What's In Blue

Posted Wed 15 Nov 2017

Briefing and Consultations on Libya and Briefing on Security Challenges in the Mediterranean Region

The situation in Libya and the security challenges in the Mediterranean region are expected to be the focus of two meetings at the end of the second week of Italy’s presidency (16 and 17 November). Both meetings are expected to be chaired by the Foreign Minister of Italy, Angelino Alfano.

The situation in Libya

On 16 November, the Council is expected to receive briefings from the Special Representative and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Ghassan Salamé, and from the chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Olof Skoog (Sweden). Salamé will provide an update on the implementation of the UN Action Plan for the resumption of an inclusive Libya-owned political process, which was endorsed by the Council in a 10 October presidential statement (S/PRST/2017/19). Although the meeting will be followed by consultations, Council members are likely to deliver statements in the open chamber.

Council members will be interested in hearing more about the meetings organised by Salamé in October with members of both the Tobruk-based House of Representatives and the Tripoli-based High Council of State. The goal of these meetings was to finalise amendments to the 2015 Libyan Political Agreement (LPA). While convergence started to emerge on some issues (including the separation of executive authority into a three-member Presidency Council and a ministerial cabinet), key issues remain outstanding. Chief among these is agreeing which office will hold the responsibility of supreme commander of the armed forces. Council members are likely to be interested in Salamé’s assessment of the stumbling blocks to reaching and implementing such agreement, as well as his plan to convene further meetings and table bridging proposals to try to move the negotiation process forward.

The UN Action Plan assumes that the LPA, with some amendments, will continue to provide the framework for the political process. However, Khalifa Haftar, the head of the so-called Libyan National Army, has repeatedly said in public that the transitional period outlined in the LPA will end in December, while threatening to take action to avoid an institutional vacuum. Council members might be interested in discussing with Salamé a joint approach and coherent messages in order to prevent escalation ahead of the perceived December deadline.

Council members are also expected to discuss the recent escalation of violence in Libya that has been marked by increased fighting among militias affiliated with various parties, including near Tripoli, and ongoing human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law. The LNA’s siege of Derna, which has included airstrikes, has resulted in the death of dozens of civilians.

Briefing the Council on 7 November, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda expressed concerns at the discovery in the town of al-Abyar, near Benghazi, of the bodies of 36 people who appear to have been tortured and executed. She reminded the Council of the responsibility of military commanders for crimes committed by those under their effective command and control, and stated that she would “not hesitate to bring new applications for warrants of arrest”.

Security Challenges in the Mediterranean Region

On Friday (17 November), Italy is planning to hold a briefing that is expected to explore the challenges to peace and security in the Mediterranean region. Secretary-General António Guterres is the anticipated briefer.

The meeting is expected to focus on the root causes of the security problems in the Mediterranean and to consider initiatives to promote regional stability. While the Council addresses some conflicts with impact on the region separately (Libya, Syria, and the Sahel), the objective of this meeting is to identify the spill-over effects of these conflicts more holistically. Among the issues that are expected to be discussed are the threat of terrorism and violent extremism, the destabilising role of illicit trafficking and transnational organised crime, the protection of minorities and cultural heritage, and the role of women and youth. The meeting is further expected to provide an opportunity to tackle the factors that lead to displacement, such as limited socio-economic development, the absence of state authority and accountable institutions, and the impact of climate change. In this sense, members may address the measures that can be taken by the international community to manage the tensions caused by complex migration-related issues.

While discussing the security challenges in the Mediterranean region, Council members may stress the importance of upholding human rights and international refugee law. On 14 November, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, characterised the suffering of migrants detained in Libya as “an outrage to the conscience of humanity”. He criticised the international community for turning a blind eye to the horrors endured by migrants in Libya “and pretend[ing] that the situation can be remedied only by improving conditions in detention”.