In his latest quarterly briefing on Libya, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and head of UNSMIL, Tarek Mitri, has told the UN Security Council that, largely because of the security situation, the current transition period is likely to be longer and more difficult than previously expected. “The Libyan people will continue to endure for the foreseeable future the heavy legacy bequeathed to them over decades of brutal rule,” told the Security Council yesterday. “Managing the transition is bound therefore to be difficult.”
While explaining that there was widespread desire in Libya to ensure the exclusion of Qaddafi-era officials from positions of power, he criticized the Political Isolation Law in its current form as unjust.
“Written advice was provided to the General National Congress on international standards, best practices and potential risks of exclusionary measures. The current law falls short of these standards in a number of areas. 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.”
The law as it was framed also risked damaging Libya.
“In the context of Libya’s transition and the legacy of weak state institutions, the implementation of the law risks further weakening of those institutions.”
There is, as a result, an urgent need to adopt “a transitional justice law anchored in truth-seeking, accountability and reparations”. But this was being done. “A draft law is currently being considered by the General National Congress. UNSMIL continues to advise on its scope and implementation.”
He paid particular tribute to Mohamed Magarief who resigned as head of the General National Congress following the passing of the law “for his support to the UN’s role in Libya and his confidence in UNSMIL and in me since I took up my duties as Special Representative of the Secretary-General. We also owe him a word of praise and respect for his dignified statesmanship as he distanced himself from the Libyan political scene.”
Despite Congress passing laws criminalising torture, kidnapping and discrimination, and abolishing the jurisdiction of military courts over civilians, there was concern about the number of Libyans being held in jail without being tried and instances of torture.
“An estimated seven to eight thousand detainees still await to be charged or released, Mitri said. “The process of transferring detainees to the authority of the state moves slowly. In Bani Walid, the scene of armed conflict last October, unanswered questions continue to surround the cases of bodies handed over by Misrata in April. In a number of detention centres, we have observed cases of torture. There is also evidence of deaths in custody due to torture.”
There was also concern about the unilateral announcement by Tawerghan community leaders of their plans to return to their home town on 25 June. He called it “a move fraught with risks”.
However, despite the powerful challenges, Mitri remained fundamentally optimistic.
“The mood in Libya today may have changed since I last briefed the Council in March”, he said. “Despite the gravity of some of the security and political developments that have taken place over the course of the last three months, Libyans have not lost confidence.”
Following Mitri’s briefing there was a closed-door session of the Security Council on Libya. Afterwards, the president of the Security Council this month, British ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, said that the international community was committed to helping Libya deal with the security situation.
“I think there is a desire of the international community to support this transition. It’s proving to be difficult and you would expect that after 42 years of dictatorship with no institutions, with no elections taking place. There was infrastructure but there were no institutions in the country as a whole. So it’s not surprising that it’s taking some time,” the ambassador said.