August 30, 2022 – Security Council Briefing on the Situation in Libya, Remarks by Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs
Thank you for the opportunity to brief the Security Council on the main developments in Libya over the past month.
Since the last Security Council meeting on Libya on 25 July, the United Nations has continued to engage with Libyan actors – at all levels – to facilitate a resolution of the political impasse.
I am deeply concerned that the ongoing stalemate and continued delays in implementing the electoral process pose a growing threat to security in and around Tripoli, and potentially to all Libyans.
That threat materialized a few days ago, when Tripoli was again the theatre of violent clashes between armed groups supporting Mr. Dbeibah and Mr. Bashaga, respectively.
The fighting broke out in the early hours of 27 August and rapidly intensified and spread to civilian-populated areas of Tripoli. It involved the indiscriminate use of medium and heavy weapons, affecting civilians and civilian infrastructure.
According to the Libyan authorities, at least 42 people were killed, including four civilians, and 159 injured in the clashes. Fifty families were reportedly displaced, and five health facilities were significantly damaged. Two detention centers for migrants and refugees were affected, involving a total of 560 persons.
This appeared to be attempt of pro-Bashaga forces to enter the capital from the east. However, they were blocked by pro-Dbeibah forces at Zleiten – about 160 km east of Tripoli, and were forced to retreat, following clashes. Attempts by other pro-Bashagha armed groups to advance on the capital from the west and southwest were similarly repelled.
Fighting in Tripoli and its outskirts subsided on 28 August, although the situation remained tense and fluid.
A fragile calm has since prevailed in Tripoli; it is unclear how long it will last.
Retaliatory attacks by both sides and the announced intention by the Government of National Unity to arrest pro-Bashagha elements involved in the fighting may trigger armed clashes that could again affect the civilian population.
I am very concerned at the limited political progress during the reporting period. The United Nations has consistently underscored that the conduct of elections remains the only way to break the current impasse. Despite our continued efforts, no progress has been made on forging a consensus on a constitutional framework for the elections.
Following their meeting in Geneva in June, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aguila Saleh, and the President of the High State Council, Khaled Mishri, held further discussions in Türkiye on 1 August and in Egypt on 14 August. Regrettably, disagreements persisted, particularly on the eligibility criteria for presidential candidates.
I urge both leaders to complete the work accomplished by the Joint Constitutional Committee. It is critical that an agreement is reached on a constitutional framework and timeline for elections that will enable the Libyan people to choose their leaders.
There were a few positive developments during the reporting period. I commend, notably, the ongoing efforts of the 5+5 Joint Military Commission to preserve and strengthen the implementation of the Ceasefire Agreement.
Of note, on 27 August the eastern delegation to the JMC called their counterparts in the west to reassure them that the Libyan National Army would not be involved in the fighting.
Earlier, on 9 August, the Joint Military Commission met with UNSMIL in Sirte to enhance the readiness of the Libyan Ceasefire Monitoring Mechanism.
They made progress on the activation of a Joint Operations Room in Sirte. They also finalized the modalities for the withdrawal of foreign forces, foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya.
On another positive note, on 18 August the General Assembly of the Supreme Court of Libya voted to restore the Court’s Constitutional Chamber, which had been suspended since 2016.
The reactivation of the Chamber could contribute to the resolution of disputes over the legitimacy of decisions taken by Libyan institutions.
I am also encouraged by the progress on national reconciliation, including the efforts of the Presidency Council to implement its “Strategic Vision on National Reconciliation”.
I reiterate the United Nations’ readiness to support Libyan efforts at national reconciliation as well as the African Union’s planned conference on national reconciliation in Libya, to be held at the earliest possible opportunity.
Turning to economic developments, oil production resumed on 17 July. By the end of July, production had reached pre-shutdown levels of 1.2 million barrels per day. Recently, the Libyan National Oil Corporation announced plans to further increase oil production capacity.
I am concerned, however, that growing public discontent in the southern region over lack of basic services and poor living conditions may lead to renewed closures of oil fields in the area.
The explosion of a fuel tank in the vicinity of Zwiyah on 1 August, which killed 25 people and injured dozens of others, sparked a wave of protests over the longstanding marginalization of communities in the south.
On 21 August, local dignitaries threatened to form a parallel government in the south if their demands for respect of their rights to basic services and stronger representation in State institutions were not met.
Libya’s natural resources belong to all Libyans, and revenues from oil exports should be distributed equitably and fairly.
I regret to report that human rights violations in Libya continue to be a major concern. On 20 August, armed groups affiliated with the Libyan National Army encircled the town of Qasr Bouhadi, 25km south of Sirte.
Civilians were deprived of their freedom of movement and prevented from leaving their districts, with hospitals, shops, schools, petrol stations and other essential facilities forced to close. On 26 August, military actors withdrew from the town, but continued to control all movement in and out of the town.
I urge relevant actors to immediately lift the continuing restrictions imposed on the population of Qasr Bouhadi and warn that the situation could further escalate to an inter-community conflict.
Individuals peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression continued to be subjected to abduction, enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention.
Violence against women activists and their unlawful arrest and detention continue. Smear campaigns targeting civil society actors, particularly women, consisting of hate speech and incitements to violence, are deeply concerning and must cease.
Migrants and refugees also continued to suffer serious human rights violations. According to the latest figures, 2,661 migrants and refugees are arbitrarily detained in official detention centres with restricted humanitarian access.
The United Nations continues to call for the immediate release of all those who are arbitrarily detained and for due process for those charged with contravening Libyan laws.
It is critical that all Libyan actors maintain calm on the ground, refrain from escalatory rhetoric and actions, and take immediate steps to reverse the political polarization that is spilling over into violence.
In light of the deterioration of the political and security climate in Tripoli, the United Nations must continue to provide and enhance good offices and mediation to help Libyan actors resolve the ongoing impasse and seek a consensual pathway to elections.
Libyans, themselves, are responsible for determining their own future. Any support that the parties receive from within or outside Libya should serve to unite them, not divide them.
The Secretary-General has put forward a number of proposals for the leadership of the mission and his good offices. I urge everyone to support the Secretary-General’s efforts to help Libyans forge a path to peace.
Thank you, Mr. President.