Permanent Representative Says Libyans, Still Beset by Terrorists, Question Implementation of Resolutions
Describing “fragile but palpable” improvements in Tripoli’s security situation, the top United Nations official in Libya today outlined efforts to support the country’s authorities in tackling rampant terrorism, overcoming its political stalemate and ending the criminal plundering of national wealth that drives millions of Libyans deeper into poverty each day.
Ghassan Salamé, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), warned the 15‑member Council that Libya — a country endowed with great resources and wealth — is at risk of becoming “the tragedy of lost opportunity”. While a ceasefire negotiated by the Mission at the end of September ended much of the fighting in the capital, he nevertheless recalled that more than 120 people were killed in just one month. Outlining UNSMIL’s efforts to consolidate the ceasefire and minimize the prospects of a similar crisis returning, he emphasized that armed groups from outside Tripoli should not attempt to invade again and groups operating from inside the city must stop using their position to penetrate, intimidate or control Libya’s sovereign State institutions.
“The Libyan conflict is in large part over resources,” he said, noting that the country, which produces up to 1.3 million barrels of oil per day, collected over $13 billion in just the first half of 2018. However, Libyans have grown increasingly poor as criminals steal billions from the national coffers. Calling for expedited economic reforms — critical to improving living conditions and eradicating Libya’s shadow economy — he went on to underline the importance of political leadership that promotes the best interests of the population.
“Libyans are sick and tired of military adventurism and petty political manoeuvres,” he emphasized, calling for a Libyan-led National Conference in early 2019 with a subsequent electoral process to follow. He also urged Member States to support efforts to combat foreign terrorist fighters — including Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and Al‑Qaida members — in the south.
As Council members took the floor, many strongly condemned a militia attack on Tripoli’s Jalaa Hospital for Women and Childbirth earlier this week. Several also expressed support for UNSMIL’s work, particularly its efforts to push forward a balanced political resolution, as well as the Council’s own recent resolution renewing sanctions to punish those responsible for the rampant human trafficking and migrant smuggling.
Kuwait’s representative commended both UNSMIL’s work and the implementation of the ceasefire it helped to negotiate in Tripoli, as well as new security arrangements there. However, efforts must be intensified to bring about a unified security mechanism under the control of the legitimate Government in order to end factional fighting, terrorist activity and serious crimes. Joining other speakers in welcoming the convening of a support conference in Palermo, Italy, he also voiced support for efforts to implement Libya’s long‑awaited economic reforms which have already helped to strengthen its currency.
Sweden’s delegate, meanwhile, said the spike in violence in Tripoli earlier this year shattered the capital and put the country at the brink. Urging all parties to end hostilities, protect civilians and refrain from destabilizing threats, he stressed that only through political solutions can a sustainable peace be reached in Libya. Elections must be prepared and all parties must respect results. Noting that economic issues underpin the crisis, he joined other speakers, saying that economic reforms will ensure a fairer distribution of resources.
The representative of Equatorial Guinea echoed the condemnation voiced by many speakers of this week’s attack on the Jalaa Hospital in Tripoli, warning perpetrators that such cowardly actions — meant to intimidate and spread fear – run counter to international law and could amount to war crimes. He also voiced his concern about the plight of migrants trapped in Libya who are suffering from systematic human rights violations or terrible conditions and are even falling victim to human smuggling or being sold into slavery. Welcoming the recent renewal of the Libya sanctions regime and the designation of new individuals suspected of such crimes, he nevertheless stressed that a further step is needed to prevent outside groups from financing human trafficking and migrant smuggling, and proposed that the Council establish a specific investigation into any such financiers.
Libya’s representative, welcoming the Special Representative’s efforts, nevertheless called for the further development of UNSMIL’s work. Libyans — still beset by terrorists in many parts of the country, even though they are trying to transition to a modern, democratic State — are wondering whether Council resolutions are being implemented. Meanwhile, some States have been violating the sanctions regime. Yet, the Council has not taken any measures against them, allowing his country to be robbed of its assets.
Urging the Council to distinguish between political parties and armed groups, which must be dismantled, he stressed that his country’s security must be unified under the national armed forces. “The current situation in Libya must end; it must not continue indefinitely,” he declared, adding that the freezing of Libyan assets are having a negative effect as they are not being managed well and funds are being lost. A better mechanism for managing the assets, in conjunction with the Libyan structures to which they belong, must be found.
Also speaking were representatives of the United Kingdom, France, United States, Netherlands, Peru, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Poland, Russian Federation, Bolivia, Kazakhstan and China.
The meeting began at 3:02 p.m. and ended at 4:55 p.m.
GHASSAN SALAMÉ, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), noted that since his last briefing in early September the fighting in Tripoli has finally ended. In one month, more than 120 people had been killed, including 34 women and children. The parties agreed to stop the violence because of the ceasefire agreements brokered by UNSMIL and on 25 September most of the attackers withdrew from the city. “Since then, we have sought to transform a challenge into an opportunity,” he said, outlining efforts to consolidate the ceasefire and minimize the prospects of a similar crisis. Recalling that several armed groups have withdrawn from positions in ministries and have indicated a readiness to hand over the port and civilian terminal of Mitiga airport to State control, he emphasized that “there is a fragile but palpable sense of improvement across the capital”.
Underlining the importance of a clear and balanced approach, he said that while armed groups from outside the city should not attempt to invade again, armed groups operating from within its limits must stop using their position to penetrate, intimidate or control Libya’s sovereign State institutions. Tripoli must be protected by disciplined, regular police forces, he said, emphasizing that success in the capital is crucial to success across the country. Among the drivers of conflict are the appalling conditions in Libya’s prisons. Hundreds of Libyans and foreigners are held illegally and treated inhumanely. Some prisons have become incubators for extremist ideology and terrorist groups. Urging the authorities to expedite prisoner release, he said UNSMIL has established a special taskforce on prison reform.
He went on to say that the Council’s unity in supporting the Mission’s efforts to broker the Tripoli ceasefire has been invaluable. Stressing that impunity in Libya must end and human rights must be protected, he noted that the new Minister of Interior’s first decree after taking office was to establish a human rights unit. “The Libyan conflict is in large part over resources,” he said, pointing out that the country is wealthy, producing up to 1.3 million barrels of oil per day. The country has seen revenues of over $13 billion in just the first half of 2018. However, those figures obfuscate the truth that Libyans have become increasingly impoverished while criminals use violence and patronage to steal billions from the national coffers. Urging the country to expedite its planned economic reforms — improving living conditions and reducing the opportunity for militias in its shadow economy — he said Libya’s liquidity crisis is nevertheless receding and prices for basic goods have fallen.
While security and the economy are two pillars required for stability, the third is political, he continued. The reshuffle on 7 October of the Presidency Council’s cabinet brought in four new Ministers. The United Nations will support further appointments which contribute to better delivery of services and security to the Libyan people. The House of Representatives must be given the opportunity to act in the best interests of the people, he emphasized, noting that it has to date failed to uphold that responsibility. Months after a binding commitment was agreed to produce the legislation required to hold a referendum on the Constitutional Proposal as well as Presidential and Parliamentary elections, nothing has been seen. “It is now clear that the postponed sessions and contradictory public statements were simply intended to waste time,” he said, adding that the body calling itself Libya’s sole legislature is largely sterile.
“Countless Libyans are sick and tired of military adventurism and petty political manoeuvres,” he continued, noting that a poll just received that morning stated 80 per cent of Libyans were insisting on elections. The time has come to give a wider and more representative group of Libyans the opportunity to meet on Libyan soil, with no external interference, to devise a clean path out of the present impasse, reinforced by a clear timetable. A Libyan‑owned, Libyan‑led National Conference will be held in the first two weeks of 2019 and the subsequent electoral process should commence in the spring. “This conference is not to be a new institution not an effort to replace existing legislative bodies,” he said; rather, participants can push national institutions to crystallize their visions for the transition and allow all Libyans to “no longer be ignored by their politicians”.
Turning to the situation in the south of Libya, he said there has been a complete collapse in services to the population as well as rising criminality, terrorism and rampant lawlessness. Foreign armed groups operate there with resulting shortages of everything from fuel to medicine to food. Underscoring that there are no institutions present to tackle those challenges, he encouraged Member States to support the Libyan authorities in addressing the foreign presence, including Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and Al‑Qaida members. UNSMIL will continue working with local authorities to provide humanitarian assistance and, later in November, it will organize a specific briefing to the international community to lay out the situation in the South in all its complexity. Member States must support Libya — a country endowed with great means — to combat the futile and destructive cycles fuelled by personal ambition and stolen wealth. Otherwise, the country is at risk of becoming “the tragedy of lost opportunity”, he stated.
STEPHEN HICKEY (United Kingdom) expressed strong support for the way forward described by the Special Representative, adding that for the national conference to be a success, it is critical to ensure representation of the full diversity of Libya, with significant participation of women. It is also vital that the Libyan institutions improve their functioning and deliver services. Welcoming the establishment of women’s empowerment units, he said that those units must be given the resources they need to be effective. He also underlined the need for the ceasefire in Tripoli to be extended around the country and for all those who violated human rights to be held to account. Welcoming reforms in the banking system, he called for further measures to be taken in that realm. He also called on all stakeholders to ensure that sanctions are being implemented effectively. Finally, he urged continued strong support for UNSMIL by the Security Council and the international community.
OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) said the spike in violence in Tripoli earlier this year shattered the capital and put the country at the brink. He urged all parties to end hostilities, refrain from destabilizing threats and protect civilians, adding that only through political solutions can there be sustainable peace in Libya. Elections must be prepared and all parties must respect results. Noting that economic issues underpin the crisis, he said economic reforms will ensure a more fair distribution of resources. There is an urgent need to establish functioning and unified security institutions. Any sustainable political solution requires the full and equal participation of women. He warned that the illegal flow of arms continues amid reports of violations of the arms embargo and urged Member States to fully implement sanctions. Libya’s readiness to engage with the World Bank is encouraging, he said, adding that unity among the Council and the main regional players is a key element in resolving the crisis.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait), commending the work of UNSMIL and the implementation of a ceasefire in Tripoli, welcomed new security arrangements there. However, work must be intensified to bring about a unified security mechanism under the control of the legitimate Government in order to end factional fighting, terrorist activity and serious crime. The Palermo conference offers the possibility to facilitate progress in all those areas. Welcoming the long‑awaited economic reforms programme, which has already had a positive effect in strengthening the currency, he called on the Special Representative to open an office in Benghazi. He also encouraged all Libyans to work with the Special Representative in the effort to bring about unity and lasting peace.
FRANCOIS DELATTRE (France), expressing concern over deteriorating security in Libya, pledged his country’s continued support to the Special Representative’s efforts to bring about sustainable calm and improved security arrangements. In that context, the unification of the Libyan armed forces under civilian power is a priority, he emphasized, commending the military dialogue facilitated by Egypt for that purpose. Noting the recent designation of an alleged human trafficker for sanctions, he warned that all those who threaten stability of the country, particularly through such predatory activities, are targeted by the sanctions regime. It is critical to encourage the country to pursue economic reforms, with the appropriate functioning of the Libyan Central Bank and the transparent management of resources as priorities. The rights and dignity of migrants must be effectively protected as well. He said he looked for next week’s conference in Palermo to be an opportunity to engage all stakeholders in such issues. At the same time, full support to UNSMIL must be maintained by the Council and the rest of the international community to assist the country to progress in the political process.
JONATHAN R. COHEN (United States), voicing his concern over instability and crime in Libya, said that too often the Council has not been able to speak with a unified voice to overcome the serious challenges to stability in Libya and to counter those who pursue their narrow self‑interests. Commending the Special Representative’s leadership in bringing about stronger security arrangements, he pledged his country’s continued support for political progress, building on the momentum of the Paris Conference. Underlining the importance of including all key Libyan constituencies in the political process, he called on the Government of National Accord to speedily put in place economic reforms to ensure transparency and equitable distribution of the country’s oil resources. He also called for Council unity in helping the Libyan people to overcome the challenges they face and urged Libyan parties to work together for conciliation and a peaceful future.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) echoed the chorus of condemnation — from UNSMIL, United Nations Member States and other parties — over the events in Tripoli in recent days. Attacks against hospitals, including Tripoli’s Jalaa Hospital for Women and Childbirth, and other civilian facilities are meant to intimidate and spread fear, he stressed, calling for a complete and immediate halt to such cowardly acts. Indeed, any attack against medical or humanitarian facilities runs counter to international law and could amount to war crimes. He also voiced his concern about the plight of migrants trapped in Libya who are suffering from systematic human rights violations or terrible conditions and are even falling victim to human smuggling or being sold into slavery. In that regard, he welcomed the recent renewal of the Libya sanctions regime and the designation of new individuals, aimed at sending a direct message to the criminal perpetrators of such acts. However, a further step is needed, as the groups that smuggle and traffic migrants are funded by outside third parties. A specific investigation into those who finance such activities should be opened. This will enable that such parties suffer the full weight of the Council’s punishments.
LISE GREGOIRE VAN HAAREN (Netherlands) said Libyan leaders must look beyond their personal interests; unwillingness to do so is holding back the political process. She called on the Libyan House of Representatives and the High Council of State to lay the groundwork for elections and to ensure the active participation of women. “We expect women to be part of the Libyan delegation at the Palermo Conference next week,” she added. Further, too many people profit from Libya’s political stalemate. The largest share of revenue from organized crime in conflict areas ends up in the hands of corrupt leaders. Referencing the work of the International Criminal Court in Libya, she urged increased efforts to end impunity, strengthen the rule of law and bring those that pursue violence to justice. Existing sanctions need to be better implemented. However, sanctions alone are not enough. “To ensure accountability we need to follow through on prosecutions,” she said.
FRANCISCO TENYA (Peru) expressed alarm over the continued violence in Libya, a country which remains hamstrung by a deep‑seated economic crisis, while being subjected to terrorism and atrocities that have become commonplace. Welcoming the initiative to set up the Greater Tripoli Security Plan — as well as UNSMIL’s support for the creation of that professional national security force — he went on to voice regret about the breakdown of Libya’s political process. In that regard, he welcomed the establishment of a Presidency Council, which will set up a leadership structure recognized by all parties, as well as the holding of Parliamentary and Presidential elections. Meanwhile, the state of the Libyan economy — which impacts the country’s stability and the lives of its people — requires urgent support. Recalling that the recently convened National Conference brought together some 7,000 Libyan citizens from over 40 cities, he said it is essential to reach a compromise on a transparent oversight system for Libya’s carbon resources. Those funds must not be plundered to support militias and strongmen, but rather used to support the wellbeing of the Libyan people.
GBOLIÉ DESIRÉ WULFRAN IPO (Côte d’Ivoire) said that, in spite of hopes raised over recent years, delays in pushing forward the legislative framework for Libyan elections, as well as continued insecurity on the ground, remain major sources of concern. Elections, when held, should promote the establishment of republican institutions while helping State authorities reconquer areas of the country that have fallen under the control of various armed groups. Urging the Government of National Accord to combat those threats, he joined other speakers in welcoming the Greater Tripoli Security Plan, as well as UNSMIL’s support for it. “Peace in Libya will be the fruit of compromise by all parties,” he stressed, noting that regional actors such as the African Union will also play a critical role. In that regard, he welcomed the latter’s efforts to host a national reconciliation conference in Addis Ababa and expressed hope that its outcome will provide tangible results. Condemning the recent attack on Tripoli’s Jalaa Hospital for Women and Childbirth, he said such actions violate international law and those responsible are subject to prosecution.
DAWIT YIRGA WOLDEGERIMA (Ethiopia) said that continued violence by armed groups and terrorists show that the security situation in Libya remains highly fragile. This, together with the widespread sense of impunity, is seriously threatening the stability and security of the country, he said. In this context, improving the security situation should be one of the top priorities in addressing the multifaceted Libyan crisis. He commended the work of UNSMIL in supporting Libyan actors to underpin the ceasefire agreed in September and to fully back the new security agreement in the capital. The crisis cannot be resolved without a comprehensive and Libyan‑led and Libyan‑owned political process facilitated by the United Nations. The successful national conference process that UNSMIL has been convening throughout the country has demonstrated that the Libyan people are committed to participating and raising their concerns and hopes for the future of their country. It is absolutely imperative that all Libyan actors engage meaningfully and constructively with the Special Representative so that all the required political and legislative instruments can be put into place.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland), reiterating her support for the United Nations action plan for Libya, called on all Libyans to work together in a spirit of compromise through the inclusive political process under the Special Representative’s leadership. Commending the country’s recent establishment of a Women’s Empowerment and Support Unit and the Italian initiative to organize an international conference on Libya in Palermo next week, she condemned the recent attacks by militias against the Jalaa Hospital in Tripoli and called for an immediate end to such violence. She also voiced concern about the illegal use of force and intimidation against private and public institutions in that city, notably against the Aman Bank al‑Siyahia Branch and the Libyan Arab Foreign Investment Company. “Any interference with the livelihoods of Libyans and Libya’s national wealth is a grave matter and must stop immediately,” she stressed, adding that perpetrators must face criminal prosecution and armed groups must withdraw from State and sovereign institutions and civilian facilities, not increase their grip.
VLADIMIR K. SAFRONKOV (Russian Federation), commending the Special Representative for his work, expressed deep concern over the deteriorating security situation, which is the result of interventions in the country in 2011. To remedy the ensuing instability, he voiced his support for the political process outlined by the Special Representative. The United Nations cannot by itself help Libya overcome all its challenges, he stressed, appealing for assistance from the international community. However, all efforts must be coordinated by the United Nations. The use of sanctions must be done with caution; while they could be useful in some cases, other cases must be dealt with by national justice. Good intensions could complicate the task of unifying the country. In that light, a strategy must be found to end the abuse of migrants by targeting those who are profiting from the crisis. Further, the oil wealth of the country must benefit the Libyan people. Calling for engagement with all parties in Libya, particularly those in the east, he said that the Council must not allow political views to interfere with the peace process. In that context, he pledged his country’s continued engagement with all parties.
VERÓNICA CORDOVA SORIA (Bolivia), expressing support to the Special Representative and deep concern over ongoing violence in Libya, warned that attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure could very well constitute war crimes. She called for all parties to sign onto and abide by ceasefires around the country. She also appealed for the end of the suffering of migrants, urging that all perpetrators of abuses be held to account. Calling on all parties to work together to make progress in the peace process, she highlighted the need for that process to be inclusive and ensure the participation of women. She finally underscored that it was regime‑change policies that had brought on the tragic consequences in Libya and around the Sahel.
DIDAR TEMENOV (Kazakhstan) called for a focus on strengthening State structures, including armed forces and the security sector. The absence of this focus will engender the continuation of creating a breeding ground for the illegal activities of terrorist, extremist and other destructive forces in Libya. Taking timely action will also prevent a repetition of recent events in Tripoli. In this context, the agreement between the House of Representatives and the High State Council on a mechanism for restructuring the Presidency Council is a welcomed step. He underscored that such a newly restructured body could act as a unity Government for all in Libya. With regards to sanctions, he welcomed the decision of the Committee to include Ibrahim Jadran on the sanctions list for engaging in acts that meet the sanctions designation criteria, including attacks against Libyan oil installations and attempts to export oil illegally.
MA ZHAOXU (China), Council President for November speaking in his national capacity, expressed concern over recent clashes in Libya and called on all parties to settle their differences through dialogue. The international community should support efforts toward their end, as well as toward a Libyan‑owned political solution. Efforts to bring about a unified security force should also be supported, while the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country must be respected. On the issue of sanctions, he stressed that they must not create unintended harm; efforts must be made to prevent any negative impact on the Libyan people and third parties. The Sanctions Committee must consider in that light of the effects of keeping Libyan assets frozen. He pledged his country’s continued active role in helping bring about a stable and prosperous Libya.
ELMAHDI S. ELMAJERBI (Libya), welcoming the efforts of the Special Representative, said that UNSMIL must be further developed so that it can prevent negative security developments. The activity of some armed groups must be ended, especially those who use heavy arms in populated areas and foment instability in many areas of the country. He also noted that Libyans are wondering whether Council resolutions are being implemented because they are still being beset by terrorists in many parts of the country, even though they are trying to transition to a modern, democratic State. In addition, some States have been violating the sanctions regime. Yet, the Council has not taken any measures against them, allowing his country to be robbed of its assets. There must be no commerce with parallel entities; they must be dismantled.
He stressed that the United Nations plan of action must be effectively implemented. For that to occur there must be intensified diplomacy with all Libyan factions so that subsequent understandings can be implemented without condition. The Council must also distinguish between political parties and armed groups, which must be dismantled. Security must be unified under the national armed forces. “The current situation in Libya must end; it must not continue indefinitely,” he declared, adding that mercenary gangs coming from the South must also be stopped and calling for nearby States to act with that purpose in mind.
As well, the Council must ensure such action, he continued. Turning to the abominable phenomenon of trafficking in persons, he emphasized that it is hurting Libyans as well as migrants. The international community must deal with a problem that had international causes and profiteers. Finally, he reiterated the negative effects of the freezing of Libyan assets as they are not being managed well and funds are being lost. A better mechanism for managing the assets, in conjunction with the Libyan structures to which they belong, must be found. For all these purposes, the Council must unify focus on the interest of the Libyan people, not of any other country.