What's In Blue

Posted Thu 1 Oct 2020

Libya: Adoption of a Resolution*

Tomorrow morning (2 October), the Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution renewing the authorisation for member states, acting nationally or through regional organisations, to inspect vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya that they have reasonable grounds to suspect are being used for migrant smuggling or human trafficking, which is set to expire on 3 October. The mandate, which was initially established by resolution 2240 of 9 October 2015, also authorises member states to seize vessels if there is confirmation that they are being used for migrant smuggling or human trafficking from Libya. Germany was the penholder on the current draft resolution.

For background on the issue, please read our October 2020 Monthly Forecast brief on Libya.

It seems that Germany shared a first draft of the resolution with all Council members on 18 September and one meeting on the text took place on 21 September, with further negotiations taking place via email. The meeting on 21 September started with a representative of the EU delegation answering members’ questions about the EU’s military operation in the Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR MED IRINI). Members were then invited to submit comments on the text. A draft was put under silence on 28 September until the next day. Silence was broken by Niger. Following additional exchanges, a text was put in blue on 30 September. However, Niger raised objections, arguing that its points had not been appropriately addressed. It seems that the penholder was able to reach a compromise and a final text is now in blue.

Germany apparently intended this year’s resolution to be a continuation of the existing mandate, as has been the case in the past three years. Not opening the text up for substantive discussions had made the negotiations less divisive than the initial negotiations in 2015. Issues around flag state consent and the authorisation to use force were sources of contention at the time. The draft resolution in blue therefore does not change the provisions of the authorisation.

Through operation Irini, the EU is the only regional organisation implementing the authorisation given by the Council. Launched on 1 April as the follow-on mission to EUNAVFOR MED SOPHIA, its primary task is the implementation of the arms embargo, a secondary task being to disrupt “the business model of human smuggling and trafficking networks”. Its naval assets are currently only employed for the implementation of its primary task. Last year’s resolution 2491 of 3 October had established a biannual reporting cycle from the Secretary-General. This change was made in an apparent compromise with China and Russia, who had expressed concerns over the suspension of the EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia’s deployment of naval assets. The draft in blue reverts back to an annual report requirement.

The zero draft resolution had also especially welcomed the deployment of Operation Irini. It seems that this was not agreeable to Russia. As a compromise, the draft in blue takes note of the deployment.

It seems that Niger had suggested adding a specific reference in the operative part of the draft to the latest Secretary-General’s report on this issue, reiterating in its observations that under international law, Libya is neither a safe port of disembarkation nor of return. The initial draft circulated by Germany welcomes the report. When Germany put the draft in blue, it seemed that consensus was reached among members on a formulation welcoming the report and its observations. Niger, however, raised objections, arguing that consensus had not been found, and suggested another amendment that would include its proposed language in the preambular part of the resolution. The proposal found support from China, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and South Africa. After further efforts by the penholder and a short silence procedure today, the final version of the draft now welcomes the Secretary-General’s report, “including its observations on the plight of migrants and refugees in Libya”.


*Post-script (added 16 February):  On 2 October, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2546, renewing for 12 months the authorisation for member states, acting nationally or through regional organisations, to inspect vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya.