What's In Blue

Briefing and Consultations on Developments in the Political Dialogue in Libya

Tomorrow morning (26 August), the Security Council is scheduled to receive a briefing from Bernardino León, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), followed by consultations. León, who will brief by video teleconference from Paris, is expected to focus on his efforts to bring on board the parties which refused to initial the political agreement on 11 July.

Council members will be interested in hearing about the results of the latest round of the political dialogue which took place on 11-12 August in Geneva and efforts to convince the General National Congress (GNC) to join the agreement. Briefing the Council on 15 July, León emphasised that the door remains open for the GNC to join it “with the clear understanding that it will not be further amended, without prejudice to the negotiations on its annexes”. It seems that the GNC has submitted amendments to the body of the agreement and Council members might be interested in getting León’s assessment on whether its members are engaging in the negotiations on the annexes. The annexes are expected to contain relevant provisions regarding the formation of the government of national accord and the mandate of a proposed new State Council, among other issues.

As violence continues in Libya between the two main coalitions—Misrata-based and Islamist militias (collectively known as Libya Dawn), and Zintan-based militias and elements of the army commanded by General Khalifa Haftar (Operation Dignity)—Council members might ask León about his consultations with military actors and whether and, if so, how they might be able to support the security arrangements laid out in the agreement.

The increased foothold of terrorist groups in Libya is expected to feature prominently in the discussions. In Sirte, which has been under the control of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) since June, ISIS killed more than 70 people in mid-August in response to an attempted rebellion. A 14 August letter sent by the permanent representative of Libya, Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi, to the Council president blamed the Council for not authorising exemptions to the arms embargo in order to fight ISIS. In the past, proposals to lift the arms embargo and grant exemptions for shipments of military materiel to the internationally recognised Tobruk-based government were put on hold by several Council members due to fears of their impact on the ground in the absence of a political solution. Countries such as France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and the US have made clear that the formation of a government of national accord is a prerequisite to stepping up these countries’ efforts to fight against terrorism in Libya.

Given that UNSMIL’s mandate is due to be renewed, Council members might ask León to elaborate on the Secretary-General’s recommendation in his 13 August report that UNSMIL maintain its focus on supporting the conclusion of a political agreement which would pave the way for the formation of a government of national accord. According to the report, it will be then up to the new government to determine the support required from the UN for the implementation of the agreement.

The persistence of hardliners on both sides is expected to feature in the discussions. León has repeatedly emphasised the usefulness of sanctions to target hardliners and advance the political process, but a proposal by France, Spain, the UK and the US to impose sanctions (travel ban and asset freeze) on two individuals affiliated with each of the warring coalitions was put on hold by Russia and China in early June. Following the initialling of the agreement, it seems some Council members questioned the appropriateness of targeting hardliners from both sides and promoted targeting only individuals from the GNC (even though Haftar has also rejected the agreement). In his 15 July briefing to the Council, León warned that “spoilers should be held accountable because they bear the responsibility of hindering the political agreement”. So far no listing proposals have been submitted to the Committee.

Council members are also expected to express their concern over the humanitarian situation in Libya which according to the 13 August report, continues to deteriorate, affecting an estimated two million people, including approximately 435,000 internally displaced persons.

Council members may want to discuss how the situation in Libya has contributed to the large number of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers who have arrived in Europe by sea this year, which according to the International Organization for Migration, is now approaching 250,000. Rescues at sea this summer have occurred at a rate of more than 1,000 migrants a day off the coast of Italy and Greece, and after two separate wrecks off the coast of Libya on 5 and 11 August, at least 2,300 have drowned.

Council members have yet to discuss the 28 July sentencing to death of Saif Al-Islam Qaddafi, son of deposed leader Muammar Qaddafi, by a court in Tripoli that had tried him along with 36 other Qaddafi-era officials accused of serious crimes during the 2011 revolution. The trial was criticised by both UNSMIL and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for not meeting international standards for fair trial. On 10 December 2014, the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber issued a decision on the non-compliance of Libya with the Court in the case against Qaddafi, by which the matter was referred back to the Council. Although the ICC decision was noted in resolution 2213, so far the Council has failed to follow up on this issue.

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