Expected Council Action
In October, the Council is expected to renew the authorisation for member states 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.
The mandate of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) expires on 15 September 2019, and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee expires on 15 November.
Key Recent Developments
On 13 September, the Council adopted resolution 2434, renewing the mandate of UNSMIL until 15 September 2019 without altering the core of its mandate.
According to UNHCR, the number of arrivals by sea to Italy via the Central Mediterranean route between January and July 2018 was 18,500, representing a sharp decline in comparison to 95,200 in the same timeframe in 2017. The proportion of deaths increased, however: 1,095 persons died on this journey between January and July, representing approximately one in 18 people trying to reach Italy, in contrast to 2,276 between January and July in 2017, representing roughly one in 42 people. The latest report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of resolution 2380 on the smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons via the Mediterranean Sea notes that the humanitarian and human rights situation of refugees and migrants remains dire, with the prospect of worsening. The number of people held in detention is increasing due to a higher number of interceptions at sea and the growing closure of the Mediterranean Sea.
At a 5 September briefing on the latest developments in Libya, Special Representative and head of UNSMIL Ghassan Salamé said that “abuse and exploitation abound within prisons and detention centres”, adding that UNSMIL continues to have great difficulty accessing those locations. Human rights abuses in Libya, countries of destination, and at sea include trafficking, arbitrary detention, torture, forced labour and sexual abuse. In the report, the Secretary-General welcomes support to Libya to combat the smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons but stresses that such support and all actors involved, including the Libyan coast guard and navy, need to comply with human rights obligations. The report also calls upon states to refrain from handing over individuals to state or non-state actors if there is a known risk that they will face human rights violations by those actors. Furthermore, it also calls upon states not to return to Libya third-country nationals intercepted at sea. According to estimates by the EU military operation in the Southern Central Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR MED operation SOPHIA) about 29,785 persons were rescued by various vessels in the central Mediterranean Sea between October 2017 and 31 July 2018, which constitutes a substantial reduction from the corresponding previous reporting period from 2016 to 2017.
The security situation in Libya remains highly volatile, aggravating the precarious situation of migrants and refugees. During recent heavy clashes between armed groups in Tripoli, UNHCR had to relocate people from detention centres that came under fire. With the support of UNSMIL, a ceasefire agreement was reached on 4 September. A Ceasefire Consolidation Agreement was signed on 9 September. On 10 September, the headquarters of the National Oil Cooperation was attacked, and on 11 September, Matiga airport in Tripoli was attacked. At press time, the ceasefire agreement continued to be violated.
At press time, the UN’s 2018 humanitarian response plan for Libya of $312.7 million was funded at 23.5 percent, with $239.2 million outstanding.
On 11 September, the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee designated Ibrahim Jadhran, who led attacks in the oil crescent in June, for sanctions in the form of a travel ban and asset freeze.
Human Rights-Related Developments
In a statement on 4 September, a spokesperson for the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern over the outbreak of violence in Tripoli that began on 26 August, in which at least 21 civilians were killed, including two women and two children, with a further 16 injured. According to the statement, the parties to the conflict have been firing indiscriminately and using weapons with wide-area effects—including rockets, tank shells and artillery—in densely populated residential areas. The spokesperson called on all parties to put an end to indiscriminate attacks and to take all feasible precautions to spare civilians and civilian objects. During its 39th session, the Human Rights Council received an oral update from the High Commissioner for Human Rights on 26 September and held an interactive dialogue on Libya.
Key Issues and Options
The key issue for the Council in October is to adopt a resolution renewing the authorisation for member states to inspect vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya when there are reasonable grounds to suspect that these are being used for migrant smuggling or human trafficking.
Regarding the violence in Tripoli, the Council could issue a press statement urging the parties to adhere to the ceasefire agreements. Key actors involved in the fighting could be considered for designation by the sanctions committee for targeted sanctions.
Members are aware that international cooperation to combat the smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons needs to be strengthened. The last two years have seen few changes to the authorisation, which made the negotiations less contentious. In case the penholder will opt for that approach again, this may also be the case this year.
The UK is the penholder on Libya, and Sweden chairs the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee.
UN Documents on Libya
|Security Council Resolutions|
|13 September 2018 S/RES/2434||This was the resolution extending UNSMIL’s mandate until 15 September 2019.|
|11 June 2018 S/RES/2420||This was 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 bound to or from the country that they have reasonable grounds to believe are violating the arms embargo.|
|5 October 2017 S/RES/2380||This renewed the authorisation for member states 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.|
|29 June 2017 S/RES/2362||This was a resolution renewing the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee and the measures regarding attempts to illicitly export oil from Libya.|
|26 February 2011 S/RES/1970||This resolution referred the situation in Libya to the ICC, imposed an arms embargo and targeted sanctions (assets freeze and travel ban) and established a sanctions committee.|
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|6 June 2018 S/PRST/2018/11||This was a presidential statement welcoming the momentum generated by the international conference on Libya in Paris.|
|31 August 2018 S/2018/807||This was the Secretary-General’s report on migrants and trafficking in persons in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya and inspection and seizure of vessels off the coast of Libya.|
|24 August 2018 S/2018/780||This was a report on UNSMIL.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|5 September 2018 S/PV.8341||This was a briefing by the Special Representative and head of UNSMIL, Ghassan Salamé, and Ambassador Olof Skoog (Sweden), chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee|
|9 May 2018 S/PV.8250||This was the semi-annual briefing by ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on recent developments concerning cases in Libya.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|6 September 2018 SC/13490||Council members condemned the violence in Tripoli and welcomed the result of the mediation reached on 4 September by UNSMIL.|
|Sanctions Committee Documents|
|11 September 2018 SC/13497||This was a press release regarding the adding of one individual to the sanctions list.|
|5 September 2018 S/2018/812||This was the final report of the Panel of Experts.|