What's In Blue

Posted Tue 23 Nov 2021

Libya: Briefing and Consultations*

Tomorrow (24 November), the Security Council will convene for an open briefing, followed by closed consultations, on the situation in Libya. Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Libya and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) Ján Kubiš will brief. The chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, Ambassador T.S. Tirumurti (India), is expected to present the periodic report on the committee’s activities. A woman civil society representative is also scheduled to brief the Council.

Kubiš is expected to provide an overview of preparations for upcoming elections in Libya and diplomatic efforts aimed at supporting the peace process. He may note that Libya continues to be the focus of significant international attention. In a letter dated 16 November, Council member France, Germany, Italy and Libya submitted to the Council the Declaration of the Paris International Conference on Libya, convened by France on 12 November. The permanent five Council members participated, joined by 19 other countries, including neighbouring and regional states and other states that participated in the Berlin process. Representatives of the League of Arab States, the AU, the EU, and the Executive Secretariat of the Group of Five for the Sahel also took part in the meeting.

The declaration called for the holding of “free, fair, inclusive and credible presidential and parliamentary elections on 24 December” and the implementation of the 23 October 2020 ceasefire agreement. In this regard, it emphasised the need to implement the “Action Plan for the withdrawal of mercenaries, foreign fighters and foreign forces from the Libyan territory” agreed by the 5+5 Joint Military Commission (JMC) on 8 October. The JMC is entrusted with overseeing the security aspects of the Libyan peace process and is comprised of five representatives, each from the former Government of National Accord (GNA) and from the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF, also known as the Libyan National Army, or LNA). On 30 October, the 5+5 JMC and representatives from Chad, Niger and Sudan convened a three-day conference in Cairo. Participants agreed on a communication and coordination mechanism between Libya and participating neighbouring countries to oversee the withdrawal of mercenaries and foreign fighters.

The successful holding of the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections is a key concern of Council members. The timing of the parliamentary elections has been contested: the political roadmap adopted by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF)—an assembly consisting of 75 participants representing the main Libyan geographical, social and political constituencies responsible for charting the way towards elections—stipulated that both parliamentary and presidential elections should take place on 24 December. However, the electoral law issued by the House of Representatives stipulated that the parliamentary polls will take place 30 days after the presidential polls, moving the date to January.

The constitutional basis for the elections has yet to be agreed upon. In addition, the eastern-based House of Representatives passed an electoral law without consulting the western-based High Council of State that apparently created favourable conditions for former Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF, also known as the Libyan National Army, or LNA) General Khalifa Haftar to run. The High Council of State rejected the law.

Over 90 Libyans have reportedly registered to run for president. According to media reports, they include Aguila Saleh, the speaker of the eastern-based House of Representatives, and Fathi Bashagha, the former Interior Minister of the Government of National Accord. For the first time, two female candidates registered for the presidential polls: Leila bin Khalifa, a civil activist and former administrative officer at a human rights organisation, and Hunayda al-Mahdi, a social sciences researcher. The Libyan High National Commission for Elections is likely to publish a final list of candidates after evaluating applications against eligibility criteria.

Several candidates running for the presidency are controversial. They include Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, who is the son of the deposed former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and is sought by the ICC for two counts of alleged crimes against humanity. Others are General Haftar, who stepped down from his military office to run in the presidential race, and current Prime Minister of the Government of National Unity (GNU) Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah, who had vowed not to run when taking on his current interim role.

The Council met today (23 November) to receive a briefing by ICC prosecutor Karim Khan on the status of open investigations regarding the situation in Libya. (In resolution 1970 of 26 February 2011, the Council referred the situation in Libya to the ICC, and the court updates the Council regularly on its investigations into crimes committed in Libya since 15 February 2011.) Upon assuming office on 16 June, Khan recused himself from all proceedings regarding Gaddafi’s case due to a possible conflict of interest. Khan used to represent Gaddafi as legal counsel and therefore has delegated the investigation into Gaddafi’s case to his deputy. During today’s meeting, Khan referred to his office’s ongoing investigation into the 2019 attacks on Tripoli, the Tarhouna mass graves, and the situation in detention facilities across Libya.

The Security Council appears intent on signalling its support for Libya’s electoral and peace processes. At the time of writing, Council members were considering a presidential statement, which may be adopted during tomorrow’s meeting. If adopted, the statement is likely to welcome the Paris Declaration and the 5+5 JMC action plan, and express support for the holding of both the presidential and parliamentary elections on 24 December, among other key messages.

During their interventions, some Council members are likely to underline their view that the parliamentary and presidential elections should both take place on 24 December. The Council has repeatedly endorsed the 24 December date for both elections, and this view has been echoed by UNSMIL. In a 30 October press release, the mission called for “the holding of free, fair, inclusive, and credible parliamentary and presidential elections simultaneously on 24 December”. It also called for the removal of restrictions to participation in the elections to allow Libyans who hold public positions to participate.

As mercenaries and foreign fighters are still present in the country, many speakers at tomorrow’s meeting will likely stress the importance of supporting the 5+5 JMC action plan and the 23 October 2020 ceasefire agreement. In this regard, members may reiterate their call for the immediate withdrawal of mercenaries. They may also be interested in hearing an update on the status of the action plan’s implementation.

Several Council members are likely to express concern for the situation of refugees and migrants. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has reported that over 75 migrants drowned on 17 November while attempting to cross the Mediterranean. A 19 November UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) update noted that in 2021 a total of 29,427 asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants were reported as rescued or intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard.

The question of UNSMIL’s leadership may be a topic of discussion in the closed consultations. On 23 November, Kubiš tendered his resignation as Special Envoy on Libya and head of UNSMIL. At the time of writing, the reasons for his resignation, the timing of his departure, and his succession remain unclear.

*Post-script: On 24 November, the Security Council adopted a presidential statement (S/PRST/2021/24), welcoming the Paris International Conference and the Libya Stabilisation conference. In the statement, the Council expressed support for the parliamentary and presidential elections set to take place on 24 December, underlined the importance of an inclusive and consultative electoral process and urged Libyan stakeholders to commit to accepting the election results. The presidential statement also emphasised the importance of implementing the 23 October 2020 ceasefire agreement.

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