28 November 2011
Security Council

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6669th Meeting (PM)

Libyans Demonstrating Great Initiative, Responsibility in Post-Conflict Context

‘Very Different from Any Other’, Top Envoy Tells Security Council in Briefing

Just one month since the end of serious fighting, the Libyans had shown great initiative and responsibility in a post-conflict context “very different from any other”, the top United Nations representative for Libya told the Security Council today.

Presenting the Secretary-General’s report on the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Ian Martin, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya and Head of the Mission, said security was the overwhelming challenge.  Others included disarmament and non-proliferation, alongside national reconciliation, addressing a legacy of human rights violations and the detention of nationals, and preparations for the coming elections next year.

However, he was confident about the enthusiasm shown by the interim Government, formed by the Prime Minister it had elected, Dr. Abdurrahim el-Keib, and approved last week by the National Transitional Council.  Beyond progress reflected in the Secretary-General’s report on UNSMIL (document S/2011/727) on the path to election preparations, he said the National Transitional Council on 20 November had appointed an eight-member committee to study requirements.

The “multifaceted” security challenge was already being parcelled out to various government ministries, he noted.  Determining the future of revolutionary fighters was fundamental to security in the short and longer term, and the Minister of Defence had been tasked with shaping a new army, integrating former revolutionaries and new civilian-formed “brigades”, while managing tensions between them, he said.

He said that the Minister of the Interior had planned to stem, by a number of measures, recent security incidents involving brigades, including absorbing numbers into national forces and a request for United Nations support for training.  UNSMIL was also prepared to assist the Commission on Warriors’ Affairs to identify educational and job opportunities for those not integrated into security forces.  “It is through finding futures for fighters that the weapons which have been in their hands can be brought under control,” he said.

The Secretary-General’s report recommended a three-month extension of the Mission in part to help with those endeavours.  The report was also particularly concerned about existing and newly discovered stockpiles of chemical weapons and man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS).  Libya had accumulated the largest known MANPADS stockpile outside those countries that produce them and there were increasing risks about the looting and likely proliferation of those portable defence systems, the report stated.

The extensive contamination of areas from landmines and explosive remnants of war also continued to pose a serious threat to the civilian population and to humanitarian workers.  Unsecured ammunition storage areas damaged by North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) bombings and internal fighting were another pressing problem, the report stated.

Mr. Martin said the Libyan Government had recognized its responsibilities in that area and the Prime Minister had expressed his country’s willingness to cooperate with international assistance.  In recent weeks, the Ministry of Defence, with support from bilateral partners, had identified, secured, stored and, where appropriate, disabled MANPADS, about which no verifiable information on the number and location was available.

The scenario surrounding chemical weapons and nuclear materials was more positive, he said, with the Secretary-General’s report recording a satisfactory visit by inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and a planned visit by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards inspectors next month.  There was no doubt about the new Government’s “sense of urgency” to tackle its security-sector tasks, nor about its desire for United Nations support and coordination of international actors.

What was urgently needed was “liquid funds”, Mr. Martin said, pointing out the cruel and “inflammatory” irony that Libya’s great national wealth contrasted sharply with the inability of citizens to draw fully from their own bank accounts.  That was happening at a time when a new Government needed to deliver but also to manage expectations.  For instance, while the Joint Mine Action Coordination Team continued clearing areas, there was a critical need to expand those activities and an even greater need for donor resources to do so, he said.

Noting the popular demand that Libya had a right to resume control of its assets, he hoped the Security Council, the main asset-holding countries and the Libyan authorities could speedily agree on a coordinated approach to those issues.  “The stabilization of the country, the success of the Government and the perception of the international community are all at stake,” he said.

National reconciliation and the legacy of human rights violations also needed to be addressed, he said.  A national meeting on reconciliation was planned for December, and there was a “strong desire” in Libya that prominent figures of the Qadhafi regime should be put on trial.

He urged the Ministers of Interior and Defence to give high priority to addressing swiftly the concerns regarding detention set out in the Secretary-General’s report.  A meeting with the new Minister of Justice today had already indicated a “difference from the attitudes of the past regime”.  The new Minister had welcomed public criticism as “strengthening his hand in tackling the issues”, he said.  However, priority for effective action concerning the detention of foreigners must be addressed urgently.

The meeting began at 3:13 p.m. and ended at 3:32 p.m.


As the Security Council considered the situation in Libya, it had before it the Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (document S/2011/727), which reviews the latest political and security developments in the country and the activities of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) since adoption of resolution 2009 (2011) on 16 September.  It provides an overview of the humanitarian situation and assesses the continuing challenges facing Libya as it undergoes a historic transition.

It also lays out the Secretary-General’s recommendation for a three-month extension of the mandate of UNSMIL, as the prolongation of the conflict has delayed the formation of the interim Government and as UNSMIL has been able, within its three-month initial deployment, to undertake significant preparations within the areas of its mandate.  Such an extension, he says, would enable him to propose to the Security Council adjustments reflecting the wishes of the interim Government concerning future United Nations support.

The report finds that the declaration of liberation by the National Transitional Council of Libya on 23 October in Benghazi signalled the end of armed hostilities in the country.  The fall of Sirte and the death of Muammar al-Qadhafi in 20 October came three days after Council forces announced the capture of the town centre Bani Walid.  The declaration set the country on a path to national reconciliation and the building of a modern nation-State, based on the principles embraced by the revolution:  democracy; human rights; the rule of law; accountability; respect for minority rights; women’s empowerment; and the promotion of civil society.  On 27 October, by its resolution 1973 (2011), the Council terminated the no-fly zone.

With the declaration of liberation, the clock has started running on commitments made by the National Transitional Council in its Constitutional Declaration of 3 August, the report says.  That Declaration stipulated among other things that an interim Government would be established within 30 days, adopt electoral legislation within a 90-day period and hold elections for a national congress within 240 days.  On 31 October, having relocated to Tripoli, the National Transitional Council announced the appointment of Abdurrahim el-Keib as the country’s new interim Prime Minister.  Mr. El-Keib stated that he expected to form his Government within two weeks.

To address security challenges, among others, from armed revolutionary “brigades” and pro-Qadhafi elements, the new authorities brought the responsibility for security in Tripoli under the umbrella of a Supreme Security Committee, the report says.  On 24 October, that Committee presided over a ceremony at which a number of brigades from Misrata handed over 500 light arms to the Ministry of the Interior.  On 29 October, a commission was created to reintegrate fighters, provide support to the wounded and the families of martyrs and develop plans for the collection of weapons.

The report further describes UNSMIL’s activities regarding:  electoral support; human rights, transitional justice and rule of law; public security; economic recovery and coordination of international assistance; and public information and outreach.

Of particular concern, according to the report, are existing and newly discovered stockpiles of chemical weapons and man-portable surface–to-air missiles.  The National Transitional Council forces appear to be controlling all relevant chemical and nuclear material sites.  The primary concern of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is to account for nuclear material used for commercial and medical purposes.  Regarding stocks of uranium fissile material (“yellow cake”), IAEA noted that they did not pose a major proliferation concern.

Libya has accumulated the largest known stockpile of man-portable defence systems outside those countries that produce them.  There are increasing risks about the looting and likely proliferation of those portable defence systems.  The extensive contamination of areas from landmines and explosive remnants of war continues to pose a serious threat to the civilian population and to humanitarian workers.  Unsecured ammunition storage areas damaged by North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) bombings and internal fighting were another pressing problem.

The Secretary-General, describing his first visit to the “new Libya” on 2 November, says he was “deeply shocked” by his visit to an agricultural warehouse in Tripoli, where the Qadhafi regime had detained civilians in inhuman conditions, subjected some to torture, and massacred as many as they could and burned their bodies.  The international community must support the efforts to establish the fate of missing persons and to bring to justice the perpetrators with the greatest responsibility for those crimes.

The challenge of national reconciliation is of overwhelming importance, the Secretary-General states.  However deep the anger at the war crimes committed by the former regime, the National Transitional Council must continue its calls to avoid acts of revenge and must investigate abuses by its own fighters.  It is also essential to take the earliest possible action to end arbitrary detention and prevent abuses and discrimination against third-country nationals and against any group of Libya’s own citizens.

The Secretary-General notes that the National Transitional Council and civil society are looking to the United Nations to support the country’s electoral path to a democratic State.  UNSMIL has consistently conveyed the message that the elections constitute a Libyan-led process and that the Libyans themselves must agree on the electoral system.  The United Nations can provide assistance and support in line with its mandate.

Emphasizing the need for the international community to approach Libya with full respect for the importance of Libyan ownership and for its own capabilities, the Secretary-General stresses that the Organization and the international community must remain measured and coordinated in their engagement with the Libyan authorities, following closely their sense of immediate priorities and taking care to avoid imposing overambitious expectations or longer-term programmes.

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For information media • not an official record