Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Support Mission in Libya

16 Sep 2013

Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Support Mission in Libya

I. Introduction

1. The present report is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2095 (2013) of 14 March 2013. It covers major political and security developments, provides an overview of the humanitarian and human rights situation and outlines the activities of UNSMIL since the issuance of my report of 21 February 2013 (S/2013/104).

Political and security-related developments

2. During the reporting period, already significant political polarization was accentuated and manifested, inter alia, in the prolonged and divisive debate on the Political and Administrative Isolation Law, which seeks to bar officials from the previous regime from participation in public life. Along with the political and security fallout it created, disagreement remains strong over the future of the revolutionary brigades and illustrated controversies around the functioning of political institutions. For its part, the role of political parties is increasingly questioned and, in some cases, discredited.
3. Conflicting interests and views of political and regional forces in the country reflected in the General National Congress may have compromised its effectiveness as a legislative body and its standing in the eyes of many Libyans. This has had an undeniable impact on the stability of the political process and has hindered the Government in its ability to address the main problems facing the country.
4. The debate over the proposed law on political and administrative isolation dominated much of the political scene during the reporting period. Public support grew steadily for the exclusion from the political process and government bureaucracy of senior former regime officials, corrupt figures and others who had committed major human rights violations.
5. As deliberations became increasingly divisive within the General National Congress with regard to the scope of the proposed isolation law, a series of security incidents unfolded in which various political groups and armed elements stepped up their pressure on the authorities to adopt the law. Among these were the siege on the General National Congress on 5 March, forcing the legislative body to temporarily suspend its activities; an armed attack the same day on a vehicle carrying the then- President of the General National Congress, Mohammed El-Magariaf; assaults on a number of media outlets for their perceived bias against the law; and, most significantly, a two-week siege which began on 28 April by revolutionary brigades
of several government ministries, including foreign affairs, interior and justice.
6. A majority vote in the General National Congress on 9 April resulted in the amendment of article 6 of the Constitutional Declaration, effectively protecting legislation on political isolation from legal challenge and thus paving the way for the eventual passage of the law. In its original form, the article had guaranteed citizens’ equality before the law, which would have potentially disqualified the proposed law.
7. On 5 May, the General National Congress voted for the Political and Administrative Isolation Law by an overwhelming majority. The law, which is applicable for 10 years, lists a wide range of political, administrative and other positions, as well as types of affiliation and conduct, as a basis for the exclusion of individuals from public life. Proposals that the law include provisions for exempting persons on the basis of their early support for the Libyan revolution were rejected.
Prior to the adoption of the law, UNSMIL advised the General National Congress on international standards and best practices for the vetting of State institutions, as well as on the potential consequences of exclusionary measures. In a memorandum presented to the General National Congress President, UNSMIL indicated clearly that some of the criteria for the proposed law are disproportionate, and at times vague, and could violate the civil and political rights of many citizens.
8. A commission has been formed to implement the law in all cases except those involving the judiciary. A number of challenges to the constitutionality of the law have since been submitted, including one by Libya’s National Council for Civil Liberties and Human Rights.
9. Despite a distinguished record in active opposition to the Qadhafi-regime over three decades, Mohammed El-Magariaf chose to resign from his post as President of the General National Congress on 28 May in anticipation of the application of the law to him. First Vice-President Juma Attiga followed suit on 16 July. Nouri Abu-Sahmain has since replaced Mr. El-Magariaf as President, following a vote by the General National Congress on 25 June.
10. In response to calls from within the General National Congress and elsewhere for the formation of an emergency Cabinet, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan announced on 31 July that he would make new ministerial appointments and set up a crisis committee within the Cabinet. Deputy Prime Minister Awad al-Barasi resigned on 1 August, charging that government decision-making was overcentralized. A number of other ministers had resigned earlier in anticipation of being disbarred under the Political and Administrative Isolation Law.
11. The political fallout of the Political and Administrative Isolation Law deepened on 4 July, with the decision of the Coalition of National Forces to suspend the participation of its members in the General National Congress, except for the discussion and adoption of the electoral law for the Constitution Drafting Assembly. The bloc’s leaders cited intimidation by armed groups with respect to the adoption of the isolation law as grounds for their boycott. The Coalition of National Forces also urged agreement on a future road map, given that delays in adopting the electoral law for the Constitutional Drafting Assembly meant that the current timelines specified for the transitional period would extend beyond the mandate of the General National Congress, which ends in February 2014. Although the Coalition later rescinded its boycott, it announced on 1 August that it was suspending its participation in the political process until a Constitution was in place, and leaving it to individual members to decide whether to continue sitting in the Congress. Separately, leaders of the Justice and Construction Party initially declared on 5 July that it would cease to operate as a political party within both the General National Congress and the Government, and that its legislators and ministers would function as independents; the decision was later reversed, following opposition from the party’s Supreme Council.
12. Throughout the political crisis that ensued over the debate and subsequent adoption of the Political and Administrative Isolation Law, my Special Representative, Tarek Mitri, and his team stepped up engagement with all parties concerned, underlining the need for dialogue to defuse tensions and ensure respect for the democratic process.
Constitution-drafting process.
13. Efforts aimed at starting the constitutional process remained a political priority throughout the reporting period. The General National Congress in February resolved the long-standing dispute over the manner in which members of the Constitution Drafting Assembly would be selected. It opted for the election of a 60-member body with equal representation from the three historical regions of Libya. To this effect, it had to adopt a new amendment to the Constitutional Declaration, following a ruling of the Supreme Court. On 16 July the General National Congress approved an electoral law, with a majoritarian system and single seat constituencies. Six seats were reserved for women and another six for the three minority communities: the Amazigh, the Tuareg and the Tabu.
14. Groups representing the three communities objected to the law on the grounds that it failed to adequately uphold their rights. They launched a campaign of civil disobedience in protest on 24 July, including a boycott of the General National Congress. On 30 July, Congress passed a law recognizing the Amazigh, Tuareg and Tabu languages and providing for them to be taught in schools. Although community leaders welcomed the move, and Tuareg legislators ended their boycott, they continued to demand constitutional safeguards.
15. The United Nations remained actively engaged in supporting civic education and public outreach on constitutional issues in an effort to help the Libyan people prepare to participate in the constitution-drafting process. UNSMIL chairs a constitutional support working group that serves as the primary coordination and information-sharing mechanism for international partners working on the issue. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) organized a number of training workshops on constitutional processes, and is giving support to a national outreach campaign by a civil society organization; in collaboration with the United Nations Electoral Support Team, UNDP also trained women’s rights advocates on the electoral elements of the constitutional process. Working with the European Union and the University of Benghazi, UNDP also supported a nationwide survey of public views on the Constitution.
16. On 1 June, the Transitional Council of Barqa, which brings together pro-federalists in the east, unilaterally declared eastern Libya a federal region. The Council claimed the move was necessary in the light of the central Government’s failure to address the political, security and socioeconomic needs of eastern Libya, and stated that it would work towards establishing its own governance structures.
Surveys indicate that public support for federalism is low. However, there remains a broad consensus on the need for the decentralization of government services, the generation of employment opportunities and heightened investment in infrastructure throughout the region. In a move designed to reaffirm its commitment to address these legitimate concerns, the Government announced on 5 June that it would re-establish in due course the headquarters of the National Oil Company and a number of other State institutions in Benghazi.
Internally displaced communities
17. A decision by leaders of the displaced Tawergha community to announce their return to their hometown of the same name highlighted the plight of the community resulting from their forced displacement, and the harsh living conditions they continue to endure. My Special Representative witnessed this first-hand during a visit to a displacement camp in Tripoli on 3 June 2013. Given allegations of human rights violations in Misrata by Tawerghan community members in 2011, their unilateral return, in the absence of an agreement to address these violations through appropriate justice mechanisms, was deemed fraught with risks. Following intense mediation efforts in the lead up to the 25 June deadline set by the Tawerghans, and a public commitment by the Government to develop a plan for their return and improve their living conditions, the Tawergha Local Council agreed in June to postpone the return.
18. Meanwhile, the bodies of 11 people were exhumed in May from a grave in Tawergha. The identification process proceeded amid political controversy over their identity and cause of death. UNSMIL proposed that the Government create a fact-finding mechanism, within the context of an integrated transitional justice strategy, to address both the grievances of the inhabitants of Misrata against Tawerghans during the revolution and the grievances of displaced Tawerghans following the revolution.
19. Intermittent clashes between the Mashashiya and Guntrar tribes in March and April resulted in the displacement of an estimated 3,000 residents from Mizdah, predominantly Mashashiyans. They have since returned to their homes following a ceasefire agreement between representatives of the two tribes.
Security situation in Tripoli
20. Following a series of incidents involving kidnapping, armed robberies and other criminal activity, the General National Congress adopted on 20 March Decision 27, instructing the Ministries of Defence and the Interior to remove from the capital all “illegitimate armed formations”, and ensure transfer to the army of all illegal arms and military equipment in the city. Notwithstanding broad public support for the decision, its implementation has proven to be quite difficult, partly owing to the conflicting political and regional agendas on the part of the various brigades.
21. As tensions grew between rival revolutionary units in Tripoli, major clashes erupted on 26 June between Zintan brigades affiliated with the Ministry of Defence and others affiliated with Tripoli’s Supreme Security Committee. The two-day clashes left at least 10 dead, and on 27 June, the Minister of Defence, Mohammad al-Bargathi, was dismissed. The restoration of a fragile calm to the city’s streets was interrupted by the remote detonation of four car bombs on 16 July.
22. A tribal gathering in Zintan issued a statement strongly criticizing the General National Congress, the Government and political parties for the continued failure to
build an effective army and police force. On the opposing side, a number of local councils convened in Tripoli and condemned the actions of those military groups which they perceived as threatening the capital’s peace and stability. Amid objections from a number of General National Congress members, on 27 July General National Congress President Abu Sahmain assigned a coalition of revolutionary brigades the task of protecting Tripoli, citing the inability of the army and the police to do so.
Following a decision by the General National Congress on 5 August authorizing the President to take urgent measures to uphold security in all parts of the country, Libya Shield units from the central and western parts of the country began deploying in Tripoli on 8 August as part of an emergency plan to secure the city.
Eastern Libya
23. Benghazi and other parts of eastern Libya witnessed mounting opposition to the revolutionary brigades, particularly those formations referred to as Libya Shields, which are comprised largely of revolutionary units falling under the operational control of the Chief of General Staff of the Libyan army. Political differences regarding their long-term status precipitated a fatal clash on 8 June, when a demonstration outside the barracks of one such Libya Shield brigade deteriorated into an exchange of fire between brigade members and protestors, as a result of which some 30 people were killed.
24. Responding swiftly to the violence in Benghazi, on 9 June the General National Congress passed Decision 53, in which it called on the Prime Minister to present a proposal for the integration of armed brigades into the military and on the judiciary to conduct an investigation into the incident. In the wake of that decision, the General National Congress accepted the resignation of the Chief of General Staff of the Army.
Simultaneously, the Ministry of Defence called on military units in Benghazi to assume control of the barracks belonging to the four Libya Shield components stationed in the city. Although the deployment of Special Forces units from the military throughout Benghazi was welcomed by the city’s population, and appeared to go some way towards meeting their demand for the army to be deployed, the move did not fully address the central issue of the Libya Shield brigades and their future.
25. In what appeared to be a related incident, on 15 June unidentified armed elements attacked the police force at the National Security Directorate in Benghazi.
They subsequently engaged nearby military units, including from the Special Forces, leading to the death of several soldiers.
26. The tense security situation in Benghazi continued to evolve amid a discernible campaign of assassinations targeting members of the security forces in eastern Libya. Several current and former security officials were killed in Benghazi and Derna by unidentified elements. Similarly, police installations in Benghazi and Derna continued to come under attack.
27. The assassination on 26 July of prominent activist Abdelsalam al-Mesmari, the highest-profile political killing since the revolution, triggered a wave of protest demonstrations in Benghazi, Tripoli and other cities, in a number of cases accompanied by attacks on the offices of political parties.
Southern Libya
28. The security situation in the south remained mostly fragile despite efforts by the Government to assume greater control over its southern border areas and smuggling routes. The reporting period witnessed a spate of security incidents, including armed attacks on 30 March on the security directorate in Sabha and a military base in the region; and three car bombs in downtown Sabha on 26 June, resulting in four deaths and many others wounded.
29. The population in the south has expressed fears, based on unverified information or unconfirmed reports, regarding the infiltration into the south of members of extremist armed groups coming from, or through, neighbouring countries.
To be sure, the south is not immune to the impact of the military intervention in Mali, which has resulted in, among other things, an influx of displaced persons. Clearly, the insecurity of Libya’s borders is a regional issue that requires concerted efforts and international support.
30. In a move designed to improve tribal relations and promote peace and stability in the Sabha area, Awlad Suleiman and some Tabu tribal leaders signed on 20 April a reconciliation pact, viewed as controversial by some, in the presence of senior government officials. Residents in Sabha continue, however, to demand additional measures to help promote reconciliation in the region.
31. In response to fighting in early March in Kufra, primarily between the Zwaya and Tabu tribes, the General National Congress called on 26 March for the deployment of mixed government forces to assume control of checkpoints held by revolutionary brigades. Notwithstanding improvement in security in Kufra since clashes there in 2012, there has been little sustainable progress towards resolving long-standing grievances linked to local representation and service delivery, citizenship and identity card issues, illegal migration and tribal reconciliation between the Zwaya and Tabu communities.
II. Activities of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya

A. Electoral support
32. Following the 9 April decision of the General National Congress stipulating that the 60-member constitutional drafting assembly should be elected, an 18-member electoral committee was appointed with the task of presenting a draft electoral law.
33. After weeks of lengthy deliberations by the General National Congress plenary, the electoral law was finally passed on 16 July. My Special Representative had presented the leadership of the General National Congress with written commentary on the draft proposals for consideration by Congress members. A public statement was also issued by UNSMIL calling on the General National Congress to ensure the active participation of women in the constitution-drafting process, and urging the inclusion of special measures for women in the electoral law.
34. On 28 March, the General National Congress passed a revised law on electoral administration establishing the High National Election Commission as a permanent institution. The seven members of Board of Commissioners of the Commission, including one woman, were subsequently appointed on 21 April.
35. Amendments introduced in March by the General National Congress to Law No. 59/2012 on local administration provided a framework for local elections. In April, the Government issued a decision on rules and regulations regarding municipal council elections and appointed a central committee to oversee them, under the auspices of the Ministry of Local Governance, which has since approached UNDP with a request to assist the committee. Consequently, an electoral needs assessment mission was conducted in June to define the support that the United Nations will
provide to the process.
36. During the reporting period, the United Nations Electoral Support Team focused on three major areas of assistance, including the provision of advice on the drafting of electoral legislation, support to the High National Election Commission and the promotion of electoral awareness and knowledge, particularly on issues of voter registration, electoral systems and promotion of gender equality in the electoral process.
37. The United Nations Electoral Support Team continued to work closely with the High National Election Commission, providing it with technical assistance on internal reorganization and capacity-building in the different areas of electoral administration. Further support is being provided to enable the Commission to commence operational planning for elections to the constitutional drafting assembly now that the requisite electoral legislation has been passed.
B. Human rights, transitional justice and rule of law
38. The situation of conflict-related detentions has remained largely unchanged from my report of 21 February 2013, with the overall number of detainees estimated to be around 8,000, the majority of whom are held in facilities nominally under the authority of the Ministries of Justice or Defence. There was no significant advancement in the judicial screening of detainees, partly because of the limited enforcement power of the prosecutors and their reluctance to act for fear of reprisal.
The safety of judicial personnel remained a serious concern, with several attacks on prosecutors and judges recorded, including the assassination of a high-level judge outside the courthouse in Derna on 16 June and bomb attacks on courthouses in Sirte and Benghazi on 24 and 28 July, respectively.
39. UNSMIL continued to advise the Government in support of its efforts to assert its authority over all detainees, provide further training to prosecutors and advise on the formulation of an overall prosecutorial strategy to deal with conflict-related detentions.
40. The treatment of detainees remains of serious concern, with evidence of continuing torture and other forms of ill-treatment, especially in a number of detention facilities. Since January 2013, UNSMIL has gathered evidence, including medical reports, suggesting that at least 10 deaths in custody were due to torture. No one has been held to account to date.
41. Conditions of detentions in a number of facilities, especially those holding illegal migrants under the authority of the Ministry of the Interior, remain largely unacceptable. The Ministry of Justice made significant efforts to improve conditions at several facilities, including in Zliten, where UNSMIL observed improvements, particularly in the medical care of detainees.
42. On 9 April, the General National Congress adopted a law criminalizing torture, enforced disappearances and discrimination. The law is likely to have a deterrent effect on grave abuses of human rights. It will contribute to ending impunity for the perpetrators of such abuses.
Trials of former senior regime officials
43. Trials of senior figures from the Qadhafi regime included trial sessions in Tripoli of former Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi Al-Mahmoudi on charges related to incitement to kill and corruption, and of Saif al-Islam Qadhafi in Zintan on charges relating to his alleged escape attempt during the visit from officials of the International Criminal Court in 2012. Two other former Qadhafi officials on trial in connection with the Lockerbie compensations were acquitted in Tripoli on 17 June.
On 31 July, Ahmad Ibrahim al-Qadhafi, a former Education Minister, was sentenced to death along with five others by a court in Misrata.
44. On 31 May, the Pre-Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court rejected the admissibility challenge by Libya in the case of Saif al-Islam Qadhafi. On 18 July, the Appeals Chamber rejected Libya’s request to further suspend the order to surrender Mr. Qadhafi to the Court, recalling the obligation of Libya to effect such surrender, but the appeal on admissibility remained pending. Libya filed an admissibility challenge in the case against Abdullah al-Senussi on 2 April and the Pre-Trial Chamber granted a postponement of the surrender of Mr. Al-Senussi to the Court, pending its decision on the admissibility challenge.
Judiciary and prisons
45. Except for senior members of the Qadhafi regime, the resumption of criminal trials remains slow, owing to security problems, while civil, commercial and administrative courts appear to be resuming operations at a faster pace. On 17 April, the General National Congress adopted a law abolishing the jurisdiction of military courts over civilians. This is a welcome step towards compliance with international standards on the role of the military criminal justice system.
46. Following the amendment by the General National Congress of the law on the status of the judiciary meant to enhance the independence of the judiciary by allowing for the election of the Supreme Judicial Council by their peers, the Council, under its new composition, elected a president through a secret ballot and is considering proposals for further judicial reform. A law establishing a specialized administrative justice order and a constitutional court is being prepared. The law is part of a reform process to increase the ability of citizens to challenge administrative decisions and laws. UNSMIL is assisting in this reform process.
47. Recurrent cases of prison breaks have underlined the existing capacity gaps. Shortage of equipment, to mention an example, affects the judicial police and Libya’s prison service. Of particular concern were breakouts from the Sabha prison involving dozens of inmates in March and April. In June, also in Sabha, armed men attacked the prison freeing some 50 to 60 prisoners and killing one of them in his cell. On 27 July, some 1,400 inmates escaped following a riot at the Kweifiya prison in Benghazi. Those escaped included 500 charged with murder and other serious crimes, as well as a number of conflict-related detainees. In Misrata, the building of a new State-run prison is still under way.
48. UNSMIL continued to provide advice and training to the judicial police, assisting also in its restructuring. Some 10,000 members from the revolutionary brigades are estimated to have been integrated into the judicial police service, including 4,000 in 2013, reaching its full absorption capacity. A preliminary vetting process has been put in place, based on criminal records.
Transitional justice
49. A draft transitional justice law remains pending before the General National Congress following repeated delays in its adoption. A national human rights conference in al-Baida, endorsed by the Government and attended by my Special Representative, called on 30 May for the adoption of the law, among other recommendations. The existing fact-finding and reconciliation commission set up in 2012 has been largely inactive. On 26 June, the General National Congress ordered the establishment of a committee to look into the 1996 massacre at Abu Salim prison.
UNSMIL continued to urge the adoption of t