26 October 2011

Post-Qadhafi Libya Needs ‘Focused, Measured’ International Support, United Nations Special Envoy Reports to Security Council

26 October 2011
Security Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6639th Meeting (AM)

Post-Qadhafi Libya Needs ‘Focused, Measured’ International Support,

United Nations Special Envoy Reports to Security Council


Positive Signs Noted, but Warning against ‘Over-Ambitious’ Expectations

After Libya’s “Declaration of Liberation” on 23 October, following the death of long-term ruler Muammar al-Qadhafi, the international community must remain “focused and measured” in its engagement with the transitional authorities there, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative told the Security Council this morning, as it met to consider the situation in that country.

“[Libyans] trust the United Nations to support the process they intend to lead and it is for us to fulfil their expectations”, said Ian Martin, who is also the head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).  He stressed that it was critical not to attempt to have “over-ambitious expectations” or to impose longer-term programmes.

In his briefing to the 15-member body, which was followed by a statement from Libya’s representative, Ibrahim Dabbashi, Mr. Martin said that members of the National Transitional Council, Government officials and civil society activists in the North African country all identified the same priorities for international support:  security; elections; public financial management (including the urgent preparation of a budget for 2012); new rules to ensure fiscal transparency; and a clarification of liquidity requirements.

Another key priority, he said, was the beginning of a national reconciliation process and a coherent approach to all the human rights and transitional justice issues that had surfaced in recent weeks.  “Above all, we must support the [National Transitional Council] in handling the difficult political processes involved in implementing the road map contained in the Constitutional Declaration and in managing the inevitably increasing socio-economic expectations of the Libyan people,” he added.

Mr. Martin sounded a note of optimism at the prospects of the Libyans in facing those immense challenges.  “Libyans point out, with justice, how far they have already surprised us and perhaps themselves, in what they have achieved”, he said, noting that they expressed gratitude for Security Council resolutions that provided a mandate for the actions led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), but they were proud that they made their revolution and were determined to maintain their sovereignty in building their future.

With the end of the Qadhafi era, he said the new Libya could move forward to build a modern nation-State, based on the principles embraced by the revolution:  democracy; human rights; the rule of law; accountability; respect for minority rights; and empowering women and promoting civil society, while addressing the past through proper judicial and truth-seeking processes.  Despite violations committed in the heat of battle, he believed that the leadership of the National Transitional Council was committed to “avoiding revenge, achieving reconciliation and overcoming the manipulation of tribalism and regionalism which the former dictator promoted to entrench his own power, thereby ensuring that the past would never be repeated”.

He said the clock had started running on commitments made by the National Transitional Council in its Constitutional Declaration, including the establishing of an interim Government within 30 days, adopting electoral legislation and establishing an electoral management body within 90 days, and within 240 days holding elections for a National Congress to give democratic legitimacy to a new Government and the body that would draft a constitution.

Broad consultation was necessary in order to build consensus regarding the electoral system, he said.  UNSMIL — supported by two visits from the Director of the United Nations Electoral Assistance Division — had been engaging closely with Transitional Council members on the electoral process.  Civil society had made clear their determination to be engaged closely in the ongoing discussions on the electoral law.  Work had been started on defining the framework for developing the voter register.  The United Nations was widely expected to be the key guarantor of the integrity of the electoral process.

He said that once the new interim Government was formed, with mechanism for the coordination of international assistance in place, a coordinated, Libyan-led needs-assessment process would be discussed.  Less than six weeks into UNSMIL’s mandate, the 36 international staff members, including experts in the priority areas already indicated by Libyan authorities, had already been provided premises by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  He expected that preliminary discussions would enable a Status of Mission Agreement to be formalized soon after the interim Government took office, at which time detailed discussions on the longer-term role and requirements for UNSMIL could take place.  At the moment, it seemed likely than an extension of the initial three-month mandate would be requested.

He said that the still volatile security situation in parts of the south of Libya, with tensions related to a complex mix of ethnic and political loyalties, should not be forgotten.  The path to national reconciliation and healing must begin by recognizing the suffering of all Libyan people during the course of the eight-month conflict, and addressing their needs to allow them to re-build their lives.

Turning to the death of Colonel Qadhafi, he said it had been hoped that he and others with the heaviest responsibility for crimes in the country would be captured and brought to justice.  The former leader and his son, Motassim Qadhafi, however, had been mistreated and killed in circumstances which required investigation, and there were other disturbing reports that killings amounting to war crimes had been committed by both sides in the final battle for Sirte.

While welcoming the National Transitional Council’s announcement of an investigation into the killings, he said the events were also within the scope of the International Commission of Inquiry mandated by the Human Rights Council.  Evidence had mounted of deliberate killings of prisoners by the Qadhafi regime during the conflict, as well as some abuses by the revolutionary fighters.  The whereabouts of the other two persons indicted by the International Criminal Court — Saif al-Islam Qadhafi and Abdullah al-Senussi — remained uncertain.  It was the responsibility of the Transitional Council to ensure that, if captured inside Libya, they were treated in accordance with international humanitarian law.  It was the responsibility of all signatories to the Rome Statute to ensure that they were arrested and brought before the International Criminal Court.

Turning to the humanitarian situation, Mr. Martin said missions to Sirte and Bani Walid had just taken place, and current levels of prepositioned necessities were considered adequate to provide immediate response.  Priorities in those cities were the restoration of electricity and water services, rapid clean-up of explosive remnants of war, and the rehabilitation of accommodation for returning residents.  As destruction of buildings was severe, housing would be a serious issue.  The Transitional Council was looking at various solutions in coordination with international partners.  The Humanitarian Coordinator had taken steps to ensure that residual needs of vulnerable groups would still be met while the overall humanitarian effort was winding down.

The first handovers of weapons by the armed groups took place as part of liberation ceremonies in Benghazi and Tripoli, he said, adding that they were symbolic and limited in nature but sent a message that the issue was a priority, with broad consensus on the need to immediately remove all heavy weaponry from city centres, to be followed by the collection of light arms.  Equally important, he said, was the need for a gradual redeployment of brigades away from population centres, in parallel with agreed mechanisms being put in place for security, some progress towards which had been made in Tripoli under the authority of the Supreme Security Committee established by the National Transitional Council.  The creation of civilian opportunities for the future of ex-combatants, or integrating them into a professional security sector, was a major challenge of such efforts.

UNSMIL, he said, continued to facilitate coordination among Libyan authorities, relevant international organizations and Member States in confronting the menace of the large quantity of munitions, along with chemical, nuclear materials and other non-conventional weapons.  While Transitional Council forces appeared to be controlling all relevant chemical and nuclear material sites, centralized command and control remained a concern.  It had become clear that there were additional sites with previously undeclared weapons or materials that the Government would soon formally declare to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

International partners had also been working with the Ministry of Defence on identifying and inspecting hundreds of suspected stockpile sites of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles know as MANPADS (man-portable air defence systems).  In addition, mine action and its immediate funding was a key priority for the United Nations, as were large quantities of unexploded ordnance and ammunition in Sirte and Bani Walid.  In Tripoli, many stockpiles were suspected in residential areas, including in schools and hospitals, where they seem to have been moved by Qadhafi forces to conceal them from air strikes.

The outflow of people from Libya and the fate of third party nationals who remained would be addressed by the United Nations together with the African Union, working with Libya’s neighbours.  Inside the country, the National Transitional Council had taken steps towards transferring responsibility for detainees from the brigades to proper State authorities, but much remained to be done to regularize detention, prevent abuse and review cases to bring about the early release of those who merited it.  This week, UNSMIL’s first human rights advisers would address that urgent priority.  The visit of senior officials of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) would be followed by comments on draft transitional justice legislation and related issues.

Libya’s representative, Ibrahim Dabbashi, taking the floor, affirmed that a new phase had begun in Libya, of building democracy that would maintain neighbourly relations with the other nations of the world, and that international support was needed in that effort.  He said that Mr. Martin’s briefing appropriately characterized Libyan needs, adding that it would become easier to coordinate the work of UNSMIL once the appropriate Government units had been set up.

He expressed gratitude to the United Nations and all the States that stood by Libya and the Libyan people in the past months, “when we were experiencing a painful plight”.  Had it not been for that solidarity with the Libyan people, he added, they would not have achieved what they had, and the number of victims would have been far, far higher.

He noted, however, that Libyans also had great pride in their sovereignty and resented foreign control of their airspace, particularly following the Declaration of Liberation.  They were looking forward to terminating the no-fly zone over Libya, as well as the mandate accorded by Security Council resolution 1973 (2011) as soon as possible.  The end-of-month assessment would be a logical occasion on which to terminate it.  However, with remaining security needs, he said that Council’s action should await a formal request by the National Transitional Council, which he expected before the end of the month.

He pledged that no human rights violations would be condoned in the new Libya, and if there had been such violations involved in the capture and killing of Colonel Qadhafi the perpetrators would be punished.  According to initial reports, it seemed that none of the revolutionary fighters fired at the former leader after capturing him, but a thorough investigation would be carried out.

The meeting opened at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 10:45 a.m., after which the Council went into consultations on Libya, as previously agreed.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.