Remarks of the SRSG Mr. Tarek Mitiri During a Press Conference Held in Tripoli on 23 June 2013

4 Jul 2013

Remarks of the SRSG Mr. Tarek Mitiri During a Press Conference Held in Tripoli on 23 June 2013

(Video inside)
1. I am pleased to meet with you this morning to share ideas about my recent briefing to the United Nations Security Council on 18 June 2012 in New York and the controversy that surrounded it in Libya.

2. As I had the opportunity to meet few of you, I cannot but commend the professionalism of intellectual integrity of serious journalists in the way they relay the news, and the way they interpret and comment on texts.

3. However, such praise does not conceal another bitter reality, and by that I mean the huge flow of words coming from a few individuals, for purposes unknown to me who distort and misrepresent statements or attribute their own words to others.

4. It is regrettable that some tend, whether intentionally or unintentionally, to confuse between news and opinions. This is frequently combined with inaccurate summaries, and substituting words to others in an irresponsible manner, without giving attention to the fact that some of such words have more than one meaning and that the connotations of facts which they convey may be hypothetical rather than categorical.

5. Needless to say that I am not here to condemn any of those people. May God forgive them. I only need to emphasize that they do not do harm to me as much as they harm Libyans, for they do not respect their right to know and their freedom to have their own convictions.

6. My briefing before the Security Council is periodical. It is merely considered a briefing on the situation in Libya. It does not formulate policies nor does it declare positions. It presents facts, and in some cases it interprets them from the perspective of general principles, International Law and international resolutions as well as the actual experience of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). Moreover, the briefing itself is one of a series that contributes to help evaluating changes in the Libyan situation.

7. I am compelled to reiterate an obvious statement that the addressee is the Security Council, which comprises fifteen states from east, west, north and south, all of whom are following Libyan events with great interest. However, despite their initial consensus over the new Libya and their support to the work of UNSMIL, they have different perspectives of reality, whether past or present. Some, due to their excessive focus on the problems, lean towards having greater concerns over what is called in the UN the democratic transition and state building.

8. Consequently, one needs to note that the Security Council members are well informed about the situation in Libya, and each has its own interpretation of the situation. They certainly have different motives and interests. Therefore, it is naïve for me to ignore this reality. Moreover, my argument would be weak if I refer to well-known events and ignore the links between them whether in terms of causality or chronology.

9. Today's reality, however, could not conceal the strength of the political will that seeks to show the opportunities available for Libya regardless of the huge difficulties. I was careful not to slide into considering the horizons as blocked, even if for a period of time, I emphasized that the possibility of achieving progress on the path of democracy and state-building remains stronger than the risks of deterioration.

10. I will not read my briefing to you since it is already published. I will only draw your attention to highlights from it, and with that I shall adopt the format of anticipated responses to questions that I usually receive from members of the Security Council. The first thing they want to know relates to the achievements on the path of exclusive possession of weapons by the state and the state's monopoly of the legitimate use of force to impose public order, preserve the security of citizens and the rule of the law. I did not hesitate to acknowledge that the achievements appear to be little. However, I emphasized in return the General National Council's Decision No. 53, which came in response to a wide popular demand, and which opens the door for progress with confident steps.

11. Some of the questions relate to the process of re-building state institutions and obstacles that are preventing its quick implementation. To give a fair answer, one needs to remind that the problem is not due to the lack of vision or will, but it lays in the accumulated problems that cannot be ignored. Rubble is the legacy that was left behind by the despotic regime. The building process requires utilization of the broadest Libyan capacities as well as huge international advisory and technical support. This compelled me to note two observations; the capacity of the Libyan state in terms of absorption and maximum utilization of the assistance it receives remains limited. However, this does not justify reducing international support, but calls for its increase with focus on urgent priorities and needs.

12. In a related context, my briefing before the Security Council referred to some possible consequences for the Political Isolation Law, its wide scope and the vagueness of some of its criteria. However, I did not question the legitimacy of excluding from public office the corrupt persons and human rights violators who served the bygone regime. Needless to say, this Law, which was enacted by the GNC, the master of its own decisions, has entered into force. It is also true that UNSMIL has no right to challenge it. However, international perceptions based on similar experiences in other countries, were marked by surprise as the law includes broad categories that are not held accountable for their practices alone, but for their positions in some public posts. Accordingly, I had to refer to various events that preceded its endorsement and to recall observations that were submitted by UNSMIL to the GNC prior to the vote on the law. Those observations stem from the experiences of other countries and underline civil and political rights of all Libyans. They are also based on considered study of the criteria of the law, some being quite vague or confusing. However, and in return, I did not forget to mention that a large section of Libyans support the mentioned Law and that gives it some sort of popular legitimacy, in addition to the legal legitimacy.

13. One cannot overemphasize that the United Nations, regardless of the political circumstances, must remind of the principles and values of the International Declaration on Human Rights and call for their respect. My briefing did not stray away from that obligation in the context of the current Libyan situation, with all of its deficiencies, flaws and unacceptable practices, on the one hand, and the legislative and practical remedies to the problems on the other. It is important for me in this regard to reiterate that UNSMIL is not a complaints or investigation body that is tasked with looking into human rights violations, nor is it a judicial authority for that purpose. It is a supporter of the Libyan people and authorities in their endeavor to promote human rights, a Libyan national priority and one of the core goals of the Revolution.

14. You are well aware that our involvement in human rights issues has constantly raised the concerns of a small group of Libyans and the expectations of another. I have spoken about the concerns and expectations more than once so as to set the record straight. Beyond the issue of human rights, I saw it to be my duty to talk about the prejudice and misunderstanding to which the United Nations has been subjected at the hands of a small group during the past three months, and by that I mean since the issuance of Security Council Resolution 2095. In my briefing I have spoken about two minorities. The first attributes to the United Nations an interventionist design in Libya, which is something out of the question. While the other calls for it to exert more pressure and to have a stronger and more effective presence in the Libyan public life, which conflicts with UNSMIL's mandate to provide advice and technical assistance with full respect of the Libyan national sovereignty. The talk about both mentioned minorities, regardless of how loud the noise they make, cannot overshadow the position of the majority whom we would like to address in order to dissipate baseless worries and exaggerated expectations as to what the international community provides.

15. Friends, I tried in my briefing to avoid the two pitfalls of overestimating and underestimating. I approached thorny issues from different angles, away from reductionism. I also sought accuracy in my description so as to avoid the numerous rash judgments. I would only mention, as an example, what has been mentioned about the Declaration of federalists in Barqa on 1 June. I was reserved in my estimation of the popular support that they enjoy and referred to their justifications and perceptions. I made a clear distinction between their position and the desire of wide sections of Libyans for some kind of decentralization and better distribution of resources.

16. I also wanted for the briefing to come across as objective in stating the facts and fair in showing the positions of the different political groups. I emphasized the importance of political dialogue between all parties and availed the capacities of UNSMIL for an inclusive dialogue that seeks national consensus on certain issues, for the benefit of the success of the transitional process.

17. In closing, I see no harm in using the same words with which I started my briefing to the Security Council. Despite all the security and political developments that have taken place over the course of the last three months, Libyans have not lost confidence as they remain unwavering in asserting the principles that underpinned their Revolution and the struggle of their revolutionaries, and in their desire to build a modern and democratic state, based on the separation of powers, respect for human rights and the rule of law.

Peace be upon you.

Tarek Mitri
Tripoli 23 June 2013