May 2024 Monthly Forecast



Expected Council Action  

In May, the Security Council is expected to vote on a 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 2 June.  

The Council will also receive the biannual briefing of the ICC Prosecutor, Karim Asad Ahmad Khan, on the ICC’s Libya-related activities. 

Background and Key Recent Developments  

The Security Council first adopted 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, which was adopted unanimously on 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)—which was replaced by the Government of National Unity (GNU) in February 2021 following the UN-facilitated Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF)—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 that flow.  

The authorisation for maritime inspections was last renewed by resolution 2684 of 2 June 2023, which requested the Secretary-General to submit reports on the implementation of the measures within six months and 11 months of the resolution’s adoption. The first report, which covered the period from 15 April to 31 October 2023, referred to Libya’s divided government and tense security situation and reaffirmed that the arms embargo, when properly implemented, could continue to play an important role in maintaining conditions conducive to advancing the political process, assisting Libyan authorities in ensuring security, and preventing the proliferation of arms in Libya and the region. The report said that it therefore remained “essential” that the embargo, combined with the inspection authorisation, be strictly implemented in a comprehensive manner to prevent illicit transfers by air, land, and sea. The report also referenced the final report of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts, covering the period from 25 April 2022 to 17 July 2023, which identified new violations of the arms embargo and provided a summary illustrating the variety and technical complexity of the arms that have been transferred into the country since the establishment of the arms embargo in 2011. 

According to the Secretary-General’s report, the EU naval operation EUNAVFOR Med IRINI (Operation IRINI) remained the only regional organisation to inspect vessels under the authorisation. Between 15 April and 31 October 2023, it conducted 3,049 hailings (making contact with other vessels), 128 friendly approaches (consensual visits to vessels that can be carried out without flag state approval and without the use of enforcement measures), and one vessel inspection. It attempted one additional inspection but did not carry it out because of an explicit refusal of consent by the vessel’s flag state. (The authorisation requires good-faith efforts to first obtain the consent of the vessel’s flag state prior to any inspections.) No cargo seizures were reported. 

In addition to renewing the maritime inspection authorisation, the Council is scheduled to receive a briefing this month from Khan on the ICC’s Libya-related activities. The Council referred the situation in Libya to the ICC in  resolution 1970, which invited the ICC Prosecutor to update the Council every six months. The ICC has jurisdiction over crimes listed in the Rome Statute committed on Libya’s territory or by its nationals from 15 February 2011 onwards. The ICC opened investigations in March 2011 related to alleged crimes against humanity (including murder, imprisonment, torture, persecution, and other inhumane acts) and war crimes (including murder, torture, cruel treatment, and outrages upon personal dignity). There is currently one open case before the court, centred on Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, the son of deposed Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi. On 27 June 2011, the court charged Qaddafi with two counts of alleged crimes against humanity and issued a warrant for his arrest. He remains at large. 

In his previous biannual report to the Council, dated 8 November 2023, Khan said that his office had continued its renewed investigative strategy for Libya—first announced in April 2022—which involves the allocation of additional resources, increased engagement with those affected by alleged crimes in Libya, and more effective cooperation with Libyan authorities. Khan reported “significant progress” across the four key lines of inquiry established under the strategy, particularly on the track related to military operations conducted between 2014 and 2020, for which investigative activities were nearly complete. Based on this progress, Khan anticipated that his next report to the Council could outline a “potential roadmap” for the conclusion of the ICC’s activities in Libya pursuant to resolution 1970. 

Regarding the broader political situation in Libya, the impasse continues between the UN-recognised GNU, based in Tripoli and led by Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah, and the eastern-based Government of National Stability (GNS), led by Prime Minister Osama Hamad and aligned with the House of Representatives (HoR) and the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) under the command of General Khalifa Haftar. The stalemate between the rival governments has persisted since the indefinite postponement of the Libyan national elections that were planned for December 2021. In this context, both the UN and national actors have concentrated efforts on facilitating agreement on a new roadmap for national elections to unify the country’s divided government. (For more background and information on the political situation, see the briefon Libya in our April 2024 Monthly Forecast.) 

In his 16 April briefing to the Council, Special Representative and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) Abdoulaye Bathily said that Libyan leaders had continued to respond to his mediation efforts with “stubborn resistance, unreasonable expectations, and indifference to the interests of the Libyan people”. He described competing initiatives outside the UN track as counterproductive and called for an end to the “selfish resolve of current leaders to maintain the status quo through delaying tactics and manoeuvres”. At a press conference following the briefing, Bathily confirmed that he had submitted his resignation to Secretary-General António Guterres, adding that “there is no way the UN can operate successfully” in Libya under the current circumstances. At the time of writing, it was unclear when he would step down. 

On 1 March, Guterres announced the appointment of Stephanie Koury (US) as UNSMIL’s Deputy Special Representative for Political Affairs. 

Women, Peace and Security  

The annual report of the Secretary-General on conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV), which was issued on 4 April, says that factors including clashes between armed groups and illicit arms proliferation created an environment in which CRSV was perpetrated with impunity in Libya in 2023, with UNSMIL verifying five CRSV cases during the year. The report says that sexual violence was used by both state and non-state actors “as a tactic to silence journalists, detainees, migrants and women” and that it “persisted in detention centres, to which humanitarian access remained severely restricted”. The report further notes that LGBTQI persons “were targeted with sexual violence including in detention” and that “[t]raffickers, smugglers and armed men” continued to perpetrate CRSV against migrants, refugees, asylum-seekers, and displaced persons, with state actors also being implicated. In his report, the Secretary-General called on the Libyan authorities and non-state actors to grant the UN “unrestricted humanitarian access to prisons, detention centres and migrant and refugee disembarkation points”. He also called for accountability and for the adoption of legislation targeting trafficking and on “the protection of women and children from violence”.  

Key Issues and Options  

A key issue for the Council in May is to renew the authorisation for maritime inspections off the coast of Libya. Since the adoption of resolution 2292 in 2016, the Council has renewed the authorisation annually through straightforward rollovers. France and Malta, co-penholders for the authorisation, are expected to seek a similar extension this year. 

Council members may also continue the regular practice of convening an informal interactive dialogue (IID) ahead of the authorisation’s renewal to discuss its implementation with an EU representative. 

In the longer term, the main objective for the Council is to help foster common ground between Libya’s rival legislatures to agree on electoral laws to unify the country’s divided governments—a goal that Bathily has repeatedly urged Council members to support by wielding their influence on national stakeholders.   

Council Dynamics  

Until 2022, the Council unanimously renewed the maritime inspection authorisation every year. Since then, Russia has abstained on the vote, questioning the viability of the authorisation, noting that Operation IRINI has failed to uncover significant arms supply channels, and alleging that it conducts its inspections in a selective and non-transparent manner. The Russian representative reiterated these points at the Council’s 16 April briefing on Libya, adding with regard to the upcoming renewal of the authorisation that Russia would “act in keeping with” its expressed concerns. At the same briefing, the UK and US expressed concern about recent reports of Russian arms shipments to eastern Libya. 

Russia has also criticised the work of the ICC. Prior to Khan’s May 2023 Council briefing—which took place following the ICC’s March 2023 announcement that it had issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Commissioner for Children’s Rights Maria Lvova-Belova—the country raised a point of order to object to Khan’s participation, claiming that the ICC had become a “puppet of Western countries” and was acting on their orders and in their political interests. Russia reiterated this view at Khan’s November 2023 briefing, urging the Council to “consider recalling” from the ICC the situations on Libya and Sudan that had previously been referred to it.  

Although less forceful in their criticisms, some other Council members have also expressed reservations about the court’s work. China has described it as a violation of the principle of national sovereignty, while African members have long expressed concerns about the court’s perceived disproportionate focus on their continent. Those Council members that are state parties to the Rome Statute of the ICC—currently Ecuador, France, Guyana, Japan, Malta, the Republic of Korea, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Switzerland, and the UK—are generally supportive of the court’s work. The position of the US, which is not a party to the Rome Statute, has varied depending on the sitting administration.  

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Security Council Resolutions
30 OCTOBER 2023S/RES/2702 This resolution extended UNSMIL’s mandate until 31 October 2024.
2 JUNE 2023S/RES/2684 This resolution renewed 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 that they have reasonable grounds to believe are violating the arms embargo.
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.
Secretary-General’s Reports
9 APRIL 2024S/2024/301 This was the 120-day report on UNSMIL.
30 NOVEMBER 2023S/2023/936 This was the 6-month report on the authorisations in relation to the inspection of vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya, requested by resolution 2684 in support of the implementation of the arms embargo established in resolution 1970.
Security Council Letter
14 SEPTEMBER 2023S/2023/673 This letter transmitted the final report of the Panel of Experts on Libya, established pursuant to resolution 1973 of 17 March 2011.

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