UN Security Council: Open Debate: The Situation in Libya

Ministry Statements & Speeches:

Statement delivered by Gerard van Bohemen, Permanent Representative to the United Nations, 5 November 2015.

Let me begin by congratulating you, Mr. President, and your team on the United Kingdom’s assumption of the presidency of the Council for the month, and by thanking Spain and the Spanish delegation for the excellent work they did in conducting us in the month of October.

The situation in Libya is at a critical point. Reaching a political solution to the conflict is vital to the people of Libya now more than ever. We strongly urge the parties to conclude the Libyan political agreement, and we are looking forward to the briefing later this morning on the prospects for that final agreement. 

I want to thank Ms. Bensouda for her report and her briefing. They are sobering. Violent deaths in Libya continue to increase month by month, and fighting in the south has displaced 12,000 people in just four months. We are particularly concerned that civilian areas, places of worship and medical facilities are repeatedly targeted, and minorities specifically so. 

The Prosecutor’s report makes plain that crimes are being committed on all sides of the conflict. It is also clear that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and groups that have pledged allegiance to ISIL are playing a particularly destructive role. The Prosecutor’s call for States to prosecute their nationals who are operating as foreign terrorist fighters in Libya resonates with the Council’s own commitment to countering such actors. The Council has spoken clearly about the need to combat ISIL, including in Libya, and has created obligations in resolution 2178 (2014), which binds all Member States, whether or not they are parties to the Rome Statute, to prosecute foreign terrorist fighters. Member States have both an obligation to prosecute foreign terrorist fighters domestically and an obligation to afford one another the greatest measure of assistance in criminal investigations relating to support for terrorist acts. International cooperation and information exchange will be critical to effectively countering foreign terrorist fighters in Libya. We welcome the commitment shown by the Prosecutor to supporting such efforts. 

The instability and absence of State control in large parts of Libya make the pursuit of justice especially difficult. We recognize that the ability of the Prosecutor to expand investigations into other alleged crimes is hampered not only by the security situation but by a lack of resources. The Prosecutor is right to draw this Council’s attention to that distinct barrier to her office pursuing investigations into ongoing crimes. In our view, the Council should support the mandates it gives to the Court. On matters of finances, it should defer to the General Assembly, which has the prerogative to decide on funding issues. 

Despite the security challenges, we are pleased that the Prosecutor continues to receive cooperation from the Libyan Prosecutor General and the Libyan representative to the International Criminal Court (ICC), and that the memorandum of understanding is still being implemented. That groundwork should support Libya in meeting its obligation under resolution 1970 (2011) to cooperate fully with the Court. While Ms. Bensouda has not sought a review of the ICC’s finding, which returned the prosecution of Al-Senussi to Libya, she is closely monitoring the domestic proceedings against him. Reports on those trials and allegations of torture in the detention centre where Al-Senussi is being held raised legitimate reasons for the Prosecutor to watch progress. We understand that Abdullah Al-Senussi will appeal his sentence, and we urge the Libyan authorities to ensure that due process requirements are followed. 

We are concerned that despite its obligations to surrender him to the ICC, the Tripoli Court of Assize handed down a death sentence to Saif Al-Islam Al-Qadhafi in July. While Libya has since provided a formal explanation to the Court, including explaining the unenforceability of such in absentia judgments, the larger issue of Al-Qadhafi’s surrender remains outstanding. While we recognize the challenges that Libya faces, its obligations to the Court, which were created by a resolution of the Council, are clear. We welcome Ms. Bensouda’s assurance that the Court stands ready to support Libya in fulfilling that obligation. 

While the report is difficult reading, the Prosecutor’s Office should be commended for continuing to bear witness before the Council to the crimes in Libya. The Prosecutor’s briefing today, coming immediately before a briefing on the political situation in Libya, should reinvigorate the Council’s commitment to a political settlement and stability in Libya. As the Prosecutor notes in her report, a unity Government and durable peace present new hope for Libya’s efforts to promote the rule of law, the protection of civilians and an end to impunity for atrocity crimes.


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