Expected Council Action
In August, the Council is expected to receive a briefing from the new Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Ghassan Salamé. The chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Olof Skoog (Sweden), is also expected to brief the Council.
UNSMIL’s mandate expires on 15 September, and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee expires on 15 November 2018.
Key Recent Developments
The process aimed at reaching an inclusive and sustainable political settlement in Libya continues to be deadlocked. There is consensus on the need to amend some provisions of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA)—such as the structure and mandate of the Presidency Council and the authority of the supreme commander of the armed forces—but deep divisions remain as to how to do so. Briefing the Council on 7 June, Martin Kobler, then head of UNSMIL, described the unstable situation in Libya and underscored the difficulties created by the existence of parallel institutions. He reiterated that the House of Representatives has failed to endorse the Government of National Accord or adopt the amendment incorporating the LPA into the constitutional declaration. On 16 July, the head of the Presidency Council, Faiez Serraj, proposed a roadmap to hold parliamentary and presidential elections by March 2018, but on 18 July the speaker of the eastern-based House of Representatives, Agila Saleh, questioned this announcement, as well as the legitimacy of the Presidency Council. On 25 July, French President Emmanuel Macron convened a meeting of Serraj and the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Khalifa Haftar, with the participation of Salamé. In a joint declaration issued after the meeting, Serraj and Haftar committed to a ceasefire and to the holding of presidential and parliamentary elections as soon as possible. On 27 July Council members welcomed the meeting and the joint declaration.
The security situation continues to deteriorate. In Tripoli, militias nominally associated with the Presidency Council have clashed with rival armed groups supporting Khalifa Ghwell, the self-appointed prime minister of a Tripoli-based national salvation government. In the south and center of the country, clashes have continued between Misrata-based militias, the LNA, and tribal armed groups, who are competing for the control of strategic infrastructure amid ongoing tribal tensions. After a three-year military campaign, on 5 July Haftar declared the “liberation of Benghazi from terrorism” but fighting continues in some neighbourhoods. A continuing LNA offensive towards Tripoli constitutes a risk of further military escalation. (The LNA has repeatedly justified its operations, including against rival militias, as fighting terrorist groups.) Although Misrata-based militias took Sirte from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in late 2016, the presence of ISIL-associated groups and dormant cells in other areas of Libya persists.
The situation of migrants and refugees in Libya, which was characterised in December 2016 as a “human rights crisis” by UNSMIL and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, continues to be critical. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, as of mid-July more than 93,000 persons have fled to Italy in 2017 following the central Mediterranean Sea route. In the first half of the year, more than 2,200 refugees and migrants have died or gone missing trying to cross from Libya.
In other developments, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, whose extradition has been sought by the ICC, was set free by the Abu-Bakir al-Siddiq Brigade, a Zintan-based militia, in June. On 14 June, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda called on the Libyan authorities, the Security Council, state parties to the Rome Statute, and all other states to provide her office with any information regarding Gaddafi’s whereabouts. She stated that the arrest warrant issued against him in 2011 for crimes against humanity remains valid “regardless of any purported amnesty law”.
The Department of Political Affairs has recently concluded a strategic review of the UN’s role in Libya. The recommendations of this exercise, which included an independent evaluation, are expected to be shared with the Council. In December 2016, the Council indicated that it stands ready to review UNSMIL’s mandate if needed. On 28 June, militias opened fire on an UNSMIL convoy near Tripoli. Although there were no casualties, staff members were temporarily held by the militias.
In June, the Council adopted two resolutions related to the implementation of the sanctions regime. On 12 June, the Council adopted resolution 2357 renewing the authorisation for member states, acting nationally or through regional organisations, to inspect on the high seas off the coast of Libya vessels bound to or from Libya when there are reasonable grounds to believe that they are violating the arms embargo. It also renewed the authorisation for member states to seize and dispose of arms and ammunition found during the inspection of these vessels. Resolution 2357 will continue to be mostly implemented through the EU’s EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia.
On 29 June, the Council adopted resolution 2362 reviewing the sanctions regime and renewed the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee until 15 November 2018. The resolution added refined petroleum products to the commodities banned from illicit export from Libya (before it covered only crude oil). The resolution also added as a designation criterion for the travel ban and the assets freeze involvement in attacks against UN personnel, including members of the Panel of Experts. On 21 July, the 1970 Sanctions Committee listed a Tanzania-flagged vessel for transporting gasoil illicitly exported from Libya.
Human Rights-Related Developments
In a statement on 18 July, a spokesperson for the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern that people taken prisoner by members of the LNA after recent fighting in Benghazi “may be at imminent risk of torture and even summary execution”. This follows reports suggesting the involvement of the Special Forces, a unit aligned with the LNA, and in particular their field commander Mahmoud al-Werfalli, in torturing detainees and summarily executing at least ten captured men. While the LNA had announced in March that it would conduct investigations into alleged war crimes, the spokesperson noted that the LNA has not shared any information regarding the progress of these inquiries. The spokesperson urged the LNA to ensure that there is a “full, impartial investigation into these allegations” and also called on the group to suspend “al-Werfalli from his duties as a Special Forces field commander pending the conclusion of such an investigation”.
A continuing overarching issue is to ensure that the parties agree on a solution to end the political deadlock by addressing the issues raised by those refusing to support the LPA. Engaging military actors in this endeavour is a related issue.
Rebuilding trust among Libyans, underscoring the added value and relevance of UN mediation efforts, and pressing external actors to ensure the coherence of their mediation efforts are important issues for the political process.
A further issue in light of the complex situation in Tripoli and beyond is the safety and security of UN personnel if the plans for their return from Tunis to be based again in Libya are carried out.
Following the completion of the strategic review of the UN presence in Libya, the Council could discuss its conclusions and adopt a resolution prioritising a limited set of tasks that UNSMIL can realistically achieve to align the mission’s mandate with the political, security and operational realities on the ground.
Council members could also visit Libya and the region to hold discussions with the parties, including spoilers, and regional stakeholders to help overcome the political deadlock.
Council and Wider Dynamics
In response to the current stalemate, there seems to be consensus among Council members about the need to amend the LPA. Members, including the P5, generally support UNSMIL’s mediation. But so far, the Council has failed to set a clear direction to reach and support a political settlement. Given the involvement of regional actors with diverging priorities in Libya, the decision by several key countries (including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt) to break off diplomatic ties with Qatar in early June may affect the calculations of Libyan actors regarding their external support.
Several months of P5 divisions over the appointment of a new head for UNSMIL ended when Salamé was named on 22 June.
The UK is the penholder on Libya, and Sweden chairs the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON LIBYA
|Security Council Resolutions|
|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.|
|12 June 2017 S/RES/2357||This was a resolution which renewed for an additional year the measures contained in resolution 2292 on the arms embargo.|
|13 December 2016 S/RES/2323||This was a resolution extending UNSMIL’s mandate until 15 September 2017.|
|Security Council Letter|
|26 June 2017 S/2017/543||This was from the Chargé d’Affaires of the Permanent Mission of Libya to the UN, reiterating the request of the Presidency Council to allow for the reinvestment of frozen assets.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|7 June 2017 S/PV.7961||This was a briefing from Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNSMIL Martin Kobler, as well as the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee chair, Ambassador Olof Skoog (Sweden).|
|Sanctions Committee Documents|
|1 June 2017 S/2017/466||This was the final report of the Panel of Experts.|