What's In Blue

Libya Sanctions: Discussion under “Any Other Business”

Tomorrow (25 September), following consultations on the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), members of the Security Council are expected to discuss the question of whether the interim reports of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee should be made public. Germany, whose Deputy Permanent Representative Günther Sautter chairs the sanctions committee, had requested the item under “Any Other Business”.

The Libya Sanctions Committee is a subsidiary body of the Council; all members of the Council are also members of the sanctions committee. As is the case with all sanctions committees, decisions are made by consensus. According to the provisional guidelines of the committee, the chair can conduct or support bilateral negotiations “if consensus cannot be reached on a particular issue”. If that, too, is to no avail, the issue can be brought to Council level.

Resolution 2509 of 11 February on Libya sanctions extended the mandate of the Panel of Experts until 15 May 2021. The Council further decided “that the Panel shall provide to the Council an interim report on its work no later than 15 September 2020, and a final report to the Council, after discussion with the Committee, no later than 15 March 2021 with its findings and recommendations”. Similar provisions can be found in every past resolution renewing the mandate of the experts. The Council does not specify whether these reports will be for the information of Council members only or are to be made public. In practice, since the establishment of the panel in resolution 1973 on 17 March 2011, the final reports have been published (usually omitting parts of the annexes) and the interim reports and other updates have been kept confidential.

Confidential reports have regularly been leaked to the press, however, as a whole or in parts. By way of example, one report by the Panel of Experts focusing on the issue of mercenaries was leaked to the press in early May. The report, according to the media, says that the Russian private military company Wagner had deployed around 1,200 mercenaries to Libya, starting in 2018, in support of General Khalifa Haftar who leads the Libyan National Army (LNA), Libya’s largest militia. The Kremlin denies ties to the Wagner Group, against accusations to the contrary by various sources. The report further notes the recruitment of Syrian fighters by Turkey, the largest military backer of the Libyan Government of National Accord. The panel also cites their ongoing investigation into the recruitment of Syrian fighters by Russia to serve the LNA, which is opposing the government.

It seems that primarily Russia, but also China, are outspoken about the fact that they prefer to see the interim reports kept confidential. Russia apparently has been increasingly critical of the work of the Panel of Experts, arguing that their information is unfounded and should therefore not be made public. Other members of the Council seem to be strongly in favour of publishing the interim reports, citing increased transparency of the work of the committee and the public’s apparent interest, as reflected in the press reports. Following attempts to obtain agreement, the lack of unanimity in the committee prompted the chair to bring the matter to the Council.

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