United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Tripoli early in the afternoon of Wednesday, 2 November, after flying overnight from New York via Frankfurt, together with the President of the General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser.
The Secretary-General first met with the Chairman of the National Transitional Council (NTC), Mustafa Abdel Jalil and then with a broad representation of the Council, headed by Chairman Jalil, at the Islamic University, the NTC headquarters in Tripoli. At the meeting with the Chairman and membership of the NTC, the Secretary-General said there was enormous goodwill around the world to help Libyans succeed in their transition to democracy, and that the United Nations would provide support through the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) in every way it could and in any way Libyans chose. Yet, he emphasized, it was only Libyans themselves who could do the hard work of rebuilding their country.
He was asked to unfreeze more Libyan funds held abroad and undertook to inform the Security Council of their urgent appeal. He also strongly urged the NTC and civil society to ensure greater representation of women and young people as institutions are built.
The Secretary-General underscored the need to form an interim Government that is inclusive yet expert as soon as possible. He responded to the pleas for help with the forthcoming elections by pledging the United Nations full cooperation. He highlighted the importance of public security and the need to redeploy heavy weapons and militias away from city centres. He also urged NTC members to continue to make human rights and the rule of law their guide in building their new democracy.
Next, at a working lunch, the Secretary-General discussed Libya’s transition with the newly appointed Prime Minister, Abdelrahim al Keeb, and other officials.
The Secretary-General spoke next at a press conference, together with Chairman Jalil and the President of the General Assembly. In his remarks to the press, the Secretary-General said he was visiting Tripoli at this historic moment to salute the brave people of Libya. He said Libyans had paid a heavy price for freedom. He offered his condolences and sympathies to those who lost family members or were wounded.
The Secretary-General said the path to democracy was not easy. Building a State with effective and accountable institutions would take time. But the Libyan people have shown that they have the skills, resources and strength of character to rise to the challenge.
At a meeting with representatives of civil society, the Secretary-General emphasized the important role of women, business and various social groups in building the new Libya. He urged them to press forward with their ambitions for building a new society in a spirit of cooperation, give and take, and a sense of inclusiveness, unity and solidarity. He added that working to find consensus would require a great deal of pragmatism and compromise and listening to the views of others, especially during this very important initial phase. A number of representatives outlined their concerns and ideas.
The Secretary-General then visited a mass-grave site near the capital and met with the survivors and families of victims of a massacre that had been carried out by the Khamis Brigade on the eve of their retreat from Tripoli. The victims were summarily executed in a warehouse adjacent to the brigade’s headquarters by hand grenades and automatic weapons fire. The building was also set on fire.
After being briefed on the incident in the warehouse by Salem al Ferjani, the acting Chairperson of the National Missing Persons Commission, the Secretary-General told the group he was profoundly shocked by what he had seen and heard. He said the perpetrators of all such human rights crimes should be brought to account.
The Secretary-General reiterated to all he met during the visit that questions of transitional justice must be resolved, and offered United Nations assistance.
Before leaving Tripoli, the Secretary-General also met national and international United Nations staff, and expressed his gratitude for their dedication. He reiterated the crucial role the United Nations would play in support of Libya’s transition.
The Secretary-General departed Tripoli on the evening of Wednesday, 2 November and flew to Nice, from where he immediately travelled on to Cannes to attend the G-20 Summit.