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Briefing on the Political Situation in Libya

Tomorrow (8 February), Council members are expected to receive a briefing from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Martin Kobler, followed by consultations. The meeting will focus on efforts under way to reach an inclusive and sustainable political settlement in Libya.

Council members might be interested in getting Kobler’s perspective on the different initiatives and proposals to overcome the political deadlock, and whether UNSMIL is positioned to play a role in ensuring their coherence. In particular, they might inquire about the amendments that could be made to the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) to ensure that its basis of support is broadened.

One proposal that may be referred to is that of House Speaker Agila Saleh, which was forwarded to the Council in January (S/2017/65). Saleh advocated reducing the number of members of the Presidency Council from nine to three, restructuring its decision-making processes, reconsidering the composition of the State Council and amending article 8 of the LPA regarding the authority of the supreme commander of the armed forces. In late January, members of the Libyan Political Dialogue held a consultative meeting to discuss this proposal, but the delegation of the House of Representatives did not participate. After the meeting, the members of the Libyan Political Dialogue issued a communiqué identifying key challenges to the implementation of the LPA and agreeing on potential solutions to the issues contained in the proposal of the House.

The potential for enhanced political engagement by the Council might be an important part of the discussion. In his 1 December 2016 report, the Secretary-General suggested a review of the international community’s approach to the Libyan democratic transition process, should efforts to adopt a new constitution and establish democratically elected institutions within a reasonable timeframe fail. Although it renewed UNSMIL’s mandate in December, the Council has yet to have such a strategic discussion.

Council members include several key actors regarding Libya, such as Egypt and Italy, as well as the permanent members. On 21 January, Libya’s neighbors met in Egypt to discuss the situation and reiterate their support for a political solution. Following the meeting, Egypt announced that it intended to convene direct talks among the leaders of the Presidency Council, the House of Representatives and General Khalifa Haftar. Council members may be interested in any additional information about this initiative, including whether this might become a parallel track if not adequately coordinated with UN mediation efforts.

One issue that might be raised is how to address the increased tension and clashes among competing armed groups, such as the Libyan National Army (LNA), led by Haftar, and Misrata-based militias, nominally allied with the Presidency Council, that have followed the military successes against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and its affiliates (namely the takeover of Sirte in early December and the military offensive in Benghazi). Council members might ask Kobler about the mission’s efforts to defuse these tensions.

Another important issue that might be raised is the timeline for the strategic assessment review of the UN presence in Libya that is expected to be conducted early this year. In resolution 2323 of 13 December 2016, the Council expressed its readiness to review the mandate of the mission if needed in order to align it with political, security and operational realities on the ground.

The situation of migrants and refugees in Libya may also be raised at the meeting. On 13 December 2016, a report on human rights abuses against migrants in Libya jointly released by UNSMIL and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights concluded that the situation constituted a “human rights crisis”, with migrants subjected to arbitrary detention, torture, other ill-treatment, unlawful killings and sexual exploitation. The report recommended a number of measures for Libya, including releasing the most vulnerable migrants as a step towards urgently ending all arbitrary detentions, decriminalising irregular migration and adopting an asylum law. At a summit in Malta on 3 February, EU member states agreed on immediate operational measures aimed at reducing the population flow along the Central Mediterranean route. In a statement made today, Zainab Bangura, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, noted how migrants face sexual violence in official and unofficial detention centres, voiced increasing concern about the “systematic use of sexual violence” by ISIL in Libya and reiterated the recommendation of the Secretary-General that all countries give due consideration to recognising conflict-related sexual violence as a form of persecution that warrants refugee status.

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