Panel of Experts Expressed ‘Extreme Concern’ About Leak of Unpublished Interim Report to Media, Sanctions Committee Chair Says
Briefing the Security Council on Libya’s complex security and political situation today, the senior United Nations official in that country emphasized that beneath both its challenges and emerging bright spots lay the population’s urgent desire to leave nearly a decade of violence and instability behind.
“From one city to another, you will find reasons for concern as well as causes for hope,” said Ghassan Salamé, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), who delivered his briefing alongside Olof Skoog (Sweden), Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1970 (2011) on Libya sanctions.
He noted that daily life in Libya was still punctuated by economic corruption, the persistent trafficking of goods and people, escalating clashes in some cities and terror attacks, including one that killed 13 people at the headquarters of the High National Elections Commission on 2 May. The Commission nevertheless remained committed to working towards holding elections by the end of 2018, he added.
Among other developments, elections for the presidency of the High State Council had taken place in a timely, peaceful and democratic manner, he continued. Municipal elections had also been held in the city of Zawiya for the first time since 2015, with support from the United Nations. Citing several points of consensus, he said there was a widespread yearning for a united and sovereign nation and for a fairer, more transparent and effective distribution of public resources. However, opinions still diverged on the current draft of the national constitution and criminal networks continued to traffic goods and humans across borders. “These facets provide opportunities for those few who sit at the heart of Libya’s political stalemate, plundering the nation’s coffers and resisting any actions that might challenge their predatory economy,” he stated.
Mr. Skoog, providing an update on the sanctions committee’s work since 22 March, said it had discussed a letter from the coordinator of the Panel of Experts on Libya expressing extreme concern about the leaking of its unpublished interim report to the media. The Secretariat and Panel coordinator had provided updates and the Committee had also discussed the issue of frozen Libyan assets following reports of alleged devaluation and losses. The Committee had sent a letter to Libya seeking updates on such issues as the coast guard, explosive ordnance disposal units and the presidential guard, and it was considering proposals for the designation of six individuals under the asset freeze and travel ban. In addition, the Committee had received a request to delist Aisha Qadhafi — the daughter of the late Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi — from her travel ban.
Council members, including those representing nearby States experiencing the direct and indirect repercussions of Libya’s various crises, also took the floor.
Equatorial Guinea’s representative — noting that Libya’s situation also threatened other countries in Africa — called for maintaining such important measures as those enshrined in Council resolutions 2362 (2017) and 2380 (2017) relating to the illegal export of petrol, combating smuggling and the trafficking of human beings until the conflict was resolved and the Government was able to take full control. The authorities must continue their cooperation with the United Nations to ensure that those responsible for such abominations were held to account. The Security Council should also focus on the impact that those challenges had on the economic and social lives of Libyans, as well as the critical need to eliminate the armed groups, militias and terrorists operating largely with impunity.
Kuwait’s representative, aligning himself with the position of the League of Arab States — one of the parties to the international Quartet Committee on Libya — called for a comprehensive political solution and adherence to the Libyan Political Agreement. On the security situation, he condemned the recent attack in Tripoli as well as the escalation of violence in Sebha and other cities, as well as persistent human rights violations and the deteriorating humanitarian situation.
France’s representative, noting the progress made in harmonizing points of view across Libya through national consultations, said free, transparent and credible elections were the best way to ensure further positive momentum. The smooth holding of municipal elections in May was an encouraging sign. On the volatile security situation, he said terrorism remained a genuine threat, noting that violence continued to plague civilians in several areas. He emphasized the need to break the vicious cycle of trafficking, noting that the Council had taken steps to tackle the illicit trafficking of arms and oil, and should remain active in studying all tools available to combat such illegal trade. There was also a need to address the smuggling of migrants, he said, noting his country’s work with partners in that regard.
Libya’s representative declared: “Many painful years have elapsed in which Libyans have suffered at all levels.” They were no longer willing to suffer under the yoke of such challenges as weapons proliferation, waves of organized crime and economic losses, he said, voicing concern that criminals had turned the country into a fertile breeding ground for economic predation.
Emphasizing that terrorism and the activities of armed groups were completely foreign to Libyans — who were known for their tolerance and moderation — he said that foreign, imported ideology was only intended to sow the seeds of discord. The Libyan people were tired of the stoking of political tensions that brought only suffering, he stressed, calling for an end to the external meddling that threatened Libyan lives and futures.
Also speaking today were representatives of the United Kingdom, United States, Peru, Sweden, Côte d’Ivoire, Kazakhstan, Bolivia, Russian Federation, Netherlands, Ethiopia, China and Poland.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 12:05 p.m.
GHASSAN SALAMÉ, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), provided the Council with an update on recent developments in the country, declaring: “From one city to another, you will find reasons for concern as well as causes for hope.” Describing the deadly attack on the headquarters of the High National Elections Commission in the capital city, Tripoli, on 2 May — for which Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) claimed responsibility — as an attempt to derail Libya’s electoral process, he said the Commission had nevertheless expressed its commitment to continue towards the holding of elections. Positive developments had been seen in Tripoli, with elections for the Presidency of the High State Council already having taken place in a timely, peaceful and democratic manner, he said. They not only brought new leadership to the institution but also reminded all parties that “all official positions are only temporary”. He added that the Government of National Accord had agreed to the 2018 budget.
Outlining events in the city of Derna, he said an escalating ground, air and artillery assault had been under way there since the 7 May announcement by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar of an offensive by the Libyan National Army to combat “terrorists”. Calling on all parties to exercise restraint, he said an alarming escalation as well as armed clashes were also being seen in the central southern city of Sabha. The local hospital had been attacked, and there was a serious risk that the clashes would deteriorate into an ethnic conflict, he said. That city’s situation demonstrated the need for Libya to work with southern neighbouring States to secure its borders and resolve matters of human trafficking, the influx of fighters and the smuggling of goods.
He went on to outline positive developments in such cities as Zawiya, where municipal elections had been held for the first time since 2015 with United Nations support. Libyans from all political stripes and segments of society were gathering to enter the political conversation, many for the first time, he noted. In Benghazi, 30 follow‑up committees had been established following the conclusion of the National Conference, and cities around the country were demanding their own events. Describing several emerging points of consensus, he cited the yearning for a united and sovereign nation and a common belief that, to achieve that goal, the State must be more decentralized. There was an urgent need for a fairer, more transparent and effective distribution of public resources and a strong desire for unified State institutions that would work transparently and select leaders on the basis of competence rather than their identity. The advancement of Libya’s political process was therefore critical, he said, underlining the need to put the proper conditions in place for elections.
The House of Representatives must deliver on its promise to produce electoral legislation for all forms of electoral events in consultation with the High State Council, he continued, noting that the proposals of the Constitutional Drafting Assembly enjoyed both the legal required majority and the majority of votes from each of Libya’s three historical regions. By contrast, the views of Libyans diverged dramatically on the current draft of the constitution, he said, noting that, while some were keen to proceed directly to a referendum, others were dissatisfied with the text and had called for it to be amended, for a return to the previous constitution, or for specific guarantees, insisting that they would strongly oppose a referendum.
There had also been many attempts to reconcile various opinions on the amendment of the Libyan Political Agreement, he said, adding that the parties remained unwilling to make the necessary conditions, and “it is now time to turn this page”. By focusing on the 2018 elections, the task of amending the Political Agreement was rapidly shrinking in importance. Another critical challenge was the continued influence of armed groups on Libya’s politics and its precarious economy. That had been illustrated in a disputed decision by the Government of National Accord to give an armed group powers that could only belong to the sovereign State. To that end, a new strategy to help Libya deal with armed groups had been developed and direct engagement with those groups was under way. With the passing of the 2018 budget, Libya’s wealth must flow to the people free from obstruction by corruption, he emphasized. The issue of subsidies remained unaddressed, while human trafficking and illicitly traded goods continued to flow across borders. “These facets provide opportunities for those few who sit at the heart of Libya’s political stalemate, plundering the nation’s coffers and resisting any actions that might challenge their predatory economy,” he stated.
OLOF SKOOG (Sweden), Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1970 (2011), provided an update of that body’s work since 22 March, including one informal consultation, with an additional effort through the “written silence procedure”. During informal consultations on 3 April, the Committee had discussed a letter from the coordinator of the Panel of Experts on Libya, expressing its extreme concern about the leaking of its unpublished interim report of 16 January to the media. The Secretariat and Panel coordinator had provided updates and the Committee had also discussed the issue of frozen Libyan assets following reports of alleged devaluation and losses.
Turning to other issues, he said a letter had been sent to Libya seeking updates to a written briefing from May 2017 concerning the coast guard, explosive ordnance disposal units and the presidential guard. As of 1 May, the Committee was considering proposals for the designation of six individuals under the asset freeze and travel ban in the context of migrant exploitation and abuse. The Committee had received a request to delist Aisha Qadhafi from her travel ban and would take further steps after having received any possible comments from the States of citizenship and residence. The Committee had also received updates from the Panel of Experts regarding the vessels Nadine and Lynn S, he said, noting that they had been subjected to measures in relation to the illicit export from Libya of petroleum, including crude oil and refined petroleum products. Their listing had expired on 18 and 29 April, respectively, he added.
JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom), noting positive achievements in voter registration drives, emphasized the need to address differences among leaders, who must agree on an inclusive approach to ensure that elections would be peaceful. Meanwhile, the Council must deliver a unified message. Leaders must work together to address the suffering of the Libyan people, including by undertaking economic reforms. Turning to security, he pointed to grave concerns, including a recent attack by Da’esh, pockets of fighting and reports of slave auctions. Libya had an opportunity to deliver the aspirations of the people through credible elections, he said, stressing that to fail now was to invite more suffering.
NIKKI R. HALEY (United States) expressed grave concerns that violence and lawlessness were spreading, citing reports of slavery. The crisis in detention centres demanded urgent attention at a time when ruthless migrant smugglers must be stopped, she said, expressing regret that the Council had not yet advanced on adding sanctions designations on six individuals. She encouraged the Government of National Accord to work towards protecting migrants and refugees. Addressing Libya’s instability in the long run would mean resolving differences among parties, with the United Nations leading the effort, since separate international initiatives would distract from achieving solid results. Ahead of elections, donors should step up to meet the resources needed to ensure success, she added.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France), noting the progress made in harmonizing points of view across Libya through national consultations, said that free, transparent and credible elections were the best way to ensure further positive momentum. The smooth holding of municipal elections in May was an encouraging sign. On the volatile security situation, he said terrorism remained a genuine threat, noting that violence continued to plague civilians in several areas. Inviting Libyans to stand against that violence, he said efforts must be made to forge a single national army. On the economy, he said attention must be paid to breaking the vicious cycle of trafficking. The Council had taken steps to tackle the illicit trafficking of arms and oil, and it should remain active to study all tools available to combat such illegal trade. There was also a need to address the smuggling of migrants, he said, noting his country’s work with partners in that regard.
JOB OBIANG ESONO MBENGONO (Equatorial Guinea) called for maintaining important measures, including those enshrined in Council resolutions 2362 (2017) and 2380 (2017) relating to the illegal export of petrol, combating smuggling and the trafficking of human beings until the conflict was resolved and the Government was able to take full control. Authorities must continue to cooperate with the United Nations to end those abominations and ensure that those responsible were held to account. The Security Council, for its part, should also focus on the impact that those challenges had on the economic and social lives of Libyans, especially the large‑scale need for humanitarian assistance in many parts of the country. It was equally critical to eliminate armed groups, militias and terrorists operating largely with impunity and constituting the main threat to peace and stability, he emphasized. Noting that Libya’s various crises also threatened other countries in Africa, he condemned the recent attack against the High National Elections Commission in Tripoli, warning that it must not be permitted to derail efforts towards the upcoming elections.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) expressed support for efforts to stabilize Libya’s political situation, including the adoption of appropriate electoral legislation and updating the country’s voter registry. The United Nations should support efforts to ensure that the High State Council and the House of Representatives agreed on steps to address the threats facing the country. Welcoming measures to reincorporate non‑State actors into civilian life, he expressed concern over continuing episodes of violence, condemning the recent attack in Tripoli. Also voicing concern over the plight of migrants and others who were trafficked or smuggled through the region, he said sanctions should be imposed against those responsible for such abhorrent actions. Libya should also develop a fiscal policy aimed at combating both trafficking and corruption, he said, welcoming the continued work of UNSMIL against the backdrop of that highly challenging environment.
Mr. SKOOG (Sweden) noted the gradual improvement in Tripoli’s security situation and called for efforts to consolidate and build upon the gains already made. Sharing concerns about escalating violence in Derna and the potential for further civilian casualties, he called upon all parties to respect human rights and international humanitarian law. Regarding violence in the south, he encouraged continued regional cooperation to defuse the conflict. Emphasizing the need for accountability for crimes committed against those in detention, he called on all parties to ensure access to the United Nations and humanitarian organizations to detention centres under their control. He also urged Libyan leaders to engage constructively and to create the required legal, political and security conditions in which to hold free and fair elections to end the country’s protracted transition, stressing also that moving forward, women must be included in political and election processes. Sweden remained deeply concerned about the situation of refugees and migrants, he said, adding that serious efforts must be made to safeguard against human rights abuses and violations.
ALCIDE DJEDJE (Côte d’Ivoire), condemning the attack on the Electoral Commission, said the incident was a stark reminder that efforts to ensure security must be strengthened. However, such violence should not detract from progress, including recent meetings intended to reach compromises in the Political Agreement, which was the only valid framework to ensure the success of a democratic transition. Other positive steps included the constitutional referendum, the voluminous voter registration and the steps taken to hold municipal elections, he said, emphasizing that resolving the crisis in Libya was important to the whole of Africa. Noting the arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court, he said other steps were needed to address the migrant situation, including the listing of those involved in smuggling.
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) said the growth of violence between rival armed groups was undermining progress. While the Political Agreement was the only viable framework for ending the protracted crisis, he called for efforts to move towards permanent stability, urging all parties and other stakeholders to maintain a strong commitment to the common goal of seeking a solution. The Council’s unity was essential and the international community must create favourable conditions to advance the political dialogue, he said, noting the importance of international and regional engagement. Concerning the sanctions regime, he said Libya’s oil resources must be used for the benefit of all Libyans and strict compliance with the arms embargo must be reinforced.
PEDRO LUIS INCHAUSTE JORDÁN (Bolivia) said comprehensive implementation of the Political Agreement must guide efforts to end the transition period. Highlighting progress, he said the electoral processes must continue, since they were the bedrock of the State. Underscoring the importance of women’s participation in elections, he applauded several other forward‑looking inclusive steps, including discussions to smooth out differences among parties and ongoing regional efforts. However, disturbing violence persisted, he said, calling upon all parties to respect human rights. He also called for efforts to address the continued presence of foreign armed groups in the south as well as sporadic attacks by ISIL. Turning to violations in detention centres, he pointed out that not a single investigation had been concluded despite the flood of reports detailing violence against migrants. All parties should respect the human rights of migrants, he emphasized, asking the authorities to investigate reports of violations and to cooperate with the International Criminal Court.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait), reiterating his delegation's support for the United Nations Plan of Action, said Member States were united in their efforts to help Libya convene the General National Congress by the end of 2018 and consolidate national unity through dialogue facilitated by national reconciliation initiatives. The long‑standing transition process must come to an end, he said, calling on all stakeholders to support the holding of elections and to ensure their success and acceptance on the widest scale. Welcoming the smooth holding of municipal elections in Al‑Zawiya — where voter participation had exceeded 60 per cent — he expressed hope that Libyans across the country would follow that example. Aligning himself with the position of the League of Arab States, one of the parties to the international Quartet Committee on Libya, he called for a comprehensive political solution and adherence to the Libyan Political Agreement. On the security situation, he condemned the recent attack in Tripoli as well as the escalation of violence in Sebha and other cities. Such violence, alongside persistent human rights violations and the deteriorating humanitarian situation, contravened international law. He also voiced concern over the increased public spending and called upon national institutions to agree on solutions to Libya’s economic challenges.
VLADIMIR K. SAFRONKOV (Russian Federation), welcoming steps to stabilize the situation in Libya, nevertheless said prospects for a rapid resolution to the crisis were not apparent. One main reason was continued mistrust among the parties, which had led to difficulties in reaching compromise solutions. Indeed, many unresolved issues remained, he said, emphasizing that “elections cannot become a panacea”. More work was needed to improve Libya’s security situation and an institutional basis would be required for the work of Government entities after the elections. Stressing that there was no alternative to negotiations and dialogue among all parties, he said Libya’s future would depend largely on efforts to restore order and stability. Otherwise, armed groups and terrorists would continue to exploit the security vacuum to carry out attacks. It was also necessary to address the root causes of crises that had led to the massive flow of migrants and in turn to smuggling and exploitation of those migrants. The work of foreign mediators must be closely coordinated, he said, emphasizing that decisions on Libya’s future must be made by Libyans themselves. Efforts to overthrow regimes — as had been illustrated in past mistakes where foreign Powers had attempted to intervene in the affairs of other States — must always be avoided. Finally, he recalled that the contents of an interim report by the Panel of Experts had recently been leaked to the media.
LISE GREGOIRE VAN HAAREN (Netherlands) said elections should be well prepared and could only take place in a secure environment. Improving the security situation through dialogue with and among armed groups would require the Security Council’s special attention in the coming months. Voicing concern about the serious human rights abuses against migrants that continued throughout Libya, she noted that the trafficking networks exploiting migrants were closely linked to militia and terrorist groups destabilizing the country. She called on the Council to turn its words into action to resolve and address those activities. In that regard, the Netherlands supported targeted sanctions to dismantle trafficking networks and improve the human rights situation of migrants. “We expect the sanctions committee to come to a swift agreement on this important issue,” she stressed, noting that it affected not only Libya, but also the wider region. Regarding the “economy of predation”, she said the business of human trafficking was only one example of the criminalization of Libya’s economy. All actors must work together on the economic, political and security tracks to facilitate a political solution and stability, she said.
TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) emphasized the need to maintain and build upon the positive momentum of UNSMIL‑supported action to settle grievances and strengthen national cohesion. To do so would require the continued engagement of all Libyan actors with the United Nations‑facilitated peace process and the creation of an environment conducive to holding credible elections. There was no room for complacency, he stressed, highlighting the fragile security situation, the presence of terrorist groups and reports of violations against migrants and refugees. On the former, the Council should demonstrate unity and take appropriate measures against illegal traffickers of human beings. Noting the critical role that regional organizations were playing in encouraging all Libyan actors to sustain their engagement with the peace process, he said the Council must also send a united, strong message that an inclusive political process was the only way to address all outstanding challenges.
SHEN BO (China) said that despite ongoing insecurity, Libya had achieved steady progress with support from regional partners. Libyan parties must now press on to narrow differences and find solutions in order to restore State order. A better security environment was also needed, with regional actors making efforts to create an enabling environment with a view to achieving further gains. The continued impairment of the frozen assets must be addressed, he said, asking the Council to examine related Libyan concerns. The early restoration of security would create conditions for Libya to advance and prosper, he said.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland), Council President for May, spoke in her national capacity, highlighting the high levels of voter registration ahead of elections. That had demonstrated the eagerness of Libyans to participate in free and fair elections that would mark the end of the transition period, she said, urging the authorities to finalize the necessary electoral legislation effectively. However, insecurity plagued areas across Libya amid reported human rights violations and abuse in detention centres. Poland supported the Council’s actions against those responsible for human trafficking, she said, calling on the authorities to cooperate fully with the International Criminal Court in order to bring justice and accountability for all crimes under international law.
ELMAHDI S. ELMAJERBI (Libya), thanking the Council for its work in addressing his country’s regrettably entrenched crises, expressed hope that it could help the Government of National Accord lay the foundations for a modern, democratic State free from both internal and external meddling. Reiterating the Government’s commitment to organizing and convening elections before the end of 2018, he said that would only be achieved through effective, efficient and continuous international support. “Many painful years have elapsed in which Libyans have suffered at all levels,” he said, describing those years as a “harrowing time”. Going forward, partners must avoid fragmented approaches in their support. Libyans were no longer willing to suffer under the yoke of weapons proliferation, waves of organized crime and economic losses, among other challenges.
Criminals had turned Libya into a fertile breeding ground for their predation of the country’s economy, he continued. The Government would spare no effort to bring Libyans together and address the needs of all parties, he said, outlining national reconciliation efforts that had already reduced tensions and brought facilitated rapprochements among tribes in many cities and towns across the country. Emphasizing that terrorism and the activities of armed groups were completely foreign to the nature of Libyans — who were known for their tolerance and moderation — he said that foreign imported ideology had nothing to do with Islam and was only intended to sow seeds of discord. The recent cowardly attack on the High National Election Commission headquarters demonstrated the urgent need to hold terrorists accountable for their action, he emphasized, urging Member States to cut off all financing for such groups.
A recent slowdown in the trafficking of migrants through Libya had allowed the Government some breathing room, he noted, citing the establishment of migrant reception centres and repatriation efforts, all carried out in conjunction with UNSMIL and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). However, Libya was concerned about the actions of certain “shell NGOs” that used their supposed humanitarian programmes as a pretext to assist smugglers and traffickers. Recalling the recent arrest of one such non‑governmental organization’s personnel, he described trafficking as “the elephant in the room” and asked the Council to address its root causes on both the African and European sides. The Libyan people had had enough of the stoking of political tensions that had brought them only suffering, he stressed, calling for an end to external meddling that threatened Libyan lives and futures.