"United Nations’ priority in Libya remains to facilitate a return to the electoral process", says ASG Pobee

Assistant Secretary-General for Africa in the Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations, Martha Ama A. Pobee, briefing the Council on Libya / UN Photo ©

25 Jul 2022

"United Nations’ priority in Libya remains to facilitate a return to the electoral process", says ASG Pobee

Thank you for the opportunity to brief the Security Council on recent developments in Libya.

The overall situation in Libya remains highly volatile. Despite progress achieved, the constitutional and political stalemate persists, prolonging the tense security environment, with an increased number of clashes in and around Tripoli. The economic situation remains dire, exacerbated by the politicization of the National Oil Corporation. We have witnessed demonstrations by frustrated Libyans over the lack of progress on elections and poor state services. In addition, the human rights situation in the country still remains of serious concern.

Mr. President,

Since the last briefing to the Council on 27 June, progress has been made on the constitutional track. Special Adviser Williams convened a High-Level Meeting between the Speaker of the House of Representatives (HoR) and the President of the High State Council (HSC). The meeting took place at the United Nations in Geneva from 28 to 29 June.

The leadership of the two Chambers overcame important contentious points and outstanding provisions of the 2017 Constitutional Proposal, and concurred on some of the transitional measures that would lead to the holding of national elections. The two leaders agreed on a bicameral legislature as well as on defining the responsibilities of the President, the Prime Minister, the Cabinet of Ministers, and local government. There was also consensus on the establishment of provinces according to Libya’s existing electoral districts and on a revenues’ distribution mechanism. Furthermore, the two leaders charted a Roadmap, with timelines and a series of steps leading to the holding of national elections.

Despite promising progress achieved, one outstanding issue prevented the finalization of the agreement in Geneva. The parties did not reach consensus on the question of eligibility requirements for presidential candidates.

Special Advisor Williams has remained in contact with the parties and urged them to bridge this gap.

On 21 July, she attended a meeting of international partners in Istanbul. She reiterated that the only lasting solution that places Libya firmly on the path towards peace and stability, including resolving the current political crisis and restoring legitimacy to Libyan institutions, is through the holding of national elections as soon as possible.

We call again on the members of this Council and all of Libya’s international partners to continue to exercise their influence on the two leaders to reach a final agreement which would allow elections to be held as soon as possible.

Mr. President,

On 1 July, demonstrations were held across Libya, including in Tripoli, Benghazi, Al-Bayda and Tobruk. The Parliament building in Tobruk was stormed and damaged.

Protestors expressed their frustration with continued political divisions and deterioration of living conditions. They demanded the swift holding of elections, and solutions to the country’s electricity crisis and fuel shortage.

We urge Libya’s political actors to heed the call of their people, and to demonstrate responsible leadership by addressing their grievances.

Mr. President,

The continued political divisions, including the crisis over the executive and sovereign institutions, are prolonging the tense security environment in and around Tripoli.

As armed groups continue to position themselves in support of either Mr. Dbeibah or Mr. Bashagha, the risk of escalation increases. Military activity has also increased in the western region, especially on the eastern flank of Tripoli, Misrata and in the outskirts of Sirte.

We are deeply concerned about the armed clashes in Tripoli that took place on the night of 21 July and the skirmishes in Misrata on 23 July, between armed groups resulting in an unconfirmed number of civilian casualties.

We reiterate the importance of maintaining the ceasefire in Libya and urge all parties to exercise maximum restraint and to address disputes through peaceful dialogue. We also remind all parties of their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure.

Mr. President,

I welcome the resumption of the activities of the 5+5 Joint Military Commission (JMC) and the holding of meetings in Cairo and Tripoli between the Military Commanders of the Libyan Army. I commend their call for maintaining calm and stability in the country, as well as their efforts to unify the military institutions.

I am also pleased to report that the Libyan monitors together with UNSMIL international monitors conducted two joint workshops in Tunis in June and July to operationalize the Libyan-led and Libyan-owned Ceasefire Monitoring Mechanism.

The UNSMIL ceasefire monitoring component, the 5+5 Joint Military Commission and the Libyan monitors plan to meet in Sirte in early August to finalize a proposed plan for the withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries. On this occasion, they also intend to activate a Joint Operations Room.

Mr. President,

We are concerned about the ongoing disagreement regarding the leadership of the National Oil Corporation (NOC).

On 12 July, Mr. Dbeibah appointed, Mr. Bengdara, the former Libyan Central Bank governor, as new chairperson of the NOC. He replaced Mr. Sanalla who had headed the NOC since 2015. Mr. Sanalla rejected the decision to replace him and intends to take up the matter with the Libyan judiciary.  

Meanwhile, Libya resumed oil exports on 19 July.  Since 16 April, the shutdown had reduced Libyan oil exports by two thirds and cost the country 4 billion US dollars in lost revenue. It is too soon to confirm whether the oil production will resume at full capacity and whether changes at the NOC would further impact oil production and export.

We underline the need for the NOC to remain neutral and free from the pressure of political interests.

We call on all relevant actors to overcome their differences with a view to ensuring the full exploitation of the country’s oil fields. We also reiterate that Libya’s natural resources belong to all Libyans, revenues from oil exports should be distributed evenly and fairly utilized to enhance service delivery.

The United Nations reiterates its call on all actors to avoid actions that would cause a regression in the levels of oil production and export at this critical juncture.

Mr. President,

The human rights situation in Libya remains of serious concern.

The dire economic situation has had a negative impact on people’s fundamental rights to basic services and access to food, water and sanitation, healthcare and education.

In addition, UNSMIL has received reports that medical facilities lacked oxygen supplies for surgeries and critical care and clinics across the country faced severe challenges due to the extended power cuts and lack of fuel for generators.

The Mission also received reports that dozens of protestors who participated in the 1 July demonstrations were arbitrarily arrested by armed groups.

The United Nations reiterates the fundamental right to peaceful assembly, association and freedom of expression, and calls for the release of all those arbitrarily detained.

The increase in incidents of violence against women during Eid, including the murder of at least six women – including one girl – in Benghazi in the east, and Ain Zara and Gharyan city in the west of Libya must be condemned.

Meanwhile, civic space continues to be eroded. Arbitrary restrictions continue to be imposed on civil society organizations. Politically active women and men defending human rights are targeted with hate speech and incitement to violence, compromising their safety and security.

We remain concerned with the continued detention of nine civil society and humanitarian workers arrested between November 2021 and February 2022 for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression. On 6 July, four of these arbitrarily detained persons were again not permitted to be present at their second scheduled court hearing.

UNSMIL has continued to receive reports of serious allegations of torture against Libyans, migrants, and asylum-seekers in detention facilities and prisons. UNSMIL observed a wave of discrimination, expelling, and arbitrary arrests of migrants while they celebrated the holiday in the western-Libya cities of Zuwara, Zawiya, Tripoli, Misrata and Sabrata. Of most concern, a radio station in Zawiya broadcasted hate speech against migrants, asserting they were responsible for spreading diseases.

Libyan authorities must investigate all allegations of torture and other human rights violations. Those responsible must be held accountable domestically or, as applicable, by international justice mechanisms, such as the International Criminal Court.

Against this backdrop, I welcome the recent nine-month extension of the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya and the findings of its recent report that includes recommendations on the situation of human rights in the country.

Mr. President,

While the United Nations’ priority in Libya remains to facilitate a return to the electoral process, we should keep supporting, and encouraging Libyan counterparts to focus on effectively addressing the key drivers of the political and economic stalemate, including those that triggered the 1 July’s demonstrations.

The message from the young Libyans to their leadership was that they need to do more to improve their living conditions and that they want elections to be held as soon as possible in order to choose their legitimate representative.

We also reiterate the United Nations’ readiness to support the African Union’s efforts to organize a national reconciliation conference. In this regard, we welcome the recent technical-level meeting held in Brazzaville, at the initiative of President Denis Sassou Nguesso, bringing together the African Union and other partners in support of this initiative.

We count on the members of this Council and the wider international community to continue supporting the United Nations in its efforts to facilitate a mutually agreeable solution which will put an end to the continuing crisis.

I thank you for your attention.