- The present report, submitted pursuant to Security Council resolutions 2486 (2019) and 2510 (2020), covers political, security-related and economic developments in Libya, provides an overview of the human rights and humanitarian situation and includes an outline of the activities of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) since the issuance of my previous report on 15 January 2020 (S/2020/41).
II. Political, security-related and economic developments
Following a relative reduction in fighting in the immediate aftermath of the truce of 12 January called for by the Presidents of the Russian Federation and Turkey and accepted by the Government of National Accord and the Libyan National Army, fighting gradually resumed. Both parties redeployed forces along the front lines in the Tripoli area. As at 21 April, more than 850 reported breaches of the ceasefire had been recorded by UNSMIL, including an unprecedented increase in indirect fire observed in urban areas, resulting in civilian casualties, damage to civilian infrastructure and disruption of commercial air operations. At other flashpoints in western Libya, tensions also remained high. On 26 January, the Libyan National Army launched an offensive against the forces of the Government of National Accord in the Abu Qurayn area, south of Misratah, prompting heavy clashes and casualties on both sides. At the end of March, heavy artillery fire and rocket attacks were continued by both sides in parts of southern Tripoli and in the central and western regions. Locations along the western coastal road towards the border with Tunisia were seized by the forces of the Government of National Accord in mid-April. On 18 April, those forces launched a coordinated attack against the city of Tarhunah.
Reports continued of foreign mercenaries providing the Government of National Accord and the Libyan National Army with enhanced combat capabilities, amid persistent reports of military equipment and arms being supplied to both sides in violation of the United Nations-imposed arms embargo. Those developments undermined United Nations-led dialogue initiatives and added to more human suffering. From 1 January to 31 March, there were at least 131 civilian casualties in Libya, including at least 64 persons who were killed. Since April 2019, more than 200,000 persons have been forced to leave their homes in and around Tripoli owing to armed conflict.
To prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the national authorities and the unrecognized “interim government” based in eastern Libya introduced preventive measures, including the closure of all air, land and sea borders; restrictions on movement between municipalities and regions; curfews; lockdowns; the suspension of Friday prayers and gatherings; the closure of schools and non-essential shops; and restrictions on public transportation. On 14 March, the Prime Minister, Faiez Mustafa Serraj, announced a state of emergency in Libya and allocated 575 million Libyan dinars (about $406 million) to COVID-19 preparedness and response. Separate committees were established in the east and the west to address the impact of the disease.
Although prevention and preparedness measures taken with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic were introduced by authorities with the support of the United Nations, Libya remained at an extremely high risk. The situation was compounded by increasing levels of fighting and insecurity, political fragmentation and a weak and overstretched health system. The pandemic led to a loss of income for segments of society, food shortages and an increase in the price of basic commodities. In addition, measures to restrict the spread of COVID-19 hampered access to humanitarian aid and the movement of medical and humanitarian personnel.
The ongoing conflict and the current pandemic further weakened the already tenuous economic situation in Libya. The declaration of force majeure by the National Oil Corporation on 18 January as a result of a closure of oil ports in areas under the control of the Libyan National Army reduced oil production to less than a tenth of its prior output. The Libyan National Army-supported blockage of oil exports prompted the Government of National Accord to take austerity measures to reduce spending, including payroll reductions. The austerity measures will further exhaust coping mechanisms at a time when the population is facing tremendous additional economic pressures owing to COVID-19.
On 18 and 21 March, respectively, the Government of National Accord and the Libyan National Army responded positively to international calls for an immediate humanitarian truce and a halt to the continuing transfer of all military equipment and personnel to Libya in order to allow local authorities to respond to the pandemic. On 21 March, I welcomed the positive responses received from both sides. On 23 March, I called for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world in order for all efforts to be focused on addressing the pandemic and saving lives.
Respect for the humanitarian truce was short-lived. Armed confrontation intensified in southern Tripoli and spread to areas around the airbase in Watiyah, in the country’s north-west section. On 23 March, the Government of National Accord launched Operation Peace Storm, which it said was a response to the increased attacks by the Libyan National Army on civilian neighbourhoods in Tripoli. The military escalation complicated efforts by civilian authorities and the population towards putting preventive measures in place to address the pandemic.
Violence escalated unabated, even after the Security Council issued elements for the press on 26 March, in which concern was expressed about the significant escalation of hostilities on the ground and the possible impact of the pandemic in Libya. The parties were called upon to de-escalate the fighting, cease hostilities and ensure unhindered access to humanitarian aid throughout the country. The Council also reaffirmed the central role of the United Nations in facilitating a Libyan -led and Libyan-owned inclusive political process.
On 23 April, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Agila Saleh, announced a new political initiative, calling for the social and political constituencies in eastern, western and southern Libya to each elect a representative to a three - member Presidency Council under the supervision of the United Nations. On the same day, the Commander of the Libyan National Army, General Khalifa Haftar, reiterated that the Libyan Political Agreement and the current Presidency Council were no longer valid, requesting Libyans to empower an institution that was able to lead the country during the transitional period on the basis of a new constitutional declaration.
On 27 April, General Haftar announced that he had accepted the mandate provided by the Libyan people to the Libyan National Army to lead the country. On 29 April, the Libyan National Army announced a halt to all military operations during the holy month of Ramadan.
Following the resignation of my Special Representative for Libya and Head of UNSMIL for health-related reasons, on 11 March, I designated his Deputy, Stephanie Turco Williams, my Acting Special Representative and Head of UNSMIL. The process of appointing a new Special Representative is continuing.