8588th Security Council Meeting: Situation in Libya

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29-Jul-2019 01:52:26
External actors content to ‘fight to the last Libyan’ in settling scores, top official tells Security Council, amid concern over migrants and refugees at 8588th meeting.

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Libya’s Representative Criticizes Council Inaction, Blames Government Foe of Silencing Opponents under Cover of Fighting Terrorists

Several recent tragedies involving migrants and refugees in Libya have spotlighted the extreme vulnerability of those groups, the senior United Nations official in that country told the Security Council today, as he described a rapidly worsening conflict exacerbated by external support.

“More than ever, Libyans are now fighting the wars of other countries who appear content to fight to the last Libyan and see the country entirely destroyed in order to settle their own scores,” the Secretary-General’s Special Representative told the 15-member Council by video link from Tripoli. Recalling the recent deaths of 150 migrants whose ship capsized off the Libyan coast and an air strike that killed 52 people in a migrant detention centre in the city of Tajoura, he emphasized the need for more action to address the root causes of the crisis and to end the suffering of refugees and migrants. The escalating war around Tripoli shows no sign of abating, and more than 400,000 people live in areas directly impacted by clashes and humanitarian conditions are deteriorating, he added.

While the parties have ignored calls for de-escalation, Libya has become the terrain for experimentation with new military technologies and the recycling of old weapons, he continued. “There is no doubt that external support has been instrumental in the intensification of air strikes.” Meanwhile, Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj and General Khalifa Haftar have publicly reaffirmed their commitment to a political and electoral process but have yet to take steps towards ending the fighting, he noted. Stressing that Libya’s future need not be decided by the warring parties, he urged all actors to cooperate with the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), which is hosting a fresh round of political negotiations. “The Libyans need to listen to their better angels,” he said, adding: “They are now fighting the wars of others and in so doing, destroying their own country.”

Also briefing the Council was the Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1970 (2011) concerning Libya, who outlined that body’s work during the period from 22 May to 29 July. Noting that the Committee sent a note verbale on 17 July reminding Member States of their obligation to implement the sanctions regime in full, he said that its Panel of Experts also provided updates on its investigations into reported violations of the arms embargo, including one that featured a preliminary case study on the 2 July air strike in Tajoura. In addition, the Committee is considering proposals submitted by a Member State for the designation of three individuals involved in a criminal network that illicitly exploits crude oil and other natural resources from Libya, he said.

As Council members took the floor, many called for redoubled support for refugees and migrants caught in the crossfire, with few protections as they flee armed clashes. Others expressed deep concern over the spillover effects of the conflict into the Sahel and across the wider African continent.

Côte d’Ivoire’s representative, for one, said all Member States must speak up in protest against the fate of sub-Saharan migrants who are victims of abuses and human rights violations in Libyan detention centres. Calling for a credible and independent investigation into the Tajoura incident, he expressed hope that migrants picked up off Libya’s coast will be treated with dignity and that their repatriation to their countries of origin is carried out in accordance with relevant international norms.

France’s delegate joined other speakers in noting that the Tajoura attack shed light on the vulnerability of migrants and refugees. Calling upon the Libyan authorities to halt the systematic detention of such persons and comply with international humanitarian law, he added that civilian infrastructure must not be used for military purposes and civilians must not be used as human shields. Terrorists and criminal groups are the only winners in the ongoing fighting, he said, warning that violations of the arms embargo are driving the current escalation in fighting. “This must stop,” he stressed.

Equatorial Guinea’s representative echoed some of those points, declaring: “[Migrants] are not criminals, nor terrorists, but people who deserve decent treatment.” Calling for an immediate ceasefire and a return to peaceful negotiations, he warned that the implications of the conflict reach far beyond Libyan territory, wreaking havoc across Africa. “A Security Council with its arms crossed, and its hands tied, does not help to stop the problem,” he added.

The Dominican Republic’s delegate agreed that the situation of migrants and refugees in Libya is bleak and urged European countries to commit themselves to harbouring more migrants. He also echoed the Special Representative’s calls for the permanent closure of all migrant detention centres in Libya. Pointing out that violations of the arms embargo continue to stoke tensions and further escalate the conflict, he emphasized: “The involvement of third parties in the conflict in Libya is brazenly obvious.”

South Africa’s representative noted that, for nearly a decade, the world has witnessed the effects of armed conflict and a military interventionist approach in Libya. Calling upon the Council to “take a lesson from this”, he warned that military solutions may appear to have short-term benefits, but they often do not lead to the lasting peace that is needed. Calling upon the parties to resume negotiations and for neighbouring States, the wider region and the United Nations to support them in that effort, he stressed that the process must be led by Libyans. Meanwhile, sanctions must be treated as a means to an end and never politicized, he added.

Libya’s representative, meanwhile, said that his country’s Government of National Accord has been forced to stand up against escalating aggression by terrorist groups, rather than preparing for elections as scheduled. Spotlighting attacks against hospitals and medical centres as well as widespread displacement, he expressed regret that the Council failed to take decisive measures following the Tajoura air strike and other recent incidents. Former General Khalifa Haftar claims to be maintaining security but is really only violating human rights and silencing the voices of his opponents, he said. Expressing regret that the Council stands idly by and still fails to “call things by their names”, he underlined the need to end the terrorist aggression against his country and to condemn negative interventions by some States.

Also speaking were representatives of the United Kingdom, United States, Belgium, Poland, Russian Federation, Kuwait, China, Indonesia, Germany and Peru.

The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 11:55 a.m.

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