High Expectations for Quick Progress in Libya Strain Political System, but Given ‘Terrible Legacy’, Transitional Team Should Be Praised, Security Council Told

10 May 2012

High Expectations for Quick Progress in Libya Strain Political System, but Given ‘Terrible Legacy’, Transitional Team Should Be Praised, Security Council Told

10 May 2012
Security Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6768th Meeting (PM)

High Expectations for Quick Progress in Libya Strain Political System, but Given

‘Terrible Legacy’, Transitional Team Should Be Praised, Security Council Told

Top Envoy in Libya Urges International Community to Be ‘Frank’

With Itself, Interim Government in Identifying Challenges, Gaps

Given the “terrible legacy” confronting the transitional authorities in Libya, their efforts in establishing a functioning State based on the rule of law and democracy deserve praise and support, but serious problems in governance, security, human rights and other areas should be faced squarely, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative told the Security Council this afternoon.

“The international community should be frank with them and with ourselves in continuing to identify the challenges and gaps, and remaining committed to support the Libyans in their quest for democracy and stability with technical advice and practical support,” Ian Martin, who is also the Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), said in a briefing that also heard a report from Portuguese representative José Filipe Moraes Cabral, head of the Libya sanctions committee.

Mr. Martin said that signs that Libya was moving towards democracy included the start of registration for voters for the election of a National Congress, plans for local council elections in a number of cities following the example of Misrata in February, the rapid development of free media, and the establishment of civil society organizations, many led by youth and women.  “One can clearly sense that for the first time in a generation, people are unafraid to speak out,” he said.

However, in the context of that new-found freedom, he said, the high expectations for quick progress were straining the political system, with dissatisfaction expressed over a lack of progress in the five months since the appointment of the Government.  It was important for the executive and legislative branches to work together to show tangible progress in the short time remaining before elections and the formation of a new Government.

In addition, he said, local tensions that existed before the revolution were surfacing.  In that vein, there had been five days of fighting at the end of March between Arab and Tabu brigades in Sabha in the south-west, resulting in approximately 150 dead and 500 wounded.  That had been followed by three days of fighting between three towns in the west, with nearly 50 reported dead, and more clashes in the south-west, involving the Tabu Community and elements of the National Army, on 21 April.

In each case, he said, the Government had taken swift action in deploying forces and mediation capabilities, but in those and other cases, the provision of long-term security, delivery of services and pursuit of reconciliation were required, compounding an already complex workload for authorities, which also faced disturbances resulting from discontent among some of the armed brigades over perceived inequities in the treatment of war wounded and the suspension of payments to former revolutionary fighters while a regulated disbursement system was put in place.  The latest incident at the Prime Minister’s Office on Tuesday indicated the seriousness of that discontent, but also showed the Government’s determination and growing capacity to confront those taking to violence in pursuit of their demands.

Major gaps and challenges in security remained, however, and UNSMIL continued to provide support, with police advisers assisting in training, border security, logistics, election security, international coordination and media outreach, he said.  A long-term plan for reform of the entire Ministry of the Interior was under way, while recent crises had led to the call for an acceleration of efforts to rehabilitate the Libyan Armed Forces.

He characterized the results as “mixed” in the area of demobilization of revolutionary fighters and control of their weapons.  The interim mechanism called the Supreme Security Committee, with some 60,000 to 70,000 fighters registered, had, to some extent, provided a unified command of the brigades, limited fragmentation and a pool of auxiliary fighters to help quell crises.  It was essential, however, that the committee not become a parallel security.  In addition, stronger coordination of plans for integration, demobilization, reintegration and control of weapons was needed.

There were also severe capacity limitations regarding border security, he said.  A dedicated force was being established, but effective security was a complex task that could take years and required a whole-of-government approach and sustained international assistance.  The United Nations would continue to provide advice, expertise and coordination in that area, with a key priority being the southern border, where the United Nations and bilateral partners stood ready to work with Libyan authorities on an action plan for integrated control.

In addition, he said, despite what he deemed the positive intentions of the Government, an estimated 4,000 detainees remained in the custody of brigades, with the transfer to custody of the Ministry of Justice progressing slowly.  Cases of mistreatment and torture continued; UNSMIL recently expressed its deep concern over deaths in a facility at Misrata, and would follow up on promised investigations of those incidents and other reports of torture.  “Addressing these practices should be a top Government priority in pursuit of a new culture of human rights and the rule of law,” he said, noting new bodies established to investigate human rights complaints.  UNSMIL was also engaging closely with the Libyan prison administration and urging the adoption of an overall prosecutorial strategy in relation to the legacy of the former regime and conflict.

Other elements of transitional justice also required progress, including the appointment of the Fact-Finding and Reconciliation Commission and the search for missing persons, he said.  In early May, the National Transitional Council passed an amnesty law, and another stimulated the timely referral of detainees for prosecution.  Some aspects of those laws have been criticized for ambiguity and, in other cases, deviation from international human rights standards.

Turning to election support, he said that the United Nations had reinforced its advisory role to the electoral commission, supporting voter education, procuring registration and polling material, and coordinating assistance from other international organizations.  Although early voter registration had reached over 1 million, the percentage of women remained low at 36.  The pace of registration overall was sluggish, but it was beginning to pick up.  The vetting of candidates and other registration requirements would affect the timeline, but he commended the Electoral Commission for its work in difficult conditions and in light of the emergence of political parties and other positive signs.

He noted that registration of candidates and presentation of lists for proportional races was extended until 15 May, with an encouraging 1,100 candidates and 47 political entities registered so far.  Unfortunately, only 29 women were among those coming forward, but most women who wanted to run preferred to be included in the lists of political entities, which, by law, must include alternating male and female candidates.  Voter education had started late and a major increase was urgently needed, while election security had received high-level Government attention and the involvement of UNSMIL’s police advisers.

Following elections, he said, Libyans must commit themselves to long-term State-building.  The National Transitional Council, although slated to remain only in place for a year, would have the important tasks of formation of the new Government, appointment of a constitutional commission and review and issuance of important legislation.  UNSMIL and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) were consulting on providing support.  While the democratic transition would move into a new phase, UNSMIL’s support to public security, human rights, transitional justice and the rule of law, arms control and border security would remain priorities.

Introducing the reports of the Libya sanctions committee, Mr. Cabral turned first to the working document on the threat of arms proliferation from Libya to its wider region (document A/2012/178).  Key findings of that document included the fact that, at the time of its writing, no man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS) originating from Libya had been seized outside the country.  Nevertheless, significant threat variables existed, justifying further measures to mitigate the risk that MANPADS might pose.

There was also clear evidence of significant quantities of other weapons having left Libya during the conflict, he said, particularly small arms and light weapons; indeed, the increasing supply of weapons and related materiel in the Sahel region was likely to have fuelled pre-existing insecurity, particularly in northern Mali.  Authorities in Libya must engage in the overall efforts to control weapons and combat illicit trafficking.  At the regional level, attention must be given to strengthening border control, enhancing regional cooperation and coordination, information exchange and curbing the MANPADS threat.

Turning to the final report of the Panel of Experts under resolution 1973 (2011) (document A/2012/163), he said it contained a total of 21 recommendations, addressed either to the Council, the Committee or Member States, including Libya.  Both the Council and the Committee had already taken follow-up actions on several of those recommendations.  Alongside recent meetings with the Special Representative, a meeting with the Permanent Representative of Libya, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund had been scheduled.

As of 9 May, the Committee had processed a total of 38 notifications or exemption requests concerning the arms embargo, a total of 154 notifications or exemption requests concerning the asset freeze and a total of 25 requests for guidance.  The Committee had reviewed reports from 57 Member States on their implementation of the relevant measures.  On 2 April, he had dispatched a reminder to all Member States to that effect; on the same day, the Committee had updated its list of individuals and entities subjected to the travel ban and the assets freeze, incorporating the new information provided by the Panel.

The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 3:37 p.m., at which time the Council was invited 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.