer extension of the mandate, and Mexico and France called for a substantive mandate renewal.
UN DOCUMENTS ON LIBYA
|Security Council Resolution|
|29 April 2022S/RES/2629||This resolution extended UNSMIL’s mandate until 31 July. It maintained UNSMIL’s core mandated tasks while authorizing a restructuring of the mission.|
|20 May 2022S/2022/409||This report covered developments in Libya between 18 January and 20 May.|
|Sanctions Committee Document|
|24 May 2022S/2022/427||This was the final report of the Panel of Experts.|