What's In Blue

Posted Tue 26 Aug 2014

Adoption of a Resolution Modifying Libya Sanctions Regime

The Security Council is set to adopt a resolution modifying the Libya sanctions regime and strengthening the exemption procedure with respect to the arms embargo currently in place. The draft resolution was circulated on Friday (22 August) by the UK and after two rounds of negotiations appears ready to be put to a vote. This resolution is the first formal outcome from the Council on Libya since 19 March. Despite the escalation of violence, the emergence of new players and spoilers, and air strikes by unidentified foreign fighter jets, until now the Council had limited its actions to increasing the frequency of its meetings on Libya and issuing several press statements, which are not formal outcomes. The adoption of the resolution is expected to be followed by a briefing in consultations by the outgoing Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Tarek Mitri. (Bernardino Leōn was appointed new head of UNSMIL on 14 August and is expected to take over on 1 September.)

The resolution was agreed quickly given the shared concerns over the security and political situation in Libya. The draft resolution expands the designation criteria of the sanctions regime to apply to individuals and entities determined by the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee to be obstructing or undermining the successful completion of its political transition. The draft resolution also decides that the supply, sale or transfer of arms and related materiel, including related ammunition and spare parts, to Libya must be approved in advance by the Committee.

The draft resolution appears to be based on the model of resolution 2140 on Yemen, which imposed sanctions on those undermining the successful completion of the political transition, among other designation criteria. Like resolution 2140, it seems that this draft resolution and its threat of sanctions is expected to modify the behaviour of some of the warring parties without the need to immediately apply the sanctions. In fact, the draft resolution affirms the Council’s readiness to review the appropriateness of the sanctions “including the strengthening, modification, suspension or lifting of the measures, and its readiness to review the mandate of UNSMIL as may be needed at any time in light of developments in Libya”. However, unlike in Yemen, this draft resolution does not follow the outcome of any political process or national dialogue and it is adopted at a moment where efforts to broker a ceasefire among rival militias and army factions have been in vain.

Even though Council members were overall supportive of the resolution, there were several discussions about the wording of the designation criteria. It seems a permanent Council member wanted to take out the wording of the designation criteria that included those “inciting others to commit acts that violate applicable international human rights law or international humanitarian law” over concerns regarding freedom of speech. Also, another permanent Council member requested that language regarding the provision of support “for armed groups or criminal networks through the illicit exploitation of natural resources, in particular crude oil” be rewritten to respect the scope of resolution 2146 of 19 March, which imposes sanctions exclusively on those illegally exporting crude oil from Libya. In the end, the draft resolution mentions “the illicit exploitation of crude oil or any other natural resources in Libya”.

Council members are likely to be interested in Mitri’s account of the work that UNSMIL, currently based in Tunisia due to security concerns, is undertaking to broker a ceasefire in Tripoli. The draft resolution that will be put to a vote “calls on all parties to agree to an immediate ceasefire and an end to fighting”. Along those lines, Council members are expected to inquire about the current conflict dynamics in Tripoli, where Misrata-based and Islamist militias took control of the Tripoli International Airport on 22 August and Benghazi, where the offensive of rogue general Khalifa Haftar against groups he has labeled as “terrorists” is ongoing. Council members are also likely to seek more information about two rounds of airstrikes over Tripoli on 17-18 and 23 August reportedly conducted by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

Council members might also be interested in the steps taken by the newly formed House of Representatives which has been meeting in Tobruk since 4 August. There might also be concern over challenges to its legitimacy, after the 25 August meeting of the General National Congress, whose mandate had ended, but which appointed a new prime minister, Omar al-Hassi, in a move likely to exacerbate political tensions.

Following the 17 July call by Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdulaziz of Libya to the Security Council for the establishment of a UN stabilisation and institution-building mission in the country, there might be some discussion about the kind of mandate UNSMIL requires to support Libya at this critical juncture. UNSMIL is currently undertaking a strategic review of the mission and the conclusions of this review are expected to provide the Council with options in the near future.

Mitri is also expected to brief Council members on the humanitarian situation in Libya and to condemn the use of violence against civilians in violation of international humanitarian law. In a 21 August statement, UNSMIL condemned the fighting in Tripoli and Benghazi, “especially the indiscriminate shelling of residential neighborhoods and public facilities as well as the use of aircraft in military operations”.

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