|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
However Deep Libyan Anger at War Crimes Committed by Former Regime, Interim
Government Must Persist to Prevent Acts of Revenge, Secretary-General Says
Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks today to an informal meeting of the General Assembly on his visit last week to Libya:
As the President of the General Assembly President has just briefed, last week I visited Libya together with the President of the General Assembly to congratulate the Libyan people on their liberation.
We went to affirm the commitment of the United Nations to assisting Libya’s transition to democracy. We met with the Chairman of Libya’s National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, and key members of the National Transitional Council, and addressed a full gathering of the Council.
We congratulated the National Transitional Council on the transparent manner in which it had elected Dr. Abdurrahim el-Keib as Prime Minister. We discussed the formation of the interim government under his leadership. We emphasized that it should be inclusive and possess the expertise to deliver in key sectors — public services, economic management and security.
We assured everyone of the commitment of the United Nations to assist, as requested, in holding elections. We also affirmed our commitment to assisting in efforts to promote transitional justice and national reconciliation, and to ensure public security, respect for human rights and the rule of law. I urged the National Transitional Council to enhance the participation of women in public life, and to consult with civil society.
I also met with civil society representatives, half of them women, and some young people. I acknowledged their critical role in the success of the revolution. I was deeply impressed with their commitment to democracy, human rights, the rule of law, accountability, respect for minority rights, and empowering women and youth.
About empowering women, I confronted Chairman Jalil when we were having a joint session with the 40 members of the NTC. I saw only one woman. So, I told him that it was not acceptable and he promised us that, next time, he will appoint more women in the National Transitional Council. Again, I encouraged them to stand up for these principles, but to also exercise some flexibility and patience when expectations cannot be met as rapidly as they hope.
My visit to Libya also included the Salahuddin Warehouse site on the outskirts of Tripoli. Here, elements of the Qadhafi regime had detained about 150 civilians in inhuman conditions. They had subjected some to torture. They had massacred by hand grenade and machine guns in the last days. They killed as many as they could and burned their bodies. It was a most terrible experience for both of us to be there [at the site of the incident]. Many human remains were burned beyond DNA identification.
The President of the General Assembly and I heard directly from some survivors, and spoke with family members hoping to discover the remains of loved ones. We were escorted by the acting chairperson of the National Commission for Searching for and Identification of Missing Persons, established by the National Transitional Council. Its efforts deserve the full support of the international community.
I was also pleased to meet with United Nations staff and pay tribute, especially, to the national staff who endured great danger, suffering and hardship as they continued their work for the Organization during the months of conflict. I was pleased to see UNSMIL [United Nations Support Mission in Libya] already established on the ground less than seven weeks after it was mandated. Substantive experts have been deployed in priority areas — electoral support, human rights, transitional justice, rule of law and police. Mission support staff is working hard to establish UNSMIL headquarters. I thanked the National Transitional Council for its allocation of a suitable compound to UNSMIL, and I look forward to the formalization of the Status of Mission Agreement by the interim government.
The task ahead for Libya, and for the United Nations in supporting Libya, is extremely challenging. The need for national reconciliation is of overwhelming importance. It must be founded on justice, and there should be accountability for those with the greatest responsibility for human rights crimes under the Qadhafi regime. This includes the decades before, as well as during, the conflict. However deep the anger at war crimes committed by the former regime, the National Transitional Council must persist in its calls to prevent acts of revenge. It must also investigate allegations of abuses by its own fighters.
While in Libya, I welcomed the announcement of an investigation into the killings of Muammar Qadhafi, his son and the former Defence Minister. I have been encouraged by reports that the humanitarian situation has stabilized quickly in most parts of the country. But there are still humanitarian and protection concerns in and around areas where fighting only recently came to an end, notably Bani Walid and Sirte.
My discussions in Tripoli convinced me that the leaders of the new Libya are committed to building a society based on respect for human rights. I stressed that achieving this requires ending arbitrary detention and preventing abuses and discrimination against third-country nationals and any group of Libya’s own citizens.
The revolutionary fighters, many of them young people, have earned great respect. Reintegrating these fighters into normal civilian life, building a professional police force and a national army, and bringing weapons under control will be a major challenge.
I was pleased to hear that the authorities are in control of all relevant chemical and nuclear materiel sites and have already invited cooperation to address their securing and disposal. At the same time, I expressed concern about the proliferation and illicit transfer across borders of other weapons and ammunition, including shoulder-fired missiles. The interim government will need continued assistance in this task. Both Libya and its neighbours will require help in managing their borders and the flows of weapons and people. The United Nations will work closely with the African Union and other regional bodies to assist Libya’s neighbours and the Libyan Government to address these concerns, including through enhanced information-sharing and border controls.
Elections for a National Congress will be a milestone. Electoral assistance is foremost among the tasks for which the National Transitional Council and Libyan civil society are looking to the United Nations. I assured all interlocutors that we stand ready to provide technical support. But I also underlined the importance of the political process in reaching consensus on the electoral law and the establishment of a credible electoral management body. UNSMIL’s electoral experts are already engaging with counterparts identified by the National Transitional Council, but it is necessary for preparations to accelerate to meet timelines and political expectations.
Libyans have already shown extraordinary civic responsibility. Men and women of all ages, backgrounds and regions have needed no instruction in the spirit of democracy and justice. I urged them to continue to make human rights and rule of law their guide in building Libya’s future. I stressed the importance of maintaining unity, and that the common denominator in any solid democracy is inclusiveness and dialogue.
Throughout my visit, it was clear that the Libyan people have great faith in the United Nations. They trust us to work with them, respectful of their culture and traditions, with Libyans in the driving seat. Finally, I would like to thank the leadership of the President of the General Assembly for his commitment to peace and security in Libya, and in other regions. I assured the people of Libya that this is what we will do. Thank you very much.
* *** *For information media • not an official record