Special Envoy Ján Kubiš remarks to the UN SC on Libya - 21 May, 2021
Distinguished Members of the Security Council,
[I thank you for this opportunity to provide an update on developments in Libya since my briefing on 24 March and the Security Council’s Informal Interactive Dialogue held on 23 April. This week I also had a honour to brief a ministerial meeting of the AU PSC, Chaired by H.E. Sabri Boukadoum, MFA of Algeria, at his invitation.]
Over the course of the last months, a state of political paralysis has been replaced by developments, that have created a renewed hope for the reunification of the country and its institutions, for the restoration of its sovereignty, for peace and sustainable development, security, and stability in Libya and the region.
A critical task of Libyan authorities and institutions remains to ensure the holding of parliamentary and presidential elections on 24 December as set out in the LPDF roadmap and called for by the Security Council Resolution 2570. This priority lies at the core of the mandate of the GNU. The House of Representatives has the responsibility to clarify the constitutional basis for elections and adopt the necessary electoral legislation. This must be done latest by 1 July, to allow Libya’s High National Elections Commission (HNEC) adequate time to prepare for the elections.
UNSMIL facilitated the work of the Legal Committee of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) that developed a proposal for the constitutional basis. The LPDF will discuss this at its plenary meeting which is scheduled for 26 and 27 May, with a focus on resolving a few opened issues and forwarding the proposed constitutional basis to the House of Representatives (HOR) and High Council of State (HCS).
Following our meeting, the Speaker of the House in his statement of 4 May confirmed the importance of holding the presidential and parliamentary elections on time. He noted that if the LPDF agrees, the agreement should be referred to the HOR to be adopted and added to the Constitutional declaration and if there is no agreement, then we implement HOR Resolution No.5 of 2014 to conduct direct presidential elections. A draft legislation on direct presidential elections is ready to be presented to the HOR, said the Speaker.
The HNEC has been working consistently for the elections on 24 December 2021. The voters' list has been revised in coordination with the Civil Registry Authority to be ready for an upcoming voter registration update, and they already started the production of 2.3 million voter cards for those voters who registered in previous electoral processes. On 20 May, HNEC management convened in Benghazi with the 24 heads of electoral field offices from all over Libya to provide them with operational updates and guidance to be prepared for the implementation to come after the legislative framework is completed. But these efforts will be futile if the electoral legislation is not adopted on time to implement credible elections.
At the local level, the Central Committee for Municipal Council Elections (CCMCE) aims to conclude 70 outstanding council elections this year – including in the eastern region. I am encouraged by the clear mandate given to the local elections committee from the Ministry of Local Government. Renewing expired municipal mandates and reinforcing messages of democracy through credible and inclusive elections is critical during this important period of transition ahead of the national elections.
I appeal to the government to release timely funding to both the HNEC and CCMCE. I also hope that soon a NAM will be dispatched by the UN Secretariat to consider further UN support for the national elections.
The ceasefire continues to hold. The security situation has significantly improved, although clashes between armed militia groups competing for influence, access to and control of territory and resources do occur from time to time. Confidence-building between the two sides continues. In the past period, hundreds of prisoners and detainees were released by both sides, with releases taking place almost weekly in different parts of the country, particularly during the month of Ramadan.
Yet, progress on key issues such as the reopening of the coastal road between Sirte and Misrata and the start of the withdrawal of foreign mercenaries, fighters and foreign forces has stalled. Further delays in reopening the road work against efforts to build trust between the two sides and could undermine efforts to advance the implementation of the ceasefire agreement, to advance the political transition.
UNSMIL continues to receive reports of setting up of fortifications and defensive positions along the Sirte-Jufra axis and South Libya, air force training activities, cargoes of arms and military supplies into West, East, and South Libyan military bases; as well as the continuing presence of foreign elements, mercenaries and assets, thus entrenching the division of Libya.
The recent report of the UN Panel of Experts painted a bleak picture of non-compliance with arms embargo and other relevant requirements of diverse UN SC Resolutions. Thus, Resolution 2570 found it necessary to again strongly urge Libyan parties and all Member States to respect and support the full implementation of the ceasefire agreement, including through the withdrawal of all foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya without delay. These are critical elements for lasting peace in Libya and the region. I’d like to acknowledge here an important role of operation IRINI.
Article 2 of the Ceasefire agreement stipulates that: “.. all military units and armed groups shall clear all confrontation lines and return to their camps; in parallel, all mercenaries and foreign fighters shall depart from the Libyan territories - land, air, and sea”. Based on this, pulling back a limited number of mercenaries to Benghazi and Tripoli and then flying them out, can commence a balanced and sequenced withdrawal of foreign mercenaries, fighters, and foreign forces. This approach, already adopted by the 5+5 JMC needs to be complemented by a plan and timelines, agreed with those external forces that are associated with mercenaries and foreign forces in Libya.
Resolution 2570 authorizes UNSMIL to deploy monitors in support of the Libyan-led and Libyan-owned Ceasefire Monitoring Mechanism, by approving the proposals of the Secretary-General which recommended a phased, scalable and incremental deployment of an initial maximum of 60 monitors. UNSMIL together with the Secretariat plan for the initial deployment of some 5 observers to Tripoli.
The continued use, presence, and activities of thousands of mercenaries, foreign fighters, and armed groups is a significant threat not just to Libya’s security but to the region as a whole. The recent disturbing events in Chad again remind us of the interrelated nature and links between the security situation in Libya and the security and stability of the region.
The high mobility of armed groups and terrorists but also economic migrants and refugees, often through channels operated by organized criminal networks and other local players across uncontrolled borders only enhances risks of furthering instability and insecurity in Libya and the region. It is therefore critical to plan and ensure an orderly departure of foreign fighters, mercenaries, and armed groups together with their disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration in the countries of origin.
Withdrawal of foreign fighters and armed groups with origins in the region must be accompanied by scaled-up efforts across Libya and the wider region to address root causes of instability, notably through inclusive reconciliation, peacebuilding, and development programmes with a focus on the youth, on women empowerment. Coordinated, complementary measures and programmes supported and co-financed by the international community coupled with resolute international action against criminal gangs of traffickers of people, drugs and weapons and cooperative measures to enhance control in the border areas, including integrated border control and management must be a part of the solution, if it is to be durable and sustainable.
It is equally critical to revisit the approach of Europe, the EU, on the issue of refugees and migrants, working in partnership with Libya, the UN and AU. We all need to support Libya and develop together a comprehensive approach to managing the movement of people and migration including labour migration and addressing refugee movements to, through and from Libya that is built on the principles of international and regional cooperation and international law.
The Ceasefire Agreement provides the Libyan-owned framework also for DDR in Libya. The JMC has been tasked to establish a DDR sub-committee to immediately start identification and categorization of armed groups and armed entities on the entire Libyan territory with a view to dismantling them and reintegrating their personnel into society or state service.
On 19 December 2020, a Western-led DDR Committee composed of high-ranking military and police officers, representatives from relevant ministries and planning experts was formed. A unified, apolitical and technical DDR Committee with links to the 5+5 JMC is required.
The UN is committed to supporting the commencement of planning for DDR and SSR as stipulated in resolution 2570 (2021, pursuant to a nationally-owned and led strategy for DDR and SSR.
Resolution 2570 also highlights the importance of an inclusive, comprehensive national reconciliation process. President Menfi on 5 April announced the establishment of a High National Reconciliation Commission to address past human rights violations and promote national reconciliation based on justice and the rule of law. The Presidency will on this closely cooperate with the GNU. I am pleased to report that joint UN-AU work is underway to support Libyan authorities on promoting rights-based reconciliation and transitional justice, with a focus on community/local level reconciliation and the meaningful participation of women, youth, and all Libya’s cultural components.
The common thread running through all the human rights challenges in Libya is impunity, even for the most serious violations of international law. One of the most starkest reminders of the horrors of the Libyan conflict is the discovery of over 100 mass graves following the Government of National Accord’s recapture of Tarhouna, a city south of the capital.
Bilateral sanctions against the Kaniyat militia and its leaders by the United States and the European Union were recently joined by the UK. While international accountability and sanctions are needed, they cannot replace individual national criminal accountability. The rights of victims to truth, justice and reparation have to be central to any process going forward; full accountability for these atrocity crimes is the only way to ensure justice and right-based reconciliation in Libya. Unless Libya addresses violations perpetrated by all sides in the conflict, then any efforts towards sustainable peace will fail.
The situation of migrants and refugees in Libya remains of grave concern with increased humanitarian and protection concerns. There are some 575,000 migrants from over 41 countries in Libya, with more than two-thirds coming from neighboring countries. More than 500 have died and 9,135 migrants and refugees have been returned to Libya by the Libyan Coast Guard so far in 2021 compared to 12,000 returned for all of 2020. Libya remains considered an unsafe port for disembarkation. Most of those returned are arbitrarily detained in extremely poor conditions by the Department for Combatting Illegal Migration (DCIM) with restricted or no access by humanitarian agencies or are transferred to non-state actors with thousands of people missing and unaccounted for in the official detention system. The GNU should swiftly put in place due process guarantees to end and prevent arbitrary detention through the establishment of a judicial review system led by the Ministry of Justice in line with its recent commitments to address arbitrary detention. We are encouraged by the intention to include migrants and refugees in releases through the establishment of a judicial review system led by the Ministry of Justice, and to accelerate the voluntary and safe return of displaced persons. Here we welcome a very positive response from Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Justice of Libya – both of them women.
The GNU’s active support to facilitate and expedite IOM and UNHCR humanitarian evacuation and voluntary return and resettlement departures of migrants and refugees from Libya is urgently needed in view of Libyan authorities’ recent cancelations and postponements of such departures. I welcome our renewed efforts to address the multifaceted migration and refugee issues in Libya through the revitalized Tripartite AU-EU-UN Task Force.
We also call upon Libyan authorities, in particular the Supreme Judicial Council, and the ministries of Justice, Interior and Defence to end arbitrary arrests and detentions in Libya and for parties to release all persons arbitrarily detained and map and close illegal detention facilities as a vital measure for sustainable peace.
The nationwide ceasefire continues to permit improved humanitarian access although some bureaucratic constraints continue with new ones introduced. The UN’s recent on the ground assessments in seven areas of return show that significant improvements are needed in livelihood opportunities, access to education, health, and other public services such as electricity and water to accelerate the safe, voluntary, and dignified return of the remaining 278,000 internally displaced persons in Libya.
As of early May, the total number of reported COVID-19 cases in Libya was 181,174 according to the WHO, a 27 per cent decrease from previous weeks although the number of cases is certainly higher due to inadequate testing facilities. The Government of National Unity’s national vaccination programme is underway in municipalities across the country with the National Center for Disease Control reporting that as of mid-May about 100,000 people have received their first vaccine dose with 731,000 people registered in the programme. WHO and UNICEF continue to support national efforts to fight the pandemic including with the arrival in Libya of the second batch of 117,600 vaccine doses through the COVAX facility on 19 May.
Security Council in resolution 2570 sets out our priorities for the current period leading up to the upcoming elections. We have heard the resounding demand of Libyans for the country to finally part ways with so-called transitional periods. It is up to the Libyan authorities and institutions to use the opportunities of the newly regained nascent unity and sovereignty in order to continue the political transition towards a unified, fully sovereign, peaceful, and stable country with a full, effective, and meaningful participation of women, the youth. The significant progress and achievements in the past many months must be consolidated, the processes must regain and accelerate momentum, the authorities and institutions of Libya must live up to their responsibilities, under the full accountability to the Libyan people.
Sustained engagement and efforts that would allow the PC and GNU to fully extend and effectively implement its authority and responsibilities throughout the whole of Libya are necessary in order to advance the reunification of the country and its institutions, to start and complete the full implementation of the ceasefire agreement and to create the necessary security conditions for the 24 December elections.
Continued, concerted and aligned efforts of the international community in support of Libya-led and owned processes remain critical. We need to work together with and providing meaningful support to Libyan authorities and institutions in their efforts to achieve national reconciliation and transitional justice, the unification of State institutions, the full implementation of the ceasefire agreement and to set the stage for holding the elections on 24 December, for their free, fair and secure conduct an acceptance of their results. This is important not just for the Libyan people but for the region as a whole.
Thank you for your attention.