Expected Council Action
In August, the Council is expected to hold a briefing, followed by consultations, on the situation in Libya. The chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Ravindra Raguttahalli (India), will brief on the committee’s activities.
The mandate of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) expires on 31 October 2022.
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. Leading the other faction is 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.
Under the auspices of the UN, the presidents of the High Council of State (the executive institution and constitutional authority established by the 2015 Libyan Political Agreement and mandated to propose policies and recommendations on various political issues) and the House of Representatives met in Geneva on 28 and 29 June to review outstanding provisions of the 2017 Libyan Draft Constitution. The meeting was intended as a follow-up to the third and final round of a dialogue forum—hosted in Cairo—from 12 to 19 June. In a 30 June statement, UN Special Advisor on Libya Stephanie Turco Williams said that “disagreement persists on the eligibility requirements for the candidates in the first presidential elections” and “while the progress secured during three rounds of consultations in Cairo and this round in Geneva is significant, it remains insufficient as a basis to move forward towards comprehensive national elections, which is a genuine desire of the Libyan people”. (At the time of writing, Williams was expected to leave the post at the end of July.)
On 1 July, demonstrations took place in several cities in Libya, including Tripoli, Tobruk and Benghazi, reportedly to protest deteriorating living conditions and the dire political situation. According to local media reports, hundreds of people stormed the House of Representatives headquarters in Tobruk. Armed groups supporting Dbeibah and Bashagha clashed on 21 July in Tripoli and on 23 July in Misrata.
On 13 July, the Tripoli-based government of Dbeibah announced the dismissal of the chairman of the National Oil Corporation (NOC), Mustafa Sanalla, and the appointment of Farhat Bengdara, a former central bank chief during Muammar Gaddafi’s dictatorship. Sanalla reportedly refused to leave office, arguing in a televised speech that Dbeibah’s government lacked legitimacy. In response, Dbeibah reportedly sent troops to take control of the NOC headquarters and force him out.
Between September 2021 and April, the Council 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. Most recently, the Council adopted resolution 2647 on 28 July, renewing the mandate of UNSMIL for three months until 31 October. The resolution maintained UNSMIL’s core mandated tasks as well as the 30-day reporting cycle. It included language on the need to agree on a pathway to hold elections as soon as possible and called on the Secretary-General to appoint a Special Representative promptly. (For more, see our What’s in Blue story of 28 July.)
The Council met on the situation in Libya on 25 July. Assistant Secretary-General for Africa in the Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations (DPPA-DPO) Martha Ama Akyaa Pobee briefed saying that “the overall situation in Libya remains highly volatile”. She noted that the electoral process remains the UN’s priority, but also emphasised the need to support Libya in addressing the wider political and economic situations, including issues that triggered demonstrations and clashes in July. She also expressed serious concern over the human rights situation.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 6 July, the Human Rights Council (HRC) held an interactive dialogue with the Independent Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) on Libya and considered its report (A/HRC/50/63). Mohamed Auajjar, Chair of the FFM, said the team had conducted four investigative missions to Libya during its mandate and identified violations, including direct attacks on civilians during the conduct of hostilities; arbitrary detention; enforced disappearances; sexual and gender-based violence; torture; violations of fundamental freedoms; persecution of and violations against journalists, human rights defenders, civil society, minorities, and internally displaced persons; and violations of the rights of women and children. On 8 July, the HRC adopted a resolution without a vote that extended the mandate of the FFM “for a final, non-extendable period of nine months, to present its concluding recommendations” (A/HRC/50/L.23).
On 13 July, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2644, renewing the measures related to the illicit export of petroleum from Libya until 30 October 2023 and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee until 15 November 2023. The resolution included new language that expressed support for the ongoing facilitation of intra-Libyan consultations to create the conditions and circumstances for elections on a constitutional and legal basis and expressed serious concern over continued violations of the arms embargo.
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 about how to promote dialogue between the rival political factions in Libya and support an inclusive political process leading to elections.
Another issue for the Council remains the continuing gap in the mission’s top leadership at a vulnerable time for the country. At the time of writing, a Special Representative had still not been appointed. On 19 July, the spokesperson for the Secretary-General said during the noon press briefing that there was no update on the nomination of a new Special Representative. (The position of Special Representative is expected to replace the role of Special Envoy, as decided in resolution 2629. Former Special Envoy Jan Kubiš resigned in November 2021, and at the time of writing, Williams was expected to leave her post at the end of July.)
Council dynamics on Libya remain difficult, leading to challenging negotiations on the UNSMIL mandate renewal resolutions in recent months. At the briefing on 25 July, members expressed the urgent need for a Libyan-led inclusive political process and the holding of elections. Several members also expressed concern over the security situation following demonstrations and clashes in July. Kenya, also speaking on behalf of Gabon and Ghana (the A3), called for the position of Special Representative to be filled with a candidate from Africa as soon as possible, which was supported by China. Several members expressed support for a one-year renewal of UNSMIL’s mandate, such as Albania, Norway and the US. Russia urged the Secretary-General to redouble his efforts to appoint a Special Representative and expressed support for an extension of UNSMIL’s mandate for three months, adding that once a Special Representative is appointed, future steps can be taken towards a more extensive mandate.
During negotiations on resolution 2647 in July, as with negotiations on resolution 2629 in April, disagreements apparently centred on the length of the mission’s mandate. The UK (as penholder) initially circulated a draft text that would have renewed the mission’s mandate for one year and reverted to the 60-day reporting period. As was the case in April, Russia expressed a preference for an even shorter text and insisted on the three-month renewal and the 30-day reporting cycle decided on in resolution 2629. Resolution 2647 was adopted by a vote of 12 in favour and three abstentions from the A3, due to their position that the mandate should have been renewed for longer than three months.
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.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|25 July 2022S/PV.9098||This was a briefing on Libya.|