Several recent tragedies involving migrants and refugees in Libya have spotlighted the extreme vulnerability of those groups, the senior United Nations official in that countrytold the Security Counciltoday, as he described a rapidly worsening conflict exacerbated by external support.
"More than ever, Libyans are now fighting the wars of other countries who appear content to fight to the last Libyan and see the country entirely destroyed in order to settle their own scores," the Secretary-General's Special Representative told the 15-member Council by video link from Tripoli. Recalling the recent deaths of 150 migrants whose ship capsized off the Libyan coast and an air strike that killed 52 people in a migrant detention centre in the city of Tajoura, he emphasized the need for more action to address the root causes of the crisis and to end the suffering of refugees and migrants. The escalating war around Tripoli shows no sign of abating, and more than 400,000 people live in areas directly impacted by clashes and humanitarian conditions are deteriorating, he added.
While the parties have ignored calls for de-escalation, Libya has become the terrain for experimentation with new military technologies and the recycling of old weapons, he continued. "There is no doubt that external support has been instrumental in the intensification of air strikes." Meanwhile, Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj and General Khalifa Haftar have publicly reaffirmed their commitment to a political and electoral process but have yet to take steps towards ending the fighting, he noted. Stressing that Libya's future need not be decided by the warring parties, he urged all actors to cooperate with the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), which is hosting a fresh round of political negotiations. "The Libyans need to listen to their better angels," he said, adding: "They are now fighting the wars of others and in so doing, destroying their own country."
Also briefing the Council was the Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1970 (2011) concerning Libya, who outlined that body's work during the period from 22 May to 29 July. Noting that the Committee sent a note verbale on 17 July reminding Member States of their obligation to implement the sanctions regime in full, he said that its Panel of Experts also provided updates on its investigations into reported violations of the arms embargo, including one that featured a preliminary case study on the 2 July air strike in Tajoura. In addition, the Committee is considering proposals submitted by a Member State for the designation of three individuals involved in a criminal network that illicitly exploits crude oil and other natural resources from Libya, he said.
As Council members took the floor, many called for redoubled support for refugees and migrants caught in the crossfire, with few protections as they flee armed clashes. Others expressed deep concern over the spillover effects of the conflict into the Sahel and across the wider African continent.
Côte d'Ivoire's representative, for one, said all Member States must speak up in protest against the fate of sub-Saharan migrants who are victims of abuses and human rights violations in Libyan detention centres. Calling for a credible and independent investigation into the Tajoura incident, he expressed hope that migrants picked up off Libya's coast will be treated with dignity and that their repatriation to their countries of origin is carried out in accordance with relevant international norms.
France's delegate joined other speakers in noting that the Tajoura attack shed light on the vulnerability of migrants and refugees. Calling upon the Libyan authorities to halt the systematic detention of such persons and comply with international humanitarian law, he added that civilian infrastructure must not be used for military purposes and civilians must not be used as human shields. Terrorists and criminal groups are the only winners in the ongoing fighting, he said, warning that violations of the arms embargo are driving the current escalation in fighting. "This must stop," he stressed.
Equatorial Guinea's representative echoed some of those points, declaring: "[Migrants] are not criminals, nor terrorists, but people who deserve decent treatment." Calling for an immediate ceasefire and a return to peaceful negotiations, he warned that the implications of the conflict reach far beyond Libyan territory, wreaking havoc across Africa. "A Security Council with its arms crossed, and its hands tied, does not help to stop the problem," he added.
The Dominican Republic's delegate agreed that the situation of migrants and refugees in Libya is bleak and urged European countries to commit themselves to harbouring more migrants. He also echoed the Special Representative's calls for the permanent closure of all migrant detention centres in Libya. Pointing out that violations of the arms embargo continue to stoke tensions and further escalate the conflict, he emphasized: "The involvement of third parties in the conflict in Libya is brazenly obvious."
South Africa's representative noted that, for nearly a decade, the world has witnessed the effects of armed conflict and a military interventionist approach in Libya. Calling upon the Council to "take a lesson from this", he warned that military solutions may appear to have short-term benefits, but they often do not lead to the lasting peace that is needed. Calling upon the parties to resume negotiations and for neighbouring States, the wider region and the United Nations to support them in that effort, he stressed that the process must be led by Libyans. Meanwhile, sanctions must be treated as a means to an end and never politicized, he added.
Libya's representative, meanwhile, said that his country's Government of National Accord has been forced to stand up against escalating aggression by terrorist groups, rather than preparing for elections as scheduled. Spotlighting attacks against hospitals and medical centres as well as widespread displacement, he expressed regret that the Council failed to take decisive measures following the Tajoura air strike and other recent incidents. Former General Khalifa Haftar claims to be maintaining security but is really only violating human rights and silencing the voices of his opponents, he said. Expressing regret that the Council stands idly by and still fails to "call things by their names", he underlined the need to end the terrorist aggression against his country and to condemn negative interventions by some States.
Also speaking were representatives of the United Kingdom, United States, Belgium, Poland, Russian Federation, Kuwait, China, Indonesia, Germany and Peru.
The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 11:55 a.m.
GHASSAN SALAMÉ, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya,briefed the Councilvia videoconference from Tripoli, warning that the armed conflict in that country shows no signs of abating. The war around Tripoli has already left nearly 1,100 people dead and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes, he added. More than 100,000 men, women and children are immediately exposed to the front lines, and over 400,000 more live in areas directly impacted by the clashes, he said, adding that the war has led to worsening humanitarian conditions and hindered access to food, health and other life-saving services.
Ignoring calls for de-escalation, the parties have intensified their campaigns with precision air strikes by aircraft and armed drones, he continued. Noting that the geographical scope of the violence has also spread, he also cited the increased use of foreign mercenaries as well as heavy weapons and ground attacks. Forces on both sides have failed to observe their obligations under international law, he said. Describing the 2 July air strike that hit a migrant detention centre in Tajoura, killing 52 people and injuring at least 87, he expressed concern â€“ underlined by the recent death of up to 150 migrants at sea on 25 July â€“ that more action is needed to address the root causes of the migrant issue and to end their immediate suffering.
He went on to state that United Nations humanitarian agencies have worked to mitigate the terrible conditions in Government-run migrant and refugee detention centres, where more than 5,000 people are currently being held. "What is required is that they be shuttered," he emphasized, urging Council members to call upon the Libyan authorities to take the long-delayed but much-needed strategic decision to free those detained. So far, in 2019, nearly 4,500 refugees and migrants were disembarked in Libya, where they face a serious risk of detention, arbitrary arrest and being trapped by the fighting, he said, urging European countries to respond to the Secretary-General's repeated pleas to revisit their policies and move migrants and refugees to safety.
Noting with alarm the increasing frequency of attacks on Mitiga airport, he reported that on 26 June, forces of the Government of National Accord recaptured the city of Gheryan, south of Tripoli. In other notable developments, Prime Minister Fayez Serraj and General Khalifa Haftar publicly reaffirmed their commitment to a political and electoral process but have yet to take steps towards ending the fighting. "Libya's present and future need not be taken hostage by the warring parties," he stressed, pointing out that the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) is engaging a wide range of constituencies and hosting a second round of political negotiations. From 13 to 15 July, he recalled, 72 members of the House of Representatives met in Cairo and called for the formation of a Government. He urged those participants to reach out to their fellow Members of Parliament to force a "truly national project", while warning against the trend towards establishing a parallel parliament in Tripoli.
In a similar vein, he expressed concern over the insistence of authorities in eastern Libya to press forward with the establishment of a parallel municipal elections committee. Cautioning against such efforts to delegitimize the work of the national body, he also expressed concern over other negative trends, including a rising tide of hatred on social media and satellite television stations that are fuelling violence on the ground. Libya has also become terrain for experimentation with new military technologies and the recycling of old weapons, he said, adding: "There is no doubt that external support has been instrumental in the intensification of air strikes." He stressed: "More than ever, Libyans are now fighting the wars of other countries who appear content to fight to the last Libyan and see the country entirely destroyed in other to settle their own scores."
Warning that Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da'esh) continues to exploit the security vacuum created by the conflict in and around Tripoli, he said indications that the weapons being delivered by foreign supporters to one side or the other are falling into the hands of terrorist groups or being sold to them are even more worrisome. He said that although UNSMIL has had to reduce its footprint in Libya due to the security situation, he has decided that the Mission should not leave the country because the United Nations must respond to the growing humanitarian needs and human rights concerns while remaining fully engaged with interlocutors. Since the start of the conflict around the capital, the Organization and local actors have provided humanitarian assistance to more than 75,000 people, he reported, expressing regret that only 30 per cent of the $202 million requested under the 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan has been funded to date.
He went on to express grave concern about the Libyan population's worsening access to water and electricity. In addition, the National Oil Corporation recently declared force majeure after an armed group closed oil valves in the Hamada area. Outlining UNSMIL's good offices work, which helped to facilitate a quick response to that incident, he said the parallel eastern National Oil Corporation continues to sell oil in violation of Security Council resolutions. "There is a serious danger of the weaponization of oil in the conflict, the consequences of which would be disastrous to the Libyan economy," he warned. Noting that UNSMIL has re-established its operational presence in the east and reopened its hub in Benghazi, he went on to describe the dire situation in southern Libya, saying it is characterized by a rise in intercommunal violence as well as terrible fuel and electricity shortages. Meanwhile, all parties have committed serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, he said, expressing particular concern over targeted attacks against health workers and facilities.
Emphasizing that impunity for such crimes must not prevail, he also outlined an unacceptable spike in enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions. "Nearly four months into the third war since 2011, it should be abundantly clear to all that the risks of either an open-ended, low-intensity conflict or a full escalation to outright war on the shores of the Mediterranean are equally unacceptable," he said, stressing that the decision to stop the war "cannot be postponed indefinitely". Among other recommendations, he called for the declaration of a truce for Eid al-Adha, which will fall on or around 10 August; the convening of a high-level meeting of concerned countries to cement the cessation of hostilities and strictly enforce the arms embargo; and the convening of a meeting between influential Libyan actors to agree on comprehensive elements for the way forward. "The Libyans need to listen to their better angels," he said, reiterating: "They are now fighting the wars of others and in so doing, destroying their own country."
JUERGEN SCHULZ (Germany) spoke in his capacity as Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1970 (2011) concerning Libya, for the period from 22 May to 29 July. During informal consultations on 31 May, he recalled, the Committee heard a briefing by the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Political Affairs in Libya on issues relating to the arms embargo. It also heard from the coordinator of the Panel of Experts on that body's interim report. Following discussion, the Committee agreed to take action on four recommendations from the Panel, including one focused on more effective implementation of measures aimed at preventing illicit petroleum exports from Libya. Following up, the Committee sent a note verbale on 17 July reminding Member States of their obligation to implement the sanctions regime in full, he said, adding that the Panel later updated the Committee on its investigations into reported violations of the arms embargo, including one that featured a preliminary case study on the air strike in Tajoura on 2 July. Meanwhile, on 21 June, the Committee held joint informal consultations with the 1591 Sudan Committee and the 2206 South Sudan Committee on the presence of Darfuri armed groups in Libya and South Sudan, and to discuss a common approach on that issue.
He went on to report that the Committee has been dealing with requests from Member States seeking guidance on the scope of the arms embargo, which is still under consideration, and the applicability of the assets freeze in relation to a particular entity. On the travel ban, he said the Committee is considering an exemption request for Aisha Qadhafi. It also determined that the presence of Qadhaf Al-Dam in Egypt beyond 23 May, in the absence of an approved extension of the exemption by the Committee, was in non-compliance with the travel ban, he said, recalling that Libya previously sought such extensions from the Committee. Regarding the sanctions list, he said that as of 3 July, the Committee is considering proposals submitted by a Member State for the designation of three individuals involved in a criminal network that illicitly exploits crude oil and other natural resources from Libya. Finally, he updated the Council on the arrest and detention of Moncef Kartas, a member of the Panel of Experts, in Tunisia on 26 March, saying that a Tunisian appeals court decided to release him from detention. However, the case is legally not yet concluded and the Committee looks forward to an update from the Secretariat on the status of the legal proceedings, he said.
KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom) described the Special Representative's briefing as "grave and alarming", calling once again on all Member States to fully respect their obligations to contribute to Libya's peace and security, prevent destabilizing arms shipments and protect its oil resources. The humanitarian cost of the conflict is an enormous concern, she said, adding that a way must be found to protect migrants and refugees as well as those in detention centres within Libya. On the Special Representative's three-part proposal, she said they are very important elements that come at a very critical time, adding that the Council will want to discuss them in detail and to determine how best it can enhance United Nations efforts.
CHERITH NORMAN-CHALET (United States) said the ongoing fighting in Tripoli is creating an opportunity for terrorists to regroup, threatening Libyan oil production and exacerbating the humanitarian situation. She called upon all sides to work with the Special Representative and UNSMIL towards a political solution.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France), warning of the danger of escalation as the fighting enters its fifth month, said the Tajoura incident shed light on the vulnerability of migrants and refugees. The Libyan authorities must halt the systematic detention of such persons and comply with international humanitarian law, he said, emphasizing also that civilian infrastructure must not be used for military purposes and civilians must not be used as human shields. The only winners in the ongoing fighting are terrorists and criminal groups, he said, stressing that Libyan actors must disassociate themselves from them. Violations of the arms embargo are driving the current escalation in fighting, he noted, adding: "This must stop." The parties must respond to the Special Representative's appeal and accept an unconditional humanitarian truce during Eid Al-Adha that could open the way to a lasting ceasefire. Underlining the urgent need to resume political dialogue, he said the Abu Dhabi parameters remain valid and must go hand in hand with economic and financial reforms.
KAREN VAN VLIERBERGE (Belgium) said the situation in Tripoli remains worrying, with the most vulnerable people suffering daily as a result of the fighting. She expressed concern over the recent tragic loss of 150 migrants at sea, while urging the parties to refrain from recruiting children and emphasizing that attacks against medical facilities are clear violations of international law. Those who commit such crimes, or more broadly violate international law, could be prosecuted by courts, including international courts. Noting that the escalating conflict is already jeopardizing progress achieved in recent years, she called upon the parties to return promptly to the negotiating table and commit to a ceasefire. She expressed alarm over rumours of a new escalation of fighting around Tripoli and called on all parties to ensure strict respect for the Council's arms embargo, violations of which only prolong the conflict and the Libyan people's suffering. The Council's silence on the situation has lasted far too long, she stressed, expressing hope that it will soon adopt a resolution "so that no one will have any doubt as to the will of this Council".
JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic) demanded an immediate ceasefire and a return to negotiations, declaring: "This must stop; enough." Noting that attacks against hospitals just days ago led to the deaths of many innocent patients and medical workers, he demanded full respect for international humanitarian law and international human rights law. The situation of migrants and refugees is bleak, with the deplorable recent shipwreck in the Mediterranean Sea and the bombing of a migrant centre in Tajoura revealing the vulnerability of migrants and the need for honourable responses to protect them, he said. Urging European countries to commit to harbouring more migrants, he called for the permanent closure of all migrant detention centres in Libya. Meanwhile, all countries should cooperate with the International Criminal Court to bring those responsible for atrocity crimes in Libya to justice. Pointing out that violations of the arms embargo continue to stoke tensions and further escalate the conflict, he emphasized: "The involvement of third parties in the conflict in Libya is brazenly obvious." In that regard, he cited the use of increasingly sophisticated weapons such as drones, helicopters and advanced rocket launchers. While the past informs the way the Council views Libya, it is time to reconsider its approach, he said.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) agreed that the recent shipwreck in the Mediterranean and the bombing of a migrant detention centre once again exposed the weakness of Libya's system for managing irregular migration. Citing security restrictions and the continued denial of humanitarian access as additional challenges facing that country, she called upon all parties to ensure safe and unimpeded access to all those in need, including those in prisons and detention centres. She also urged all parties to protect schools and hospitals against attack, in accordance with their obligations under international law, and expressed concern over violations of the arms embargo.
VLADIMIR K. SAFRONKOV (Russian Federation), warning that Libya is at risk of disintegrating, said the situation is the result of the destruction of Libyan statehood as a result of well-known events in 2011. It serves as a reminder of the unacceptable nature of ongoing geopolitical experiments. From the outset, he recalled, the Russian Federation has called for a focus on unifying Libya and consolidating the fight against terrorism, yet now jihadists can be seen moving in from Iraq and Syria with the goal of turning Libya into a major base for terrorism in North Africa. Emphasizing that his country has no secret agenda vis-à-vis the Libyan conflict, he said only the United Nations can play a leading role in the search for a settlement. On the humanitarian situation, he said migrants are finding themselves in "an awful situation", adding that the correct approach is not to fight them, but to focus on rehabilitation and improving problematic areas. Then people will return home themselves, he said, going on to call for a comprehensive approach to the illicit circulation of weapons. He also called upon all parties to refrain from pursuing a unilateral agenda and to support United Nations efforts to help Libya develop its own State â€“ a goal that can only be achieved if external players abide by the rules.
TIEMOKO MORIKO (Côte d'Ivoire) said all Member States must speak up in protest against the fate of sub-Saharan migrants who are victims of all kinds of abuses and human rights violations in detention centres. Calling for a credible and independent investigation into the Tajoura incident with the goal of putting the perpetrators before the appropriate tribunals, he expressed hope that migrants picked up off the Libyan coast will be treated with dignity and that their repatriation to their countries of origin, if they consent, is carried out in direct collaboration with United Nations specialized agencies, in accordance with relevant international norms. He went on to call for effective implementation of resolution 2473 (2019) regarding the inspection of vessels off Libya's coast, while encouraging the Special Representative to cooperate further with the African Union in the search for a lasting solution to the crisis.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait), describing the situation as "clearly absurd" emphasized that the arms embargo must be respected. The proliferation of hate speech through social media is a flourishing danger, he said, noting that monitoring such language online is one of UNSMIL's roles. Recalling the Council's condemnation of the Tajoura attack on 5 July, he called upon all concerned to ensure the safe provision of humanitarian assistance. There can be no military solution to the conflict, he emphasized, calling upon all parties to respect international humanitarian law and international human rights law, as Eid Al-Adha approaches, and to refrain from attacking civilians or civilian infrastructure. He called upon the Council to condemn the growing number of terrorist activities and to provide support to Libyan efforts in responding to that challenge.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) reiterated his delegation's previous calls for the Libyan people to unite and put their country's interests first. Dialogue is the only option, he emphasized, calling for the prompt resumption of the National Conference which should have been held in April. Expressing concern over the humanitarian situation â€“ especially the detention of migrants and refugees in appalling conditions â€“ he also expressed concern over the recent bombing of a migrant detention centre and the shipwreck in the Mediterranean, calling for international attention to both incidents. "[Migrants] are not criminals, nor terrorists, but people who deserve decent treatment," he stressed, calling for cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union in protecting them. Warning against external meddling in Libya, he called for an immediate ceasefire and a return to peaceful negotiations, noting that the implications of the conflict reach far beyond Libyan territory, wreaking havoc across Africa. "A Security Council with its arms crossed, and its hands tied, does not help to stop the problem," he said, stressing: "This is not the message it should be sending to the world."
JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa) expressed concern over continued air strikes and indiscriminate artillery use in densely populated areas, which have resulted in the loss of life and further exacerbated Libya's already dire humanitarian situation. Following the attack on the Tajoura migration and detention centre earlier in July, the African Union Peace and Security Council called for an independent investigation into the incident aimed at bringing the perpetrators to justice, he recalled. He expressed deep regret over the political stalemate, saying a peaceful resolution should remain the Council's utmost priority. "For close to a decade now, we have been witnessing the effects of armed conflict as well as a military interventionist approach," he said, calling upon the Council to "take a lesson from this". Military solutions may appear to have short-term benefits, but they often do not lead to the lasting peace that is needed, he pointed out. Calling on the parties to resume negotiations and for neighbouring States, the wider region and the United Nations to support them in those efforts, he stressed that they must be Libyan-led. Meanwhile, sanctions must be treated as a means to an end, and not an end in themselves, he said, emphasizing that they should never be politicized.
WU HAITAO (China) said the crisis has undermined Libya's security and development, with its negative spillover impacting the Sahel and the wider region. Urging the international community to step up efforts to support a political settlement, he called for an immediate ceasefire and the resumption of negotiations. Any political process must be Libyan-owned and Libyan-led, he said, adding that countries with influence over the parties should push them to realize the ceasefire and resume political dialogue. Calling upon the African Union, the League of Arab States and other regional actors to leverage their unique roles, he agreed with other speakers that sanctions should always serve the political settlement of conflicts. In that context, he expressed support for the arms embargo but cautioned that efforts must be undertaken to prevent other sanctions from negatively impacting the lives of ordinary Libyans.
MUHSIN SYIHAB (Indonesia) reiterated the Council's persistent calls for a ceasefire and de-escalation, accompanied by a return to political mediation under United Nations auspices. The Libyan National Conference must convene as soon as possible, he emphasized. Turning to the humanitarian situation, he described it as dreadful and getting worse by the day. International humanitarian law and human rights must be respected by all parties, he said, stressing: "The Council must step up and do what we are here for â€“ saving lives."
AGAPI NEHRING (Germany) echoed the Special Representative's call for an immediate ceasefire, saying it is high time the Council sent a strong signal that the fighting must stop and made it clear that the only solution to the conflict is a political one. A repeat of the Tajoura tragedy must be prevented by all means, she emphasized. Calling for the immediate closure of all detention centres, she said the Council must take more action against ongoing sanctions violations. "This is a question of credibility," she stressed. Regarding Tunisia's release of Dr. Kartas, she said that country must either close all legal proceedings against him or request authorization to continue proceedings in accordance with the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru), Council President for July, spoke in his national capacity, emphasizing that it is unacceptable that Council members are becoming accustomed to reports about the deaths of innocent civilians and failing to react. Blatant violations of the arms embargo are feeding a dismal and vicious cycle of violence, he said, emphasizing the need to ensure accountability for the growing number of atrocity crimes. Reiterating the need for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire and a return to negotiations through renewed mediation efforts, he expressed hope that the Council will further discuss the Special Representative's proposals during consultations. He went on to call upon those parties with influence to act immediately to bring the parties together, regardless of economic and strategic considerations.
ELMAHDI S. ELMAJERBI (Libya) recalled that his country had hoped to hold a national conference in April, leading to fair and transparent elections and ultimately to a democratically elected Government. Instead, however, the Government of National Accord has been forced to stand up against escalating aggression by terrorist groups, which has killed and injured thousands. Spotlighting attacks against hospitals and medical centres as well as widespread displacement, he also called attention to the military bombardment of a migrant detention facility, saying it constitutes a war crime requiring international investigation. Noting that the Council did not take decisive measures following those incidents, he went on to describe additional incidents in Benghazi, noting that former General Haftar claims to be maintaining security there but is really only violating human rights and silencing the voices of his opponents. Expressing regret that the Council stands idly by and still fails to "call things by their names", he underlined the need to end the terrorist aggression against his country and to condemn negative interventions by some countries.
He went on to point out that documents and reports by the 1973 Sanctions Committee Panel of Experts contain sufficient evidence of such interventions, expressing concern that they have so far yielded no Council action against countries that fail to respect the principles of sovereignty and non-intervention in domestic affairs. Support for General Haftar's aggression constitutes a breach of Chapter V of the United Nations Charter, he said, adding that the Government of National Accord nevertheless continues to support a peaceful solution, rather than a military one, as a way to realize the democratic aspirations of the Libyan people. In June, he recalled, the Government put forward an initiative aimed at ensuring political stabilization and the holding of an inclusive meeting under the auspices of UNSMIL to establish a road map forward, including by setting modalities for democratic elections by the end of 2019. "We still have great hopes that this initiative will be endorsed by the international community […] and supported by the Security Council," he emphasized.