Precarious security situation in Libya shows need for dialogue with militias – UN envoy

9 December 2013

The continued “precariousness” of security in Libya highlights the need for dialogue between the Government and the main armed militias, the top United Nations official in the North African country told the Security Council today.

“It is essential for all parties to engage in dialogue and create the right balance of incentives in order to stimulate a comprehensive process of reintegration and eventual disarmament,” Tarik Mitri, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General said in a briefing to the 15-member body.

Mr. Mitri, who also heads the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), stressed that the ultimate goal was State monopoly on the use of force.

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

In his briefing today, Mr. Mitri reported on popular frustration with the political process and with the persistence of armed militias, many of which originated in the struggle to overthrow Mr. Qadhafi.

In November, fighting between militias in Tripoli and targeted assassinations in Benghazi sparked mass demonstrations calling for the withdrawal of the armed groups from urban areas, he said, reporting that the aftermath led to killings in both cities.

There have been some militia withdrawals from Tripoli and a negotiated truce in Benghazi, he said, while adding that it remains to be seen how effective those moves will be and noting the serious problem posed by the weak capacity of State military and policy institutions.

In addition, the situation of the 8,000 conflict-related detainees, the majority of whom continue to await judicial processes in the custody of armed brigades, remains a source of concern, although the recommendations of the recent UNSMIL report on torture and other ill-treatment of those prisoners had been welcomed by the Government.

He welcomed, in that context, improved conditions of detention in facilities placed under the authority of newly trained judicial police officers as well as the promulgation of a new law on transitional justice last week by the General National Congress.

In the continuing effort to control arms and dangerous substances left over from the fight to oust Mr. Qadhafi, he reported that UNSMIL had received preliminary information on portable surface to air missiles known as MANPADs and requested further documentation from the Government.

On the uranium fissile material known as yellowcake, he said UNSMIL had received information on 6,400 barrels under control of a Libyan army battalion and will support a visit by a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) this month.

An inspection team from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is also expected to visit later this month to observe and verify the elimination of relevant material following the destruction of almost 9 metric tons of mustard gas earlier this year, Mr. Mitri said.

On the political front, he said that the nominations process for the election of a constitution drafting assembly successfully concluded on 7 November and the first phase of voter registration for a general election commenced on 1 December, although a firm date for polling has not been set. UNSMIL continues to underscore the need for an inclusive national dialogue, he said.

Also expressing concern over the situation in Libya today, the Director-General for the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) deplored threats to media workers following the murder of radio station manager Radwan Gharyani on 1 December and the killing of journalist Saleh Hayana last month.

“I am deeply concerned about the targeting of media workers in Libya,” Irina Bokova said, adding: “Media pluralism and freedom of expression must be protected. I therefore urge the authorities to do all in their power to bring the culprits of attacks on the media to justice.”

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