Security Council Briefing on the Situation in Libya, Remarks by Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs
Thank you for the opportunity to brief the Security Council on the latest developments in Libya.
Since the last briefing to this Council on 24 November 2021, growing polarization among political actors and disputes over key aspects of the electoral process ultimately resulted in the postponement of the 24 December elections, despite the advanced stage of technical preparations by the High National Commission for Elections (HNEC).
In announcing the postponement, the HNEC cited shortcomings in the legal framework for the elections, contradictory court rulings on candidacies, and political and security concerns. The HNEC referred the matter to the House of Representatives.
In response, on 28 December, the House of Representatives established a Roadmap Committee to elaborate a new political path towards national elections. On 17 and 18 January, the Speaker of the House of Representatives convened Parliament and announced that the new roadmap would define the timetable and process for the holding of elections, in coordination with relevant institutions.
The Roadmap Committee is delivering its preliminary report today and the Parliament is expected to deliberate on it today or tomorrow.
On 5 December, the Secretary-General appointed Ms. Stephanie Williams as his Special Adviser on Libya. The Special Adviser is working closely with the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), as well as with Libyan, regional and international stakeholders.
Since her arrival in Libya on 12 December, the Special Adviser has undertaken wide-ranging consultations in Tripoli, Benghazi, Misrata and Sirte. She has met members of the Presidency Council, the Government of National Unity (GNU), the High National Election Commission, the House of Representatives, the High State Council and the Supreme Judicial Council, as well as candidates for the presidential and parliamentary elections. She has also consulted with relevant political, security and civil society actors from across the country.
Clearly, Libyan stakeholders hold different views regarding the path that can take the country to free, fair, inclusive and credible national elections and a peaceful transition. Discussion in the House of Representatives and among political actors is also increasingly focusing on the status of the Government of National Unity (GNU). SASG Williams has reiterated to Libyan interlocutors that the focus of the political process should remain on the holding of parliamentary and presidential elections to be held in the shortest possible timeframe.
In all her meetings, the Special Adviser highlighted the 2.8 million Libyans who have registered to vote. She called on all stakeholders to respect the will of the Libyan people. She also encouraged them to continue to focus on the holding of presidential and parliamentary elections as soon as possible and to adhere to the timeline agreed to in the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) roadmap, which was endorsed by the Security Council.
Earlier this month, the Special Adviser held talks with authorities in Tunisia, Turkey, Egypt, and the Russian Federation. She also had exchanges with the African Union, the European Union, the League of Arab States and many other international stakeholders. The Special Adviser stressed that it was critical for the international community to remain united in its support for the timely holding of presidential and parliamentary elections.
Since our last briefing to the Council, there have been ongoing dialogue initiatives among political, security and economic actors from across Libya.
We have seen reports of consultations between the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the High State Council, as well as among presidential candidates from western and eastern Libya.
On the security track, there have been meetings among various armed groups.
The Chief of General Staff of the Western Military Forces under the Government of National Unity and the acting General Commander of the Libyan National Army also met in Sirte, where they were joined by military chiefs and heads of military departments from both sides.
On the economic track, further steps were taken towards reunification of the Central Bank of Libya, based on the recommendations of the independent financial audit of the Bank completed in July last year. The Governor and Deputy Governor of the Bank shared with the economic working group of the Berlin Process their agreed overview of the way forward on reunification.
These are welcome developments.
We also welcome renewed efforts, particularly by the Presidency Council, to advance national reconciliation based on the principles of transitional justice. Together with the African Union, we remain committed to support a rights-based reconciliation process, which should advance in parallel to the ongoing Libyan-owned and Libyan-led dialogue tracks.
The ceasefire has continued to hold. However, political uncertainty in the run up to the elections negatively impacted the overall security situation, resulting in shifting alliances among armed groups affiliated with certain presidential candidates.
Similarly, unfulfilled demands made to the Government of National Unity by the Petroleum Facilities Guards (PFG) in western Libya recently resulted in the shutdown of oil production, causing the National Oil Corporation to declare force majeure on 20 December. Oil production was restored on 9 January, following negotiations between the PFG and the GNU.
As part of efforts to implement the ceasefire agreement, the 5+5 Joint Military Commission (JMC) travelled to Ankara and Moscow in December, to discuss the implementation of their Action plan for the withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries with Turkish and Russian authorities, including the establishment of communication and information-sharing mechanisms. These welcome steps build on similar mechanisms already established with Chad, Niger and Sudan, which were discussed with the African Union.
Meanwhile, the second group of international monitors from the UNSMIL Ceasefire Monitoring Component deployed to Tripoli in December to replace the first group deployed in October. Despite serious logistical and security challenges, UNSMIL continues working on the establishment of the ceasefire monitoring hub in Sirte. In this regard, we look forward to the approval by the Government of National Unity to proceed with the needed work on accommodation and office facilities in Sirte.
The human rights situation in Libya remains very worrying.
Over the reporting period, UNSMIL documented incidents of elections-related violence and attacks based on political affiliation, as well as threats and violence against members of the judiciary involved in proceedings on eligibility of electoral candidates, and attacks against journalists, activists and individuals expressing political views. Such incidents are an obstacle to creating a conducive environment for free, fair, peaceful and credible elections.
We are particularly concerned that women and men working to protect and promote women’s rights continued to be targeted by hate speech, defamation and incitement to violence. Some of the disturbing social media posts that posed a threat to the safety and security of these persons were removed after UNSMIL brought them to the attention of social media platforms.
Arbitrary detention in facilities operated by State and non-State actors continues across the country, with many detainees subjected to serious human rights abuses. According to statistics provided by Libyan authorities, over 12,000 detainees are being held in 27 prisons and places of detention across Libya. Thousands of additional detainees, including children, do not appear in official statistics and are held illegally, often in inhumane conditions.
The situation of migrants and refugees in Libya remains highly concerning. Large numbers of migrants and refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea and returned to Libya continue to be detained in inhumane and degrading conditions with restricted humanitarian assistance. Thousands are unaccounted for.
A joint UNSMIL-OHCHR report published in November documents that hundreds of foreign nationals were expelled in recent months to Sudan and Chad from Libya’s eastern and southern borders without due process. In many instances, the expelled individuals were placed in extremely vulnerable situations across remote stretches of the Sahara Desert without sufficient food, water, safety and medical care.
The United Nations remains ready to work with Libyan authorities on a long-term national response to migration and refugee management in line with international law to include addressing human rights concerns.
I am, however, pleased to report improvements in the overall humanitarian situation in 2021. The UN recorded a 30 per cent decrease in the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance, from 1.3 million at the start of 2021 to 803,000 by the year’s end. Of the 278,000 Libyans internally displaced one year ago, about 100,000 people returned home in 2021.
However, challenges persist in finding durable solutions for those still displaced and for returnee communities that lack basic services. Political and institutional divisions and the absence of an approved national budget resulted in limited improvements in basic infrastructure and service delivery in 2021. The Humanitarian Response Plan for Libya, extended through May 2022, is supporting the most vulnerable and refugee and migrant populations but requires additional funding.
Libya is at a delicate and fragile juncture in its path to unity and stability. We welcome and support the positive developments taking place across the three intra-Libyan dialogue tracks and recognize the challenges that must be overcome. We need to collectively nurture these positive steps.
It is critical that the international community remains united in its support for elections, guided by the aspirations of the Libyan people to be governed by elected institutions.
As so many Libyans have told us, the way forward towards a stable and united Libya is through the ballot box, not the gun. We must stand with them.