Expected Council Action
In November, the Security Council will hold a briefing, followed by consultations, on the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).
The mandate of UNSMIL expires on 31 October 2023.
Key Recent Developments
This month will mark one year since the postponement of national elections planned for 24 December 2021 and seven years since the signing of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA). The leadership stand-off continues between incumbent Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah, elected in February 2021 to head the interim Government of National Unity (GNU), and 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 protracted political stalemate contributes to the country’s political, economic and security instability.
The ceasefire continues to hold, although there are reports of ongoing large-scale recruitment on both sides. There has also been some progress on the security track. On 27 October in Sirte, Special Representative for Libya and head of UNSMIL Abdoulaye Bathily convened the first joint meeting in several months of the 5+5 Joint Military Commission (JMC)—which consists of five representatives each from the former Government of National Accord and the Libyan Arab Armed Forces. At the meeting, the JMC agreed to establish a sub-committee for the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of armed groups.
On the economic track, the co-chairs of the Economic Working Group (Egypt, the EU, the US, and UNSMIL) held consultations on 9 November and agreed on the urgent need to assist Libyan institutions to coordinate proposals for temporary mechanisms until a government is elected and a national budget is agreed.
The human rights situation remains alarming, and violations against migrants and asylum seekers continue with impunity. As of mid-November, more than 70 inmates at Tripoli’s Mitiga Central Prison were reportedly on a hunger strike to protest the prolonged arbitrary detention of many inmates; detention conditions; and ill-treatment, including denial of family visits and medical care.
Bathily has continued to meet with various stakeholders since his arrival in Libya in October. He met with the president of Libya’s High Council of State, Khaled Al-Mishri, on 26 October and discussed “ways to address the current political impasse including efforts to establish a sound constitutional framework for holding inclusive national elections”, according to a 27 October post on Twitter. On 31 October, he met with Secretary-General of the League of Arab States (LAS) Ahmed Aboul Gheit on the margins of the LAS Summit in Algiers, during which they discussed ways to enhance cooperation between the UN, the AU and the LAS to find a solution to the political impasse in Libya. Bathily also met with Presidential Council President Mohamed al-Menfi on 9 November to discuss ways to accelerate the organisation of elections.
On 28 October, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2656, extending UNSMIL’s mandate for one year, following five short-term extensions since September 2021. It also decided to revert to requesting the Secretary-General to report on UNSMIL’s activities every 60 days, instead of every 30 days as decided in resolution 2629 adopted in April. It reiterated a request for the mission to implement the recommendations of the 9 August 2021 Independent Strategic Review of UNSMIL and for the Secretary-General to update the Council on the implementation of the recommendations in his regular reporting to the Council. The need to convene elections is also emphasised in the resolution, which welcomed the support provided by the UN to the Libyan High National Elections Commission. (For more, see our What’s in Blue story of 27 October.)
On 9 November, the Council received the semi-annual briefing of the ICC Prosecutor, Karim Asad Ahmad Khan, on the ICC’s Libya-related activities. Khan briefed the Council from Libya during the first visit of an ICC prosecutor to the country in ten years. He described visiting sites of torture and execution, including the Tarhouna landfill site near Tripoli, where Libyan forensic experts uncovered 250 bodies. He also announced that confidential applications for arrest warrants have been submitted to ICC judges.
Bathily last briefed the Council on 15 November, at the request of Russia. He again emphasised the need to hold elections as soon as possible and urged the Council “to send an unequivocal message to obstructionists that their actions will not remain without consequences”. He informed the Council that “in the next weeks and months, UNSMIL will endeavour to facilitate a conversation between the key institutional players in Libya as a step towards overcoming their differences and moving forward towards the organisation of free and fair elections”. He also underlined the need for “accompanying support, and pressure, from this Council in particular, and the international community at large”. (For more, see our What’s in Blue story of 14 November.)
Key Issues and Options
A key issue remains the precarious political, economic and security situations 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 they can agree on a constitutional framework to pave the way for Libya’s long-delayed elections. Council members could consider holding a closed Arria-formula meeting with Libyan civil society representatives to help generate ideas for promoting dialogue between the rival political factions in Libya and supporting an inclusive political process leading to elections. Another concern remains the alarming human rights situation.
Council members have reiterated the urgent need for a Libyan-led inclusive political process and the holding of elections. Many members are also concerned about the precarious security and human rights situations.
Negotiations on resolution 2656 renewing UNSMIL’s mandate for one year seem to have been relatively smooth compared to previous deliberations on UNSMIL’s mandate, which were difficult. The length of the mandate had been contentious in the recent past. During the negotiations in April and July, most Council members—including the UK, the US, the European Council members, and the three African members (Gabon, Ghana and Kenya)—were strongly in favour of a one-year mandate renewal. However, Russia had made clear at the time that it would only support a shortened mandate duration until a Special Representative was appointed. As a result of Bathily’s appointment in September, it seems that Russia did not oppose the one-year mandate renewal during the negotiations, although it apparently again expressed its preference for retaining a 30-day reporting cycle. During negotiations, several members, such as Albania and Norway, made suggestions for additional language, some of which was retained, including on human rights; children and armed conflict; and women, peace and security.
At the briefing on 15 November, Russia accused the US of “behind-the-scenes agreements with third countries on Libyan oil exports”, including “to squeeze the Russian Federation out of the global oil market”. The US rejected these allegations as “unfounded conspiracy theories” while calling on Libya’s leaders to agree to a mechanism to transparently detail state oil revenues and their allocation.
The UK is the penholder on Libya.
UN DOCUMENTS ON LIBYA
|Security Council Resolution|
|28 October 2022S/RES/2656||This resolution extended UNSMIL’s mandate until 31 October 2023.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|15 November 2022S/PV.9192||This was a briefing on UNSMIL.|
|9 November 2022S/PV.9187||This was the semi-annual briefing of the ICC Prosecutor.|
|24 October 2022S/PV.9162||This was a briefing on UNSMIL.|