Outlining her continued activities to fight impunity for grave crimes committed since 2011 in Libya, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court today asked the Security Council to back up its support with effective action, particularly regarding the arrest of outstanding fugitives from justice.
“I look forward to effective support and concrete action from this Council to ensure that our separate yet interlinked mandates can positively contribute to the cause of peace, stability and justice in Libya,” Fatou Bensouda said as she presented her sixteenth report on the issue to the 15-member organ.
Ms. Bensouda said that, despite previous appeals of Council members and concerted efforts of the Court, not one of those indicted for alleged crimes in the events of the 2011 Libya situation has been arrested. Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf al‑Werfalli, Saif al‑Islam Qadhafi and Al‑Tuhamy Mohamed Khaled remain at large, she said, warning that, in the absence of accountability, impunity will continue to reign in Libya, causing great suffering and instability.
In that context, she said her office continues to monitor criminal conduct carried out by members of armed groups in Libya who use violence to exert control over State institutions, commit serious human rights violations and exploit detainees in unregulated prisons and places of detention throughout the country. She added that she hopes to soon be able to apply for new arrest warrants for such crimes.
She also, she said, continued to receive evidence of alleged crimes committed against migrants transiting through Libya, including killings, sexual violence, torture and enslavement. Since her last report, her office has piloted new models of cooperation with interested States and law enforcement organizations to address criminal networks that operate in Libya and outside the country. She reported excellent cooperation from the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and Libya’s Prosecutor General’s office in that regard.
Following the briefing, most Council members expressed support for the Court’s work in Libya under resolution 1970 (2011), agreeing that ending impunity for grave crimes was necessary to consolidate stability in the troubled country. In that context, most speakers also underlined the need to for support to the Government of National Unity in its efforts to end factional fighting, restore the rule of law and combat terrorism, welcoming UNSMIL’s role in that regard.
The representative of the United States, in that context, pointed to his country’s efforts to sanction individuals who threaten stability in Libya, while France’s representative called for the Council to impose specific measures on traffickers who violate the human rights of migrants.
In considering crimes against migrants, the representative of the Russian Federation urged that the Court focus more on criminal structures that have taken root in destination countries in Europe. He also regretted that the Prosecutor’s report fails to provide the names of armed groups involved in the escalation of violence in Libya. Given the slow progress in investigations, he said the Council should think about making changes to the regularity of its briefings on the country, he added.
Other speakers, however, underlined the need for greater support from the international community to accelerate progress in the Prosecutor’s investigations and facilitate the arrests of fugitives. The representative of Bolivia urged States that are not parties to the Rome Statute to do so to ensure they provided adequate funding and other support for that purpose.
Libya’s representative said his country is cooperating with the Court fully; the delay in bringing individuals to justice was due to the security situation. He maintained that the national legal system has prosecuted many accused, but for justice to be fully served, the country has to be supported in its efforts to bring about peace and fight terrorism. It is also important to respect the Rome Statute’s principle of complementarity with national jurisdiction. Libya’s authorities, he assured the Council, are seeking to prosecute perpetrators of all grave crimes and to work in favour of victims.
Also speaking today were representatives of the United Kingdom, Poland, Côte d’Ivoire, Peru, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Sweden, Netherlands, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia and China.
The meeting began at 10 a.m. and ended at 11:34 a.m.
FATOU BENSOUDA, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, introducing her sixteenth report and recalling that her office has issued three warrants of arrest in the situation in Libya and will issue three more in the next seven years, said that progress continued to be made in investigations. Since her last report, her office has piloted new models of cooperation with interested States in relation to alleged crimes against migrants transiting through the country and hopes to replicate that model with others.
Turning to the case against Saif al-Islam Qadhafi for alleged crimes in quelling demonstrations of the regime of Muammar Qadhafi in 2011, she said that he had filed a challenge in June to the admissibility of his case before her Court. The report details her argument against that claim; the issue is pending a decision by the Pre-Trial Chamber.
The office, she said, also continues to monitor criminal conduct carried out by members of armed groups in Libya who use violence to exert control over State institutions, commit serious human rights violations and exploit detainees in unregulated prisons and places of detention throughout the country and represent a major threat to peace and stability in the nation. Although she could not yet release details, her office hopes to soon be in a position to apply for new arrest warrants in relation to such crimes.
She also, she said, continued to receive evidence of alleged crimes committed against migrants, including killings, sexual violence, torture and enslavement. She affirmed that her offices integrate a gender perspective into all such investigations. She also stated that the response must address criminal networks that operate not only in Libya but also outside the country. To that end, the office is working collaboratively with various States and international law enforcement organizations. Efforts are being made to identify which entities are best placed to investigate or prosecute crimes and determine what further support other partners can provide, to close the impunity gap at the national, transnational and international levels. She reported excellent cooperation from the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and Libya’s Prosecutor General’s office.
She reported, however, that, despite the urging of Council members and concerted efforts of the Court, not one suspect in the Libya situation has been surrendered to it. Mr. Qadhafi has made clear he has no intention of surrendering, Al-Tuhamy Mohamed Khaled, former head of the Libyan internal security agency, also remains at large. In reaction to reports that Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf al-Werfalli, a commander in the Al-Saiqua Brigade, committed additional crimes in 2018, the Pre-Trial Chamber issued a second public warrant of arrest for alleged murder. Investigations indicate that Mr. Al-Werfalli and Mr. Qadhafi remain in Libya, while Mr. Al-Tuhami is outside the country. She called on Member States to take all necessary steps to effect the arrest and surrender of these fugitives to the Court. In the absence of accountability, she warned impunity will continue to reign in Libya, causing great suffering and instability.
She welcomed a July Arria formula meeting on relations between the Council and the International Criminal Court, as well as the offers of members of the 15‑nation organ after her last briefing of full support and cooperation for the arrest and surrender of indicted individuals still at large. “However, I respectfully submit that these words must be complemented by real action,” she said. “I look forward to effective support and concrete action from this Council to ensure that our separate, yet interlinked mandates can positively contribute to the cause of peace, stability and justice in Libya,” she said.
SUSAN JANE DICKSON (United Kingdom), noting that the Prosecutor’s report highlighted the continued troubling situation in Libya, said divisions in the country benefited no one except criminals, who have created an atmosphere of violence and fear in which ordinary Libyans suffer. There is an urgent need to break the political deadlock and bring peace to the country, with all parties engaging in good faith with the United Nations-led process. Calling on parties to cooperate with the Court, she said her country will continue to work with other Member States and the Prosecutor in investigating the appalling crimes against migrants, including international individuals transiting through Libya. She expressed deep concern that the number of migrants in detention centres has continued to rise.
MARIUSZ LEWICKI (Poland) noted that violations of international law in Libya include civilian killings, forced eviction, displacement of hundreds of families and restriction of humanitarian access. They also include abductions and prolonged detention of persons without trial or other legal process, as well as sexual violence and torture against international migrants transiting through the country. Noting that a crucial step in combating impunity for serious crimes in Libya is the arrest and surrender to the Court individuals named in arrest warrants, he said the country remains under an obligation and has the primary responsibility in this respect. However, Poland also supports the Office of the Prosecutor’s call on all States to take every possible step to execute these warrants and surrender those named therein to the Court.
JONATHAN R. COHEN (United States) noting that much has changed in Libya, but that instability remains of great concern, called for the maintenance of the ceasefire and the arrest of fugitives of those suspected of grave crimes. He warned that those who tamper with security in Libya will be held accountable, stating that a handful of spoilers must not be able to destroy prospects for peace. Those responsible for crimes against migrants must also be held responsible, he added. In that context, his country has imposed sanctions against individuals who threatened peace in Libya. The fight against impunity is indeed important both to help consolidate stability and to signal to future abusers that their crimes will not be tolerated. He pledged his country’s continued work in favour of the people of Libya. He also reiterated his country’s concerns over the Court in Afghanistan and Gaza.
SHERAZ GASRI (France) reaffirmed support for the Prosecutor in the fight against impunity in Libya. She said that all those who endanger the fragile political balance must be addressed. It is crucial in addition, for all stakeholders to focus on the reconciliation processes. All stakeholders must also cooperate in supporting the Prosecutor in providing evidence and handing over fugitives. All of the worst crimes committed in Libya must be subject to investigation and prosecution. Commending what she called the Prosecutor’s rigorous approach to crimes against migrants, she said that the Security Council should impose individual sanctions against those who traffic and abuse them. All the challenges confronted by Libyans should be addressed by the effective support of the Council.
KACOU HOUADJA LÉON ADOM (Côte d’Ivoire), affirming his support for the Court’s efforts to prosecute serious crimes in Libya, expressed deep concern over the instability in that country. He urged the international community to build on the prevailing truce and prevent further clashes by armed factions, and expressed support for the process leading to elections. He said that combating impunity is a fundamental prerequisite for reconciliation. Welcoming the expansion of the scope of the Prosecutor’s activities to include crimes against migrants, he urged effective action to protect them. He called for the international community to maintain support for the Government of National Unity in Libya to ensure return of rule of law.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru), noting continued violations of human rights in Libya, despite the United Nations-backed ceasefire, demanded that the numerous accusations of atrocity crimes be investigated. The Court’s work is clearly complex, requiring the full cooperation of all States, including the local authorities, who must be reminded of their legal obligation to issue the arrest warrants of the Court. Libya’s authorities are also obligated to protect the population by investigating and punishing those responsible for atrocity crimes, which is also an opportunity to strengthen justice and rule of law in the country. There is also a need to continue making headway on the action plan for an inclusive political process under the aegis of the United Nations, as well as measures to ensure the effective protection of the population, tackling terrorism in all its forms.
KANAT TUMYSH (Kazakhstan) said activities regarding the situation in Libya are “not very encouraging”. Ongoing political instability, a fragile security situation and breakdown in the rule of law continue to foster the growing impunity of armed militias and terrorist groups, while thousands of migrants and refugees suffer abuses and detention under inhumane conditions. He reiterated that an effective, credible Government is crucial to reinforcing Libya’s commitment to restore the rule of law, address impunity, protect human rights and bring past violations to justice. The international community must therefore support Libya in restoring stability and security throughout the country.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) noted the proliferation of arms, increasing presence of terrorist groups and escalation of armed clashes in Libya, which have claimed many victims. He expressed concern about the reported grave violations against migrants in detention centres, condemning such practices in the strongest terms. Emphasizing that the Court should complement national criminal jurisdiction, he commended the country’s cooperation with it, as well as with various States and civil society organizations. He called on the international community to continue supporting the Government of Libya in establishing a comprehensive strategy to combat crime and adhere to international law.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) welcoming the Court’s role in preventing impunity in Libya, called on all Member States to help facilitate its work, irrespective of whether they are States parties to the Rome Statute. He also called for fugitives still at large to be handed over to the Court. Noting continued fighting in the country and its humanitarian consequences, as well as further crimes reported against migrants, he said that the complex situation required a holistic approach in cooperation with the Government of National Unity, all parties in Libya and the international community, to ensure that the principle of complementarity is respected and that all fulfil their obligations. Calling for adequate funding for the Prosecutor’s activities, he said it is important in that context that all Member States become parties to the Rome Statute. It is also important that universality in the quest for justice be achieved. He finally called for all issues involving officials of the Court to be discussed transparency and included in reports.
IRINA SCHOULGIN NYONI (Sweden) expressed grave concern over recent reports of escalating violence and civilian casualties around Tripoli and Derna. The forced eviction of the Tawergha population, abductions of various targets and killings, torture and sexual violence in detention centres are also deeply worrisome. Reiterating strong support for the Office of the Prosecutor and its commitment to bringing justice to victims of serious international crimes, she also commended UNSMIL, Special Representative of the Secretary-General Ghassan Salamé and all international and regional organizations working under harsh circumstances. Citing several outstanding warrants and suspects still at large, she reinforced the Prosecutor’s call on Libya to immediately arrest and surrender all suspects to the Court.
LISE GREGOIRE VAN HAAREN (Netherlands) said the volatile security and human rights situation in Libya is “extremely worrisome”, with civilians bearing the brunt of the fighting. The situation of internally displaced persons and migrants is particular cause for concern. Calling for full, essential cooperation of the Council’s Member States to ensure the Office of the Prosecutor fulfils its mandate, she urged Libya’s authorities to cooperate with the Court to apprehend and surrender all those under arrest warrant. However, with Libya’s authorities unable to prosecute international crimes at the national level, the Court must ensure that accountability. She noted that, while suspects are not brought to The Hague, that absence of accountability encourages repetition of crimes and constitutes a complete disregard of the Council and international community as a whole.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea), highlighting reports of continued killings, sexual violence, trafficking in persons and extortions in Libya, said it is necessary to approach the situation differently in reducing the presence of armed groups and militias in the country. To this end, there must be close, objective and transparent cooperation among States, the Court and the Security Council in finding real solutions, while at the same time respecting Libya’s sovereignty, norms and customs. The Court must closely cooperate with the Libya’s Government in ensuring the country can carry out its work to address the situation effectively.
GENNADY V. KUZMIN (Russian Federation) said the report on Libya mentions recent information about the escalation of violence in Tripoli, but fails to provide the names of any armed groups responsible for this dangerous outbreak of hostilities. He noted that report after report had exaggerated actions taken by the Libyans in addressing this situation. On migration, he said the Court considers this from one side only, without pointing to criminal structures which have taken root in destination countries in Europe. Adding that the Court enjoys a shaky reputation in the eyes of many Member States and underscoring that the Libyan investigation has been slow, he said the Council should think about making changes to the regularity of its briefings on the country.
LEULSEGED TADESE ABEBE (Ethiopia) expressed concern over grave violations of human rights by all parties to the conflict in Libya, citing increasing criminality and the level of lawlessness engulfing the country. He condemned all attacks against civilians and infrastructure, including recent instances in southern and central Libya and called for violators to be held accountable. It is vital to fight the widespread sense of impunity while respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Libya. Widespread human rights violations cannot be sustainably halted, nor a credible and successful transition effected, without a Libyan-led and –owned comprehensive political dialogue facilitated by the United Nations.
MA ZHAOXU (China), supporting all efforts that aimed to consolidate stability in Libya, called on all Libyans to work for national reconciliation and restore State governance throughout the country. The international community should continue its support to the country in that effort while respecting its sovereignty and territorial integrity. In regard to the International Criminal Court, he said that his country’s position remained unchanged.
GIUMA M. M. FARES (Libya), noting the regime of complementarity set up under the Rome Statute in its efforts to combat impunity, said his country is cooperating with the Court fully in that context despite not being a States party to the treaty. The reason for the delay of bringing individuals to justice is the security situation. The national legal system has, even so, prosecuted many accused, but for full justice to be served, the country must be supported in its efforts to bring about peace and fight terrorism. Libya’s authorities, he assured the Council, are seeking to prosecute perpetrators of crimes, combat impunity and work in favour of victims.