United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL)
Special Representative Briefs Members at ‘Crucial Time’, Outlining Progress Ahead of 10 December Parliamentary, Presidential Elections
The Security Council, through a presidential statement today, welcomed the Paris International Conference for Libya which was convened on 12 November 2021, as well as the Declaration issued by the participants and their commitment to the full implementation of the ceasefire agreement and supporting the United Nations-facilitated, Libyan-led and Libyan-owned political process.
By the text (document S/PRST/2021/24), presented by Mexico, Council President for November, the 15‑member organ also welcomed the Libya Stabilisation Conference convened on 21 October 2021 in Tripoli. The Council also expressed its support for parliamentary and presidential elections slated for 24 December, as set out in the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum roadmap and resolution 2570 (2021).
The Council, among other things, expressed its strong support for the important role played by the High National Elections Commission in the conduct of the elections and commended the technical preparations already taken. It looked forward to the formalisation by that Commission of Libya’s full electoral calendar and its implementation in a peaceful environment. Members also stressed the importance of a peaceful transfer of power in Libya following the elections.
Ján Kubiš, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), said his briefing — his last before the Council, as he recently tendered his resignation — comes at a “crucial time”, following the 12 November conference hosted by France. That meeting resulted in a final declaration stressing the importance of all Libyan stakeholders committing unequivocally to the holding of free, fair, inclusive and credible presidential and parliamentary elections on 24 December, as stipulated by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum. Against that backdrop, he called on all Libyan stakeholders and candidates to publicly commit to respecting the rights of their political opponents before, during and after the elections; refrain from using hate or revenge speech and threats, incitement to violence and boycott; and accept the results of the elections.
He outlined progress made in the run-up to the elections, which included the confirmation by the Elections Commission of a plan to hold the first round of presidential elections on 24 December. The Commission has also initiated the nationwide distribution of voter cards to more than 2.8 million registered voters and intends to announce a preliminary list of the candidates. Despite the evident eagerness of the Libyan people to exercise their right to vote, he cautioned that the political climate remains heavily polarized, marked by persistent vocal opposition to holding the elections on the basis of the existing legal framework. There are also rising tensions around the eligibility of some high-profile presidential candidates, he said, calling on all those that challenge the process to channel such concerns through the existing judicial mechanisms.
T.S. Tirumurti (India), also briefing the Council in his capacity as Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1970 (2011) concerning Libya, outlined that body’s activities between 11 September and 24 September, which included the listing of one individual — Osama Al Kuni Ibrahim, the de facto manager of the Al Nasr detention centre in Zawiyah — on its sanctions list.
Lamees Bensaad, Assistant Professor at the University of Tripoli, political activist and member of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, also briefed, observing that hopes are high with the country weeks away from elections that could be a true turning point. “I cannot overstate how significant a milestone these elections are for people who have suffered not only a decade of war, but decades of brutal autocracy,” she said. As a member of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, she emphasized her responsibility to the Libyan people to ensure that the upcoming elections deliver on their hopes and aspirations. She cautioned that the current conditions do not respect the roadmap set out by the Dialogue Forum, the outcome of the Second Berlin Conference or relevant Council resolutions. “The ambiguity is threatening the outcome of the electoral process,” she said.
In the ensuing discussion, Council members expressed the hope that the imminent elections will be free, fair, open and credible, with some calling on all Libyan actors to resolve disputes by legitimate means and refrain from actions that would disrupt the process. Many welcomed steps taken to bolster the security situation through a recent agreement on the orderly withdrawal of mercenaries and foreign fighters, while some underlined the need to do more to address the country’s humanitarian challenges - including by ensuring access for humanitarian aid and workers and addressing reports of the inhumane treatment of migrants.
The representative of the United States emphasized that no one should attempt to interfere with the elections or stoke violence, stressing that the Council may impose sanctions on anyone who obstructs the process. The threat of boycotts by factions claiming systemic bias will not help the Libyan people, he said, adding that the Council must target election spoilers to promote accountability, if needed.
The representative of Norway was among those who raised concerns about the persistent and destabilizing presence of mercenaries and foreign forces in Libya, pointing out that while some of them are leaving, the large majority are still in the country, posing challenges to its sovereignty and the unification of its institutions. Acknowledging the concerns of Libya’s neighbours, she reiterated the need for a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process for armed groups returning to States in the region.
The Russian Federation’s delegate joined others in taking note of the 5+5 Joint Military Commission plan for synchronizing the withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries and expressed support for that evacuation in order to avoid the risk of damaging the existing ceasefire. He underlined the important role played by the Libyan National Army in the consolidation of armed forces in the country, adding: “All groups must work constructively with one another.”
Meanwhile, the representative of Niger expressed concern about the deplorable and inhuman living conditions of migrants, and stated that the repatriation of those of the vulnerable people who have been rescued at sea violates international humanitarian law. If returned, he warned that those individuals will be subjected to arbitrary detention and other abuses by jailers who evade State authority in Libya.
The representative of Libya expressed regret that the Special Envoy submitted his resignation “at this critical time” and called on the Secretary‑General and the Council to clarify alternative plans for UNSMIL’s leadership. After years of division, differences and war, his country stands at an exceptional juncture, facing “a glimpse of hope to exit the dark tunnel that existed for so long”. He stressed that there is no alternative to a political process owned and led by Libyans, who “must lead and not be led”. The upcoming elections must not be used to fuel conflict, he warned, calling on all parties to make the elections a step towards bringing the crisis to an end.
Also speaking were representatives of the United Kingdom, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Ireland, Tunisia, China, India, Estonia, France, Viet Nam, Kenya and Mexico.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 12:16 p.m.