April 2023 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 April 2023
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Expected Council Action 

In April, the Security Council will hold a briefing, followed by consultations, on the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). The chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Kimihiro Ishikane (Japan), will also brief on the committee’s activities. 

Key Recent Developments 

More than one year has passed since the postponement of Libyan national elections planned for 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 (HoR)—the Libyan legislature based in Tobruk—in February 2022. The protracted stalemate contributes to the country’s political, economic, and security instability. 

Against this backdrop, Special Representative for Libya and head of UNSMIL Abdoulaye Bathily has concentrated recent efforts on facilitating agreement among national actors and international partners on a new roadmap for national elections. In his 27 February briefing to the Council, Bathily presented the results of this engagement. He announced his intention to establish a Libyan High-Level Panel for Elections (HLPE), which will “bring together all relevant Libyan stakeholders, including representatives of political institutions, major political figures, tribal leaders, civil society organisations, security actors, women, and youth representatives”. According to Bathily, the HLPE will be tasked with facilitating “the adoption of the legal framework and time-bound roadmap to the holding of elections in 2023”, as well as providing “a platform to advance consensus around related matters, such as election security and the adoption of a Code of Conduct for all candidates”. 

In parallel to Bathily’s efforts, the rival Libyan legislatures have been engaged in a separate effort to establish a constitutional basis for elections. On 8 February, the HoR adopted the 13th constitutional amendment to the 2011 Constitutional Declaration, defining the roles of the president, prime minister, and parliament, and outlining its own election roadmap. On 2 March, after several failed attempts, the High State Council (HSC)—which was established by the LPA to serve as an advisory body and now performs legislative functions—endorsed the amendment. Subsequently, the two bodies announced the establishment of a “joint 6+6 committee” to draft electoral laws. 

In his February Council briefing—which took place prior to the HSC’s endorsement of the constitutional amendment—Bathily described the legislation as “controversial within the Libyan political class and general citizenry” and criticised it for a perceived lack of clarity that failed to “address key contentious issues such as the eligibility criteria for presidential candidates”—an assessment that some independent analystshave echoed. At an 11 March press briefing, however, Bathily appeared to acknowledge that the 6+6 committee will have the primary responsibility for drafting electoral laws. He urged the body to “address all the gaps and shortcomings of the 13th Amendment within a reasonable timeframe, thus producing a credible and implementable constitutional and legal basis for the elections”. He further said that the UN “stand[s] ready to support the 6+6 in any way” and described the role of the HLPE as an auxiliary mechanism that will focus on related issues, such as election security and drafting a “code of good conduct” for candidates. On 16 March, the Security Council issued a presidential statement in which it welcomed “the gradual progress made on the constitutional framework for elections and the 13th amendment of the constitutional declaration” and said it was “encouraged by” the launch of the HLPE.  

On the security track, the Secretary-General’s most recent reporton Libya, dated 9 December 2022, said that the 2020 ceasefire agreement continues to hold, although the security situation remains tense throughout the country. The report also noted that UNSMIL has continued to support the establishment of an effective Libyan ceasefire monitoring mechanism able to coordinate, monitor, and assess progress on the withdrawal of foreign forces, foreign fighters, and mercenaries. On 8 February, after a two-day meeting in Cairo that was chaired by Bathily, the 5+5 Joint Military Commission (JMC)—which is entrusted with overseeing the security aspects of the Libyan peace process—and liaison committees from Libya, Sudan, and Niger reached agreement on an integrated coordination and data-exchange mechanism to facilitate the full withdrawal of mercenaries and foreign fighters from the country. In his closing address at that meeting, Bathily describedthe agreement as “an important step toward creating a favourable climate for the political process, including the organization of elections in 2023”. The mechanism was subsequently launched at the margins of a meeting of the Security Working Group of the Berlin Process International Follow-up Committee on Libya (IFCL) held in Tunis on 17 March. 

Additionally, the JMC recently convened two meetings with eastern, western, and southern military commanders on the issue of election security. After the first meeting held on 15 March, the participants issued a joint statement affirming that they had “agreed to come together and move forward towards organizing free and fair elections in Libya this year” and stressing “the need to abstain from using force, violence, arrest, or threats for political or material gains or for regional or factional interests”. At the second meeting held on 27 March, the participants reaffirmed those commitments and emphasised “the need for the House of Representatives and the High Council of the State to complete the tasks entrusted with them” to advance the political process. 

The country’s human rights and humanitarian situation remains a concern. In his February briefing, Bathily expressed regret that “the already limited civic space in Libya continues to be further restricted, silencing the voices of civil-society groups and activists”. The Secretary-General’s report observed that violations against migrants and refugees continue with impunity, including arbitrary detention “in inhumane and degrading conditions in both official and unofficial centres managed by state and non-state actors”. Similar findings were presented by the UN Independent Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) on Libya—established by the Human Rights Council (HRC) in 2020—which, in its final report published on 27 March, concluded that “there are grounds to believe a wide array of war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed by State security forces and armed militia groups”, with migrants, in particular, having been “systematically tortured” and subjected to “sexual slavery”. In a joint letter dated 6 March, several international human rights organisations called on the HRC to follow up on the FFM’s findings by establishing an “accountability mechanism to continue documenting and reporting on the human rights and impunity crisis in Libya and monitoring the implementation of the FFM’s recommendations”. In a related development, the co-chairs of the Working Group on International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights of the IFCL released a summary on 18 March of a series of dialogues they have facilitated with a range of Libyan civil society actors on the country’s “most pressing human rights issues as well as actions required to protect gains, overcome obstacles, and ultimately, to advance human rights in Libya”. 

Key Issues and Options 

A key issue for the Security Council is to support the political momentum towards holding national elections in 2023. The adoption of the 13th constitutional amendment and the launch of the HLPE are two potentially positive developments in this regard, but it remains unclear whether the initiatives will ultimately reinforce or compete with one another: while the GNU has publicly expressed receptiveness to the UN-facilitated initiative, the HoR in a statement following Bathily’s February briefing took issue with his characterisation of the constitutional amendment and accused him of bias. In this context, the Security Council’s presidential statement of 16 March can be viewed as an attempt to resolve tension between the two tracks while maintaining political pressure on the GNU and HoR to achieve tangible progress towards elections.  

At the April briefing, Council members are likely to reiterate their expectation that all parties display the political will to meet their stated commitments through concrete action. In addition, some Council members are expected to express continued concern at the alarming human rights situation in the country, which remains particularly dire for civil society activists, migrants, women, and girls.  

Council Dynamics 

Council members remain united on the need for a Libyan-led inclusive process to hold elections that will restore political, security, and economic stability. However, there are differences of view about the best way forward. During the February briefing, several Council members—including France, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the UK, the US, and the A3 countries (Gabon, Ghana, and Mozambique)—expressed strong support for Bathily’s election initiative. China and Russia, however, voiced their general support for Bathily’s mediation efforts but were more reserved in their judgment of the HLPE. Russia acknowledged that “a solution to [the political stalemate] could be the organization of national elections”, yet cautioned against organising them “too hastily” and claimed that “it would be counterproductive to discard the achievements already made by the House of Representatives and the High State Council, in which so much work has been invested”. These divergent views were evident during negotiations on the recent presidential statement (For more, see our What’s in Blue story of 16 March) and may be reiterated at the April briefing. 

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Security Council Resolutions
28 JULY 2022S/RES/2647 This resolution extended UNSMIL’s mandate until 31 October 2022.
Security Council Presidential Statements
16 MARCH 2023S/PRST/2023/2 This was a presidential statement about the situation in Libya in which the Security Council said it was encouraged by the launch of the Libyan High-Level Panel for Elections.
Security Council Meeting Records
16 DECEMBER 2022S/PV.9223 This was a briefing on UNSMIL.
Secretary-General’s Reports
9 DECEMBER 2022S/2022/932 This was the 60-day report on UNSMIL.
Security Council Press Statements
20 DECEMBER 2022SC/15156 This press statement expressed, among other things, deep concern at the persistent political deadlock in Libya.