Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL)& pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 31/27
33rd session of the Human Rights Council, Item 10 27-28 September 2016
Distinguished Members of the Council,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am honoured to have the opportunity to address the Human Rights Council to provide further information on developments in Libya and their impact on the human rights situation.
Political, security and economic situation
The signing of the Libyan Political Agreement in December 2015 and the entry of the Presidency Council in Tripoli last March created a moment of hope for the establishment of the rule of law in the country.
Unfortunately, we are now facing a political impasse as the House of Representatives has yet to fully endorse the Libyan Political Agreement and last month it voted against endorsing the Government of National Accord appointed by the Presidency Council.
Further, the Presidential Council has yet to appoint a focal point on justice issues, in the absence of an acting minister of justice.
At the same time, Libya is witnessing the unfolding of dangerous military developments.
The Libyan National Army of General Khalifa Haftar, who does not recognize the Presidency Council, recently took over key oil facilities while continuing to fight the Benghazi Revolutionary’s Shura Council in Benghazi.
Armed groups mainly from Misrata and loyal to the Presidency Council are confronting the remaining fighters of the so-called Islamic State in Sirt, supported by United States’ air strikes.
With nearly 600 killed and thousands injured, they have paid a heavy price in this important fight. I was in Misrata last week and met many people in the street market: all told me that they had lost at least one family member in the fight.
Sporadic violence also breaks out in Tripoli and other parts of the country. The risk of increased tensions in the capital should not be underestimated.
The continuing political and military instability is impacting heavily on the economy.
The Government is spending 93% of its total budget on subsidies and salaries, including those of members of armed groups that are not under the control of the Government.
People face daily hardships, putting up with prolonged power cuts and lack of cash.
People are queuing for hours, every day, to withdraw limited amount of money.
The medical system is broken and many schools are out of use.
What should be a wealthy and developed country is increasingly struggling with providing basic services to its people.
There are three important messages I would like to share with you:
- First, when it comes to civilians’ lives’ there is no East, West or South. Deaths and suffering are present all over the country.
- Second, the situation of migrants in Libya and on the way to Europe is unacceptable.
- Third, peace will only be sustainable if forged by the Libyans. National reconciliation has to start now.
I will then conclude by detailing some of the next steps to better protect and promote human rights in Libya.
My first point focuses on the impact of war on civilians
The multiple armed conflicts raging in Libya continue to directly impact the lives of civilians. From 1 March to 31 August, UNSMIL documented 287 civilian casualties, including 141 deaths and 146 injuries.
Victims include 30 children killed and 28 injured.
These numbers reflect only the cases that UNSMIL has been able to document of civilians who were killed or injured in the direct course of fighting.
The real figure of civilian casualties is higher.
In Benghazi, more than 100 families are currently trapped in areas of fighting, facing constant bombing and shortages of food, medical care and electricity.
UNSMIL has sought to arrange a ceasefire and is supporting local mediation efforts that would allow civilians wishing to leave to do so.
However, the warring parties have not agreed on the modalities for ensuring a safe evacuation.
Civilians in Derna are also suffering from shortages of essential items.
In Sirt, reports of summary killings of Islamic State prisoners are of great concern.
I welcome assurances that this is not a policy and remind all concerned that the fight against terrorism must be carried out in strict conformity with international humanitarian law.
Armed groups around the country continue to carry out grave human rights abuses with total impunity.
UNSMIL receives daily reports of abductions, arbitrary detention, summary killings, torture and other ill-treatment.
This impunity for armed groups must be addressed as a matter of urgency.
In this context, I visited the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in May to offer UNSMIL’s support, and continue to reiterate my call for additional resources to allow the Court to investigate fully international crimes committed in Libya, including since 2011.
I also further recall Libya’s obligation to hand over Saif al-Islam Qadhafi to the Court.
I come now to my second point: Migration.
I cannot emphasize enough the horrific plight of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, particularly those from Sub-Saharan Africa, as they travel through Libya.
As outlined by the Deputy High Commissioner, the systematic abuses they face are utterly unacceptable, as is the impunity that the perpetrators enjoy, including members of armed groups and official institutions, traffickers and smugglers.
UNSMIL is seeking the end to arbitrary detention of migrants, the closure of a number of detention centres and increased protection of those detained as well as increased resources for voluntary repatriation.
In these detention centres, women are particularly exposed to abuses including sexual violence and they need dedicated support.
Libya also should de-criminalize irregular migration and establish an asylum system as soon as feasible.
National Reconciliation is my third message today
On a more positive note, there have been successful examples of local reconciliation initiatives aimed at reaching ceasefires and returns of those displaced.
One significant example is the agreement reached on 31 August by representatives of the cities of Misrata and Tawergha - two sides of one of the most bitter episodes of fighting during the 2011 conflict.
The agreement outlines a programme of compensation for victims of human rights abuses and return for some 40,000 internally displaced Tawerghan persons.
The agreement is the result of courageous and determined efforts by the Libyan participants over some 18 months, closely supported by the mediation of UNSMIL’s Human Rights Division.
UNSMIL is now committed to supporting both sides in the implementation of the agreement in full conformity with international human rights law, in particular ensuring that the right to return and compensation are pursued in parallel and not made conditional on one another.
Libyan Institutions and UN support
I now wish to outline in conclusion some of the main developments relating to Libyan institutions as relevant to the protection and promotion of human rights, and the support provided by UNSMIL.
First, the Constitution.
With our support and that of the Omani government, a draft was finalized in March by the elected Constitution Drafting Assembly.
The draft includes improvements on earlier versions although is not fully compliant with human rights standards.
There is currently a dispute over whether the draft was adopted with a sufficient number of votes.
The draft needs to be approved in a national referendum.
I will try to reach out to the boycotters of the Constitutional Drafting Assembly in the next days to obtain an agreement of all to a draft Constitution.
Second, the security sector.
The Presidency Council recently appointed the commanders of the Presidential Guard, a new security force with a mandate that includes securing the Presidency Council and public facilities.
This is a welcome step towards establishing regular security forces under government control.
UNSMIL has provided advice regarding vetting for any human rights abuses of all members of the Guard.
In addition, in order to ensure that our engagement with security forces helps reducing rather than fueling human rights violations, UNSMIL and the UN Country Team are working on the implementation of the UN Human Rights Due Diligence Policy.
I suggest to establish a profiling unit within UNSMIL following my experience at MONUSCO.
Such a unit must be financed by member states and I will submit a proposal soon.
Third, the judiciary and prison service.
Despite the political fissures in the country and the security threats, a reason for hope is that these two institutions have largely maintained their unity.
There is still one Constitutional Court, one Supreme Judicial Council and one Judicial Police (Libya’s prison service).
UNSMIL is in regular contact with key prosecutors, judges and prison directors, seeking to provide whatever support is possible under the circumstances.
Fourth, women’s and youth’s participation in public life.
I am pleased to report that on the 8th of September the Presidency Council established a Women’s Support and Empowerment Unit, as envisaged by the Libyan Political Agreement.
UNSMIL continues to encourage women’s participation in all its activities.
I will continue to relentlessly call for an increased participation of women in Libya’s political life.
The engagement of youth is of particular concern. 50% of Libya’s population are between 15 and 35 years of age.
Young people and women together have a two thirds majority in Libya, however they still do not have a voice.
Finally, Mr. President,
I wish to conclude by commending the Human Rights Council for its attention to Libya, and by expressing my support for the High Commissioner’s proposal to the Council to establish an independent expert, under the special procedures, to report on human rights and accountability in Libya.
UNSMIL stands ready to fully cooperate with any new mechanism which would enhance human rights protection and promotion in Libya.