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Libya nearing key moment in its democratic transition, says UN envoy

Special Representative Ian Martin.
UN Photo/Iason Foounten
Special Representative Ian Martin.

Libya nearing key moment in its democratic transition, says UN envoy

Libya is nearing a key moment in its democratic transition with upcoming elections, the United Nations envoy for the North African country said today, while adding that the polls are just one part of a process that requires addressing key issues such as ensuring public security and promoting human rights.

“Elections are part of the transition; they are not the beginning and not the end,” the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Libya, Ian Martin, said in a briefing to the Security Council.

“Elections will help address some of the issues which plague the transitional authorities, but following the elections, Libyans must re-commit themselves to serious long-term state-building,” he added.

Just over one million people have so far registered to vote in the election of a National Congress, which will, among other tasks, draft a new constitution for the country. The polls, to be held by late June, will be the first free elections in decades in Libya, where Muammar al-Qadhafi ruled for more than 40 years until a pro-democracy uprising last year led to civil war and the deposing of his regime.

Mr. Martin – who also heads the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) – cited public security, human rights, transitional justice and the rule of law, and arms proliferation and border security as the main priorities that need to be addressed.

He noted that the Libyans’ expectations of concrete progress in the post-revolution period are strongest in relation to security, where ordinary Libyans would like to see a coherent process of rebuilding institutions, establishing the rule of law and integrating the so-called revolutionary forces.

Armed clashes in recent months between various groups have tested the reach and authority of the government’s security apparatus and ability to impose the rule of law, said Mr. Martin. A key issue related to public security, he added, is the integration or demobilization of the revolutionary fighters and the control of weapons.

“The mounting challenges which Libya’s transition has to overcome, especially as regards security, make it urgent that issues of legitimacy are settled through early electoral processes,” he stated. “The Libyan people need to feel that their government is chosen by and accountable to them.”

Also briefing the Council was Ambassador José Filipe Moraes Cabral of Portugal, in his capacity as chairman of the committee overseeing the sanctions imposed on Libya by resolution 1970 of 2011, which included an arms embargo, travel ban and assets freeze.

Presenting the work of the committee from 1 March to 10 May, he told the 15-member body that all levels of authorities in Libya needed to be engaged in the overall efforts to control weapons and combat illicit trafficking.