Libya’s democratic transition can benefit from national political dialogue, says UN envoy

18 June 2013

Managing Libya’s democratic transition is bound to be difficult given the legacy of decades of brutal rule, a senior United Nations envoy told the Security Council today, adding that the country could benefit from a national political dialogue on the way forward.

“The political and security challenges that now face the country may well be the legacy of decades of authoritarian rule, dysfunctional state institutions and confusion around political norms,” Tarek Mitri, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Libya, said in his briefing to the Council.

“This reality invites a national political dialogue that seeks consensus on the priorities for the transitional period,” he said, adding that the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has provided Government officials with advice on issues and modalities of such a dialogue.

UNSMIL, headed by Mr. Mitri, has been supporting the efforts of the Libyan Government and people to ensure the success of the democratic transition process, which has been under way since the toppling of Muammar al-Qadhafi two years ago.

The former leader ruled the North African country for more than 40 years until a pro-democracy uprising in 2011 – similar to the protests in other countries in the Middle East and North Africa – led to civil war and the end of his regime.

“The risks in Libya should not be underestimated, and by the same token, the opportunities should not be overlooked,” said Mr. Mitri. “Judging by the speed with which last year’s elections to the General National Congress took place so soon after the cessation of hostilities, we would be forgiven if we thought that the road to democracy was as simple as it appeared.

“As important as these elections may have been in ushering in the beginnings of a new political process and the building of legitimate State institutions, the Libyan people will continue to endure for the foreseeable future the heavy legacy bequeathed to them over decades of brutal rule,” he added. “Managing the transition is bound, therefore, to be difficult.”

On the security and political challenges, Mr. Mitri cited the treatment of detainees, border security, the continuing weak state of security sector institutions, and effectively tackling threats emanating from the south of the country.

He also noted the recent violence in Benghazi, which led to “considerable” loss of life, as well as concerns over the recently adopted law on political isolation, which demands the exclusion of figures associated with the former regime and others who had committed human rights violations from public office.

“We believe many of the criteria for exclusion are arbitrary, far-reaching, at times vague, and are likely to violate the civil and political rights of large numbers of individuals,” said the Special Representative.

Speaking to reporters after the Council session, the envoy stressed that Libya needs much more political support from international partners since some of its problems, such as border security, are not ones the country can face alone.

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