The following is the draft of a written statement to the 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. It has been prepared by Mr Mohamed Fortia, NCF’s Lead Analyst on Libyan Affairs. We welcome your feedback or comment.
With the recent UN led Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) showing signs of progress towards rapprochement between the conflicting sides, the State of Libya seems to have a new chance at long-lasting peace. The Next Century Foundation is encouraged by these positive steps, however, Libya has been in a similar situation before and it does not take much to derail peace negotiations. There are steps that would help ensure the success of the LPDF and indeed of other peace initiatives in regard to Libya.
The LPDF has garnered a commitment by all participating parties to hold nationwide elections in December of 2021. We support this commitment. These new elections could bring much needed legitimacy to the Libyan government. However the last national elections were held in 2014 and only had a voter turnout of around 18%. Furthermore, some constituencies were unable to participate in the 2014 elections due to security concerns. These factors culminated in a legislature with a weak mandate that did not have the political capital needed to govern the country.
Conditions that are conducive to safe and secure elections must be in place nationwide, prior to the forthcoming 2021 elections. We also recommend that international observers are present during the election, to ensure impartiality and fairness, just as in the 2012 Libyan elections.
We also note the Skhirat Agreement that was signed in 2015. This was a peace agreement to resolve conflict that arose from the 2014 elections. Just like the outcome of the LPDF, the Skhirat agreement was backed by many of the parties at the time. However, the agreement was not accepted by General Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the Tobruk-based Libyan National Army, and as a consequence created the political impasse in which the country has been mired since 2015. Similarly, the LPDF does not have support from General Khalifa Haftar and his forces, however, this time around, the vast majority of the Libyan legislature is backing the LPDF as is the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA).
We welcome the allocation of funding from the GNA to the Libyan High National Electoral Commission, as it shows commitment by the GNA to holding the forthcoming elections. That said, the NCF reiterates the need for the international community to fully support the LPDF and its objectives, as well as prevent actors who wish to derail the peace process from achieving their goals. The international community needs to put stringent measures in place to deter both domestic and foreign spoilers and show its commitment to democratic/civilian led rule in Libya.
New elections will certainly help put Libya back on the path to democracy, however in order to not fall back into civil unrest the nation needs to address some further issues. The NCF highlights the fact that Libya has no nationally recognised security institution as one of its major problems. Just like almost all institutions in Libya, the security apparatus of the country is fragmented at best and non-existent at worst. This problem is a remnant of the previous Gadhafi era, where institutional power was weakened to prevent possible opposition within the state. The NCF calls on the international community to help Libya rebuild the security apparatus in the country as a unified organisation that respects the rule of law and the authority of the civilian government.
The NCF also recognises the anger felt by many Libyans over what they regard as war crimes. We encourage the Government of Libya to consider the establishment of a truth commission, also known as a truth and reconciliation commission or truth and justice commission. This could be done along the lines of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), the court-like restorative justice body assembled in South Africa after the end of apartheid. This would be a mechanism to bring to justice those who use military force that is in contradiction with international laws and customs. The other alternative, that of recourse to vigilante justice, would slow down any peace-building measures in the country and put Libya into a further cycle of instability.
The NCF notes the fact that the National Oil Corporation in Libya (NOC), does not trust Libya’s Central Bank (CBL). So much so, that the NOC has unilaterally decided to divert all oil and gas revenues to offshore Libyan accounts to not allow the CBL access to them. The NOC has asked that, to reverse this decision, the CBL agree to greater transparency.
Many of Libya’s regional/tribal disputes have been based on perceived economic inequalities between the disputing parties. This perceived inequality is exacerbated by the fact that Libya’s main economic institutions have been operating with little or no oversight from the government and provide little or no transparency. This secrecy and lack of transparency is a hangover from the Gadhafi era, and has been difficult to change due to the weakness of the state. The lack of government authority has caused the Central Bank of Libya (CBL) to operate independently and take economic decisions without getting prior governmental consent. The CBL’s decision to act as an independent entity has caused many tensions and up until recently had led to its split, with one headquarters in the west of the country and the other in the east.
The NCF suggests that the International Monetary Fund (IMF), exercise their fundamental mission to ensure the stability of the international monetary system by giving practical help to members, and offer their assistance and expertise to Libyan economic institutions so as to strengthen and democratise them. We are glad to see the recent appointment of the accounting firm KPMG to conduct a full audit of the NOC’s financial accounts. We hope that this will bring to light any financial wrongdoing and increase trust. Greater support is needed from the international community for such efforts to become the norm.
The NCF would also like to recommend a more decentralised and equitable form of wealth distribution in the country. With a nation that is as large and sparsely populated as Libya, having most of the economic decisions made and controlled by a few bodies in Tripoli, may not make the best of sense. For instance, those in the southern desert city of Kufra, which is over 1700 km away from Tripoli, will likely have very different economic needs than that of the coastal capital. A more decentralised economic system would give Libyan municipalities greater agency and in turn increase democracy through direct accountability.
All recent indicators on Libya seem to point in the right direction and the NCF strongly supports all of the recent efforts that are being made to alleviate the political and humanitarian crisis in Libya. We would like to remind the international community and the United Nations, that in 2011 the Libyan people came out in support of democracy and liberty. These rights are guiding principles of most nations of the world and are rights that many in the international community take for granted. It was and still is the duty of the international community to support nations in their transition to democracy, Libya being no exception.