Preconceived Notions about Political Transition in Libya Could Be ‘Recipe for Disappointment’, Top United Nations Official Warns Security Council

16 September 2013

Preconceived Notions about Political Transition in Libya Could Be ‘Recipe for Disappointment’, Top United Nations Official Warns Security Council

16 September 2013
Security Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

7031st Meeting (AM)

Preconceived Notions about Political Transition in Libya Could be ‘Recipe

For Disappointment’, Top United Nations Official Warns Security Council

Members also Hear from Chair of Sanctions Committee, Permanent Representative

Following four decades of despotic rule in Libya, it was evident that preconceived ideas about political transition were more likely to be a “recipe for disappointment, if not failure”, as demand for a national dialogue to address the faltering process grew across the political spectrum, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in that country told the Security Council today.

Briefing the 15-member body, Tarek Mitri, who also heads the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), said that free and fair elections might have augured a democratic process, but they raised more expectations than political institutions and forces were capable of meeting.  Citing a sense of scepticism, and perhaps rejection, with which the Libyan people viewed the political process, he emphasized that that should not be mistaken for a loss of faith in national unity, democracy and the rule of law.  The people’s commitment to the principles for which they had fought remained deep, he said.

Amid increasing calls for UNSMIL to play an active role in facilitating national dialogue, “we will not shy away from shouldering our responsibility”, he declared, noting that the Secretary-General’s first report on the Mission since February (document S/2013/516) offered a “sober reading of political and security developments in Libya”.  Describing the huge strain imposed on the political process by a combination of internal and regional dynamics, he said that compounded further the difficult tasks facing both the Government of Libya and the General National Congress as they strove to ensure that the transition moved ahead peacefully.

During the past three months, there had been more pronounced political disagreements among the various political forces, Mr. Mitri continued.  The main political blocs within the General National Congress had decided, separately, to suspend their participation as organized political parties in national political institutions.  Although partially reversed, those decisions were in large part a reaction to wide-spread popular discontent with political parties, and reflected an accentuated polarization in public life.

He went on to underline that the regional dimension, particularly developments in Egypt and Tunisia, had a “palpable effect” on the political scene in Libya, adding that a sense of unease had been injected into the political system as different political actors reassessed their positions.  The recent severe disruption of oil exports, following protests at several terminals, particularly in the east, had grave consequences for economic stability and had compelled the national oil company to declare “force majeure”, indicating its inability to meet contractual export obligations.  Conflicts relating to the protection of oil terminals and federalist demands in eastern Libya were at the core of recent protests.

Regarding new legislation, he said that a law on transitional justice was pending in the General National Congress.  Enacting it was vital to helping Libya deal with many of its past tragedies and crimes, and essential to facilitating reconciliation.  Meanwhile, the situation of many of the estimated 8,000 detainees remained a source of concern amid reports of deaths in custody, torture and other forms of mistreatment.  However, UNSMIL had observed a marked improvement in conditions and treatment where centres were under the authority of the Ministry of Justice.

He went on to cite new developments regarding the trials of senior members of the Qadhafi regime, including the conviction and death sentence imposed former Minister for Education and Information Ahmed Ibrahim on 31 July.  Additionally, the trials of some 250 defendants, including Saif al-Islam Qadhafi, were expected to commence soon.  Ensuring fair trials for former regime officials would test the Libyan judicial institutions in the coming months, he stressed, warning that the prevailing security situation, as well as continuing attacks on judges, lawyers and courthouses, remained a formidable challenge.

Despite those and other difficulties, the constitution-making process had made some progress, with the adoption of a law on the election of the drafting assembly, he said.  UNSMIL had advocated for special measures to improve women’s representation, but the electoral law only granted them six reserved seats in the 60-member assembly, which was lower than the 16 per cent allotted during the July 2012 congressional elections.  Cultural and ethnic minorities had also been granted only six reserved seats, and were demanding a determination of constitutional issues pertaining to their cultural and linguistic rights by consensus rather than by a two-thirds majority, as stipulated in the Constitutional Declaration.  Drafting the Constitution was an opportunity to forge a new social contract that would govern the new Libya, which made it imperative that the process be transparent, consultative and inclusive.

Still, security remained a predominant concern, he said, noting that armed clashes in Tripoli between rival revolutionary brigades and increased tensions among political, tribal and armed groups in various parts of the country, had resulted in several deaths, as well as the assassinations of security figures and, more recently, of political activists and journalists.  Attacks against diplomats, threats against the United Nations, as well as general criminality, continued in the face of weak State institutions, border security had yet to be efficiently addressed and progress in integrating revolutionary fighters into the police and army had been limited, as had their reintegration into civilian life.

He went on to underline that the Government’s preoccupation with the deteriorating security situation and the increasing divisions among political groups and revolutionary brigades had inhibited the development of a solid, coordinated and effective national security system.  Indeed, “the Libyan experience” demonstrated the urgent need for inclusive dialogue and consensus-building on national priorities, as well as for guiding principles, governance norms and basic rules of political action.

National dialogue would allow the national interest to prevail over factional, regional and short-term interests, he said.  In light of growing disillusionment with the political process, it would give voice to many Libyans and open space for all to contribute to the restoration of a public life now entrenched in partisan attitudes.  It would also promote a national capacity to address urgent priorities and ensure public support for State-building efforts.

Also briefing the Council was Eugène-Richard Gasana (Rwanda), Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1970 (2011), who presented the interim report of the Panel of Experts monitoring that subsidiary body.  The report concluded that concrete steps had been taken in the area of security assistance to implement Council resolution 2095 (2013) on the establishment of a focal point structure, which had already produced the first end-user certificates.  Despite those efforts, however, the proliferation of arms and ammunition across Libya’s borders, and an increasing number of reported cases of trafficking in such materiel to Syria by sea and air were worrying, he said.  Additionally, the report said that increasing demand for personal and small arms had boosted imports into Libya’s civilian black market, and that third countries had carried out several seizures.

The Panel of Experts had updated the Committee’s travel bans, he continued, reporting also that both Oman and Algeria had indicated that Aisha and Mohammad Qadhafi had left the latter country and were now in the former.  On the Committee’s asset freeze, he said “revealing” details had come to light about efforts by Saadi Qadhafi and his associates to hide, move and use assets that should have been frozen.  The Panel was also investigating reports of very large quantities of assets believed to belong to listed entities and/or individuals.  It underscored the inadequate legislative capacities of some Member States to effectively implement the asset freeze, which, in at least one instance, had resulted in the dissipation of almost $2 million that should have been frozen.

Of the Panel’s eight recommendations, he said, the Sanctions Committee had agreed to follow up four, including a request that the Panel thoroughly investigate media reports about several large arms shipments from Libya this year.  In other actions related to the arms embargo, the Committee had approved two exemption requests and received five notifications on which no negative decisions had been taken.  Other follow-up activities involved the focal point structure for security assistance, and the provision to the Libyan Government of an updated table summarizing the exemption requests and notifications on arms embargo measures.  It had also concluded its agreement with the International Criminal Police Organisation, INTERPOL, on special notices with the Council.

Also addressing the Council was Ibrahim O. Dabbashi ( Libya), who reminded members of the procedures allowing delegations to participate in the Council’s consideration of matters involving them.  Regrettably, those procedures had not been followed this morning until “long after the meeting was opened”, he noted.

Turning to the topic at hand, he said Libya was in a complicated and sensitive period, following a bloody months-long conflict and the fall of a dictatorship that had left the country without any institutions worth mentioning.  The issue now was to create new authority, new institutions and, indeed, a new leadership.  It was a thorny period for the Government and the General National Congress because, on the one hand, there was delight at having overthrown the dictatorship and re-established democracy, while on the other, there was an inability to rule, a lack of institutions and the absence of a deterrent force enabling the Government to extend control over the entire national territory.

In short, the Libyan authorities needed Council support, he said, emphasizing:  “They need every single Member State of the United Nations at this point.”  That support was needed to build effective institutions to revitalize the economy, reintegrate former combatants and achieve the rule of law and national reconciliation.  The Government had begun establishing a national army and sought to rearm the police, he said, citing some of the areas requiring “every form of assistance” from the Council.  Just as that body had stood shoulder to shoulder with the Libyan people during their revolution, he was confident that it would continue to stand by them now.

The meeting began at 9:30 a.m. and ended at 10:15 a.m.

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