Recent Libya fighting ‘unprecedented in gravity,’ warns outgoing UN envoy

27 August 2014

In recent days, armed battles, inflamed by airstrikes and fuelled by deep divisions among Libyan political factions have been “unprecedented in their gravity and very alarming,” the outgoing United Nations envoy to that country told the Security Council today.

In his final address as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Tarek Mitri said that the Libyan people bear the brunt of the conflict. The number of people displaced is estimated to be over 100,000, with at least another 150,000 seeking refuge abroad.

“There is a general deterioration of living conditions [in Libya]. Food, fuel, water and electricity are in short supply. The departure of foreign medical staff and shortages in medical supplies has rendered the plight of civilians more critical,” said Mr. Mitri.

The use by all sides of heavy weapons in densely populated areas has spread terror and contributed to a rising toll of innocent lives lost, including children. In addition, Mr. Mitri said there has been a rise in kidnappings, burning houses, looting and other acts of revenge.

While UNSMIL had evacuated its international staff due to the escalating conflict, it remains engaged. On 7 August, a delegation travelled to Tripoli to meet with a range of political and military actors to explore options for an unconditional ceasefire.

Despite many efforts made at the inaugural session of the newly elected House of Representatives in Tobruk, parties failed to arrive at an agreement over procedural and related issues to ensure full participation of all elected members. A number of representatives decided to boycott the sessions. Mr. Mitri reaffirmed that every effort must be made to enable parliamentarians, who boycott the House of Representatives, to join their colleagues.

“We need to remind Libyan political leaders and brigade commanders that dialogue remains the only alternative to a prolonged armed confrontation,” Mr. Mitri emphasized, reiterating that “no military solution is possible” and that the present impasse will only deepen by the use of force.

The Mission, he said, must contribute in more effectively protecting the civilian population and institution building. He also urged the Libyan General Prosecutor to initiate impartial investigations into crimes committed during recent fighting in Tripoli.

The threat of derailing the democratic transition initiated by the revolution is mounting, the envoy warned. Libya’s progress is conditional on upholding the principles of pluralism, inclusivity, separation of powers and adherence to agreed democratic values.

Many Libyans, however, remain “sceptical of the political process in their country and frustrated with their political elites,” he said. Low participation in two recent elections is an indication of the “erosion of credibility.”

“The threat from the spread of terrorist groups has become real. Their presence and activity in a number of Libyan cities are known to all,” he said.

Succeeding Mr. Mitri will be Bernardino León of Spain who will assume the role of Special Representative and head of UNSMIL on 1 September.

Also today, the Security Council adopted a resolution calling on all parties in Libya to agree to an immediate ceasefire and an end to fighting. The 15-member body also condemned the use of violence against civilians and called on those responsible to be held accountable.

The text also modifies the Libya sanctions regime and strengthens the exemption procedure with respect to the arms embargo currently in place.


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