Resolution on Chemical Weapons in Libya and Consultations on the Political Process and Counter-Terrorism Efforts
Tomorrow (22 July), the Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution authorising the transfer of chemical weapons outside of Libya in order to destroy them. Following the adoption, Council members are expected to meet in consultations to discuss developments in the political process and the challenges to the effectiveness of the Presidency Council in Libya. Council members are also expected to discuss the threat posed to Libya and neighbouring countries by foreign terrorist fighters recruited by or joining the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Al-Qaida.
At the request of the Libyan National Authority for the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the Council is expected to adopt a resolution authorising member states to acquire, control, transport, transfer and destroy Category 2 chemical weapons outside of Libyan territory with the assistance of the secretariat and member states of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). On 20 July, the Executive Council of the OPCW adopted a decision requesting its Director-General to assist Libya in developing a plan for the destruction of those chemical weapons. The risk of the chemical weapons falling into the hands of terrorist groups, given the security situation in the country, appears to have prompted the quick adoption. The draft resolution was only circulated to all Security Council members by the UK on Tuesday evening (following agreement among the P5), with just one discussion yesterday. After passing through a twice-extended silence procedure, it was put in blue earlier today.
In view of the time constraints and the technical content of the draft, it seems that there was little opportunity for elected members to provide their inputs. Since the Convention bans the acquisition and transfer of chemical weapons under any circumstances, the draft provides Libya with a legal basis to transfer them to another state for their destruction. It seems that at least one Council member questioned whether the resolution needed to be under Chapter VII, and the explanation given was that it would make clear that the resolution overrides the Convention’s prohibition of transfer and acquisition. The draft also requests the Director-General of the OPCW to report to the Security Council, through the UN Secretary-General, on the implementation of the OPCW Executive Council decision and of this resolution on a regular basis, until the destruction of the remaining chemical weapons is complete and verified.
Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya, is expected to brief Council members on developments in the political process, including the challenges that the Presidency Council of the Government of National Accord (GNA) is facing. The lack of endorsement of the GNA by the House of Representatives continues to hamper the political situation in Libya. So far, the House has failed to hold a vote on a list of candidates to become ministers of the GNA, submitted on 15 February by the Presidency Council. Four members of this list (from eastern Libya) refused to take up their responsibilities as ministers without House endorsement and resigned on 1 July. Council members might inquire about the political significance of this move and Kobler’s efforts to broaden the basis of support to the GNA and the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA), and to prevent the parties from growing further apart.
Council members might be interested in hearing Kobler’s assessment of the latest round of the Libyan Political Dialogue, the group of Libyan stakeholders who negotiated the LPA, held on 16-18 July in Tunis. The meeting included a discussion with the Presidency Council on the difficulties it faces in the performance of its duties. In a statement following the meeting, participants in the Political Dialogue decided to hold regular meetings to follow up on the steps taken by the Presidency Council to provide for the delivery of basic services, implement the security arrangements contained in the LPA, resume production and export of oil, and bring on board the two members boycotting the Presidency Council on the grounds of its insufficient inclusiveness (Ali Faraj al-Qatrani and Omar al-Aswad). Council members might be interested in discussing with Kobler how the Presidency Council can become more effective in delivering basic services and showing its added value to the Libyan people both in and beyond Tripoli. Council members are likely to negotiate a press statement following the briefing.
The permanent representative of Libya to the UN, Ibrahim O. Dabbashi, who had recently expressed his support to the Presidency Council of the GNA, forwarded on 11 July a letter from House speaker Agila Saleh Gwaider to the Security Council (S/2016/605). The letter stated that all decisions issued by the Presidency Council “are considered null and void and without any effect” until the adoption of the LPA by the House and its formal inclusion in the Constitutional Declaration. Some Council members may want to discuss if this is a sign of more general weakening of support for the GNA.
In Resolution 2292 of 14 June, the Council requested the Secretary-General, following a demand by Egypt, to produce a report assessing the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters recruited by or joining ISIL in Libya and the region. On 18 July, the Secretary-General circulated a report highlighting the continuing challenges in tackling this phenomenon (S/2016/627). In addition to the poor implementation of the LPA and outstanding political divisions, which hinder progress on key areas such as security sector reform and the extension of state authority throughout the territory, the report outlines how success against ISIL has resulted in increasing tensions among competing armed groups (including, among others, the Libyan National Army led by Khalifa Haftar and the Al-Bunyan Al-Marsous militia from Misrata). ISIL continues to exploit the vacuum and political divisions to assert control over a 250-kilometre stretch of a coastal area in central Libya. Following the losses sustained in Sirte and Benghazi, the south (including to the Sahel) and west (including to Tunisia) remain obvious escape routes for foreign terrorist fighters. Council members might be interested in the impact that the current counter-terrorist operations, conducted by different armed groups with external support, may have in the power dynamics on the ground and the efforts to bring on board the different parties within the framework of the LPA. (For some time, most Council members considered, at least nominally, the formation of the GNA as a prerequisite for counter-terrorism assistance.)
The report also highlights how Libya’s legal system has failed to incorporate legal obligations under resolutions 1373, 1624 and 2178 (on the financing of terrorism, incitement to commit terrorist acts and foreign terrorist fighters, respectively) in its domestic legislation. Furthermore, the near collapse of the criminal justice system has resulted in very few investigations and prosecutions, failing to ensure accountability for the victims and often failing to protect the rights of those prosecuted. The report also outlines the challenges regarding the return of foreign terrorist fighters to neighbouring countries, including regarding their prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration.