12 September 2012

In Security Council, Top UN Official Condemns Killing of United States Diplomats in Libya, Warns Horrific Attack Sobering Reminder of Challenges Country Faces

12 September 2012
Security Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6832nd Meeting (AM)

In Security Council, Top UN Official Condemns Killing of United States Diplomats

in Libya, Warns Horrific Attack Sobering Reminder of Challenges Country Faces

Jeffrey Feltman, Political Affairs Head, Briefs on Work of UN Support Mission;

Libya’s Ambassador Pledges Perpetrators of Odious Crime Will Be Brought to Justice

Strongly condemning last night’s attack that killed the United States Ambassador to Libya, the top United Nations political official warned the Security Council today that the horrific event was evidence of a persistent security vacuum and a sobering reminder of the many serious challenges that must be confronted by all those committed to supporting the North African country’s transformation.

That call to action on behalf of international efforts to assist the Libyan people in consolidating their transition towards lasting stability and democracy came at the opening of a previously scheduled briefing to the Council by Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, on the situation in Libya and the work of the United Nations Support Mission there (UNSMIL).  The meeting also featured a statement by Ibrahim O. A. Dabbashi, the Deputy Permanent Representative of Libya to the United Nations.

Providing details on the deadly assault on the United States diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Mr. Feltman said the facility had been deliberately attacked and burned, and those claiming responsibility had cited a video insulting to Islam as their motivation.  Four United States diplomats had been killed, including top envoy Christopher Stevens, and there were reports that several Libyan security personnel had also perished in the attack.

“This is one example, but not the only one, demonstrating that foremost among the challenges and expectations facing the Libyan people and authorities is security,” he told the Council.  Indeed, this latest horrific attack, together with a spate of assassinations against security personnel in Benghazi, the detonation of a series of explosive devises in Tripoli and attacks on Sufi shrines, further emphasized the security challenges that the authorities in Libya faced and which were some of the major themes of the Secretary-General’s latest report on the situation in the North African country (document S/2012/675).

Mr. Feltman strong condemnation of the attack in Benghazi echoed that of Council President Peter Wittig (Germany), who opened the meeting expressing the 15‑nation body’s condolences to the families of all those that had been killed or injured.  Mr. Feltman went on to underscore that, while the United Nations rejected all forms of religious defamation, there was no justification for the violence that had occurred yesterday.

“The United Nations, under the direction of the Secretary-General, is committed to doing its best to support Libya’s ongoing transition and to help the Libyan people to achieve their aspirations for a secure, democratic, united and prosperous Libya,” he continued.  The Organization worked in partnership first and foremost with the Libyan people and Government, but also with other governmental and non-governmental partners, he said, stressing that the Secretary-General reminded Libyan authorities of their obligations to protect diplomatic facilities and personnel.  He welcomed statements by Libyan authorities that they would bring those who killed the diplomats to justice.

Turning next to provide some details on the Secretary-General’s report, as well as to highlight some of the milestones in Libya’s democratic transition since his last briefing to the Council two months earlier, he said that the transfer of authority from the National Transitional Council to the 200‑member General National Congress on 8 August had marked a historic moment — for the first time in over four decades, Libya now had a democratically elected governing body.

Reflecting the sense of public trust and expectation that had accompanied its assumption to office, the Congress had moved quickly to elect a President and two Vice-Presidents, in line with the Constitutional Declaration.  The use of secret ballots and the fact that the proceedings had been broadcast live on television reflected the Congress’ commitment to the democratic process.  He added that Ian Martin, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNSMIL, had been assured by Libya’s newly appointed leadership that they were committed to making a clean break with the past by upholding the principles of transparency and accountability.

Mr. Feltman said that the General National Congress would now need to address several urgent priorities, foremost among them: initiating a national dialogue on reconciliation; strengthening its capacity to exercise oversight over Government — a daunting task considering the country’s lack of parliamentary experience; preventing the continuation of systematic corruption; and adopting local governance legislation, which would be the first step towards addressing the legitimate and urgent need for decentralization.

He also stressed that the Congress would need to create mechanisms through which civil society was assured a voice and was adequately consulted on all important issues.  The United Nations had provided various forms of technical assistance in preparations for the handover to the Congress and had also begun induction training for the 200 members on issues related to the roles and functions of parliaments.

He said that, later in the day, the Congress would vote to appoint a Prime Minister, who would be tasked with presenting a cabinet for approval within two weeks.  The appointment followed lengthy deliberations within the Congress over eligibility criteria and internal mechanisms, he said, hailing the transparency of the process, including the selection of nominees, as a testament to Libya’s nascent democracy and a move that could set new standards for the region.  “Key to the ability of the new Prime Minister to effectively address the formidable challenges facing Libya will be the formation of a Government of national consensus that is inclusive and enjoys widespread support,” he continued, adding that the new Government must likewise be able to work in partnership with the General National Congress.

Before returning to security issues, he noted that on the eve of the elections, the National Transitional Council had amended the Constitutional Declaration, changing what was to have been an appointed constitutional commission into an elected constituent assembly.  That move had triggered much debate and the Congress had yet to consider a response.  The amendment had been part of an effort to defuse tensions arising from a perception of marginalization and underrepresentation, mainly in the east, that had threatened the security of the national elections.  “These issues remain a significant concern,” he said, adding that the United Nations continued to encourage the adoption of transparent, inclusive and consultative mechanisms to manage the entire constitutional development process and was prepared to offer a broad spectrum of relevant support.

As for the attack on the United States diplomatic facility in Benghazi and other security issues, he recalled that in remarks at the dissolution of the National Transitional Council, the body’s Chair, Mustafa Abdul Jalia, had acknowledged shortcomings in that area.  Such gaps were manifested by the presence of arms outside State control, lack of clarity and competition over security responsibilities between and within relevant ministries and institutions, and the continued prevalence of armed brigades.  In addition to those concerns, border security remained a top priority to combat the smuggling of arms, drugs and people, as well as illegal migration and the spread of transnational organized crime.

While leaders across the political spectrum had vowed to tackle such issues head on, UNSMIL was focusing its advisory and coordination efforts, including steeping up its efforts to strengthen international coordination for support to security sector governance on key interrelated areas: national security architecture, police reform, defence reform, arms and ammunition management, border security and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.

Continuing in that vein, he said the urgency with which Libya’s security vacuum needed to be addressed had also been highlighted by the spate of attacks on Sufi shrines over the past few weeks, including one of the county’s most revered Sufi holy sites in the city of Zliten.  Those attacks had been sharply condemned by Libyan authorities, who had stressed that such actions had no basis in Islam.

He went on to draw the Council’s attention to conflict-related detentions in Libya, noting that while the prosecutor’s office had recently taken actions that had led to the release of some 130 detainees held in various centres in Misrata, the Justice Ministry needed to continue its efforts to implement a more systematic, accelerated approach to screening all remaining detainees.  He added that UNSMIL continued to urge Libyan authorities to put in place measures to prevent and investigate torture and mistreatment, and also devise a prosecutorial strategy to deal with trials of senior members of the former Libyan regime.

Wrapping up his presentation, he noted that, as the General National Congress assumed its function, UNSMIL had begun informal consultations on views regarding the Organization’s support for Libya’s needs based on the principle of national ownership.  While it appeared that there would be no request for an adjustment to the Mission’s mandate, there had been many requests for additional support in its area of operation.  As such, the Mission and the United Nations country team would continue to use a range of measures to mobilize surge capacity of expertise to respond accordingly in line with the concept of mission flexibility.

Finally, he thanked UNSMIL staff and outgoing Special Representative Martin for their commitment and outstanding services during this critical period for the Libyan people.  He informed the Council that later in the day, the Secretary-General would announce the appointment of Tarik Mitri as Mr. Martin’s replacement.

In his statement, Mr. Dabbashi expressed his Government’s deepest condolences to the United States Government, as well as to the families of both United States and Libyan victims of the Benghazi attack.  He said that the attack, “carried out by extremists”, had been strongly condemned by the Libyan authorities and in no way represented the Libyan people or the Islamic faith.

“I have been deeply moved by this.  Ambassador Stevens was a friend to Libya when the country faced the worst of times under the former despot.  The Libyan people will always remember him,” he said, stressing that events such as last night’s attack were emblematic of the challenges the Libyan people still faced.  Nevertheless, Libyan authorities were determined to expand State authority throughout the country and bring it from revolution to a fully functioning State.  He assured the Council that the Libyan authorities would carry out an extensive investigation into the attack and the perpetrators of “this odious crime” would be brought to justice.  “Outlaws will not imperil our country,” he vowed.

The meeting began a 10:13 a.m. and ended at 10:38.

* *** *

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