8611st Security Council Meeting: Situation in Libya

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04-Sep-2019 01:33:34
International meeting essential to getting Libya-led political process back on track, ending conflict, Special Representative tells Security Council at 8611st meeting.

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The international community must build on August’s Eid al-Adha humanitarian truce in Libya with a strong and unequivocal message that emphasizes respect for the arms embargo, non-interference in Tripoli’s affairs and support for whatever political future Libyans might agree to, the top United Nations official in the country told the Security Council today.

An international meeting, supported by regional organizations, remains a sine qua non for getting key external stakeholders to commit to ending the conflict and getting a Libyan-led political process back on track, said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), as he presented the Secretary-General’s latest report on the Mission.

“Many Libyans feel abandoned by part of the international community and exploited by others,” he said, warning of two “highly unpalatable scenarios” if the Council and broader international community fail to support an immediate end to the conflict — either a persistent and low-intensity conflict with continued fratricide among Libyans, or a doubling down of military support to one side or the other by their external patrons, resulting in a sharp escalation and regional chaos.

“The idea that war should be given a chance and that a military solution is at all possible is quite simply a chimera,” he said, speaking via video‑teleconference from Tripoli, emphasizing that the Council is capable of doing more and that Libyans deserve better.

The Special Representative briefed the Council five months to the day that General Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army, launched an offensive to seize control of Tripoli from the Government of National Accord. To date, more than 100 civilians have been killed, more than 300 injured and 120,000 displaced, with the number of fighters killed thought to be in the low thousands. Recent casualties include three United Nations staff members killed and two seriously injured in a bomb attack in Banghazi on 10 August.

“Despite the bellicose rhetoric and strong polarization in the country, there is popular support for an end to the violence, including by the actual fighters,” he said, adding that he is pursuing an intensive campaign in Europe and the Middle East in an attempt to forge consensus on an international meeting of concerned parties aimed at ending the conflict and resuming the political process.

The Council also heard today from the Head of Advocacy and Outreach at Lawyers for Justice in Libya, a non-governmental organization registered in the United Kingdom. She said the abduction and disappearance of Siham Sergewa, a female member of the Libyan House of Representatives, from her home in Benghazi on 17 July, demonstrated how perpetrators are emboldened by impunity for attacks against civil society activists. Noting that migrant and refugee women in detention centres are strip‑searched and exposed to sexual violence, including rape, she said that the State’s inability to curb armed groups and militias has left women vulnerable. Given the gender dimension of the conflict, it is critical that women are meaningfully included in all political talks to bring sustainable peace to Libya, she emphasized.

Warning that Libya is likely to erupt into “a full civil war” unless action is taken immediately, she called on the Council to demand an immediate ceasefire, ensure protection of civilians from attacks and to halt the transfer of weapons that are being used to perpetuate the violence. The Council should also call on the International Criminal Court to investigate possible war crimes and crimes against humanity, and also that Libya’s authorities do more to protect women and girls, including migrants, refugees and asylum‑seekers. While warring parties fight for power, it is Libya’s people who are paying the ultimate price. “It is their voices that should guide your actions by bringing an end to this conflict and restoring peace in Libya,” she said.

Eight of the Council’s 15 members took the floor, with Kuwait’s representative pointing out that the arms embargo on Libya has proven ineffective since April. He also warned of an influx of foreign terrorist fighters — particularly members of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) — protracting the conflict. Turning to the humanitarian situation, he called for the release of the more than 5,000 migrants and refugees being held in Libya’s detention centres.

Echoing the Special Representative’s call for the detention centres to be shuttered, Equatorial Guinea’s delegate said the Council must express itself clearly and adopt more effective measures. Foreign interference in Libya is a key factor in the crisis that the Council and the United Nations should loudly condemn, he added. Failure to do so would amount to legitimizing such conduct and permissiveness is not an image that the Council should project, he said.

The representative of Germany — who also presented the Council with the latest report of its Libya sanctions committee, which he chairs — agreed that the arms embargo must be implemented fully and strictly. The illicit flow of weapons into Libya is undermining the Special Representative’s efforts and non-compliance will lead to grave consequences, he said, calling also for an immediate ceasefire and for those Member States with influence to do their part.

Emphasizing the ongoing nature of the conflict, Libya’s representative warned the combined efforts of the United Nations, African Union and the European Union will come to naught if all stakeholders are not involved. He welcomed the Special Representative’s call for an international conference, but added that it must be preceded by a national dialogue that would enable the warring parties to reach a unified position. He called on the Council to adopt swift measures paving the way for resuming the political process, and to also dispatch a fact-finding mission that would determine the perpetrators of indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets, including hospitals and detention centres. He further called on the International Criminal Court to initiate proceedings for war crimes. Describing Libya as no safe refuge for migrants and refugees, he asked countries of origin and destinations to assume their responsibilities. While calling for a Libya-wide ceasefire, he said the aggressors must be defeated and must not be treated on an equal footing.

Also speaking today were representatives of South Africa, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Indonesia and Peru.

The meeting began at 10:04 a.m. and ended at 11:36 a.m.

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