Even the most Basic Rights are denied to Children in war torn Libya

Today’s children in Libya are trapped by the horrors of war which often takes place in civilian neighborhoods, often near schools. The following is written by a young Libyan NCF volunteer:

Children living in Libya have been coming under direct attack, missiles often actually directed toward their homes and schools. Many Libyan families have had to leave their homes as the warring factions use Libya’s cities as battlegrounds, often looting the homes as they go, sometimes completely destroying them. Far too many families are constantly on the move, trying to find a safe, affordable place to live. Sometimes they just end up living with friends or relatives; two or more families sharing the one home.

The nature of modern warfare has changed. There is more fighting in populated areas, leading to more child casualties. Children have been used as human shields. Weapons and guns placed in schools which make them a target for more attacks. Many children have had to leave their schools because they’re no longer safe. Some children have had to work or to beg for money in order to support their families.

Another catastrophe is the recruiting of children to fight, with the false promise of a better future and the temptation of access to money and drugs. As a consequence, they end up either getting killed, maimed, or enduring psychological damage and a whole new generation of murderers and drug abusers are thus created.

Of course, if houses and schools aren’t safe, the streets on the other hand are worse. Lack of security is making the streets a possible place for kidnapping or getting shot by a stray bullet. So in addition to dying in the bombing we’ve lost a lot of children who got shot by a stray bullet from an unknown source. More and more, we feel the effect of losing loved ones in this war. Most of the children in Libya have either lost a family member or have a disabled person in their house as a result of the war.

Transportation of medicines and vaccines to the country, and between the cities isn’t easy, as the airport is one of the places most targeted in the bombing, and also the highways between cities and towns are closed either because of the fighting or the presence of bandits. This situation makes it hard for children to get their vaccinations on time, especially in small towns. Additionally many vaccines end up being ruined by the lack of refrigerated transport on long journeys.

All in all, the problems we have here are homeless children with an ambiguous future and many psychological issues along with drug addiction, criminality, and death. After all that these children have been through, a mentor is what they need not just to fix their mental problems but also to guide them towards a brighter future. However, many families aren’t able to find out whether their children are suffering from mental problems or not, and even if they do, the cost of psychological consultation and mental treatment is quite high.

The ongoing armed conflict also continues to impede the functioning of the judicial system, limiting its ability to process cases of children’s rights violations or to bring those responsible to justice. Perpetrators of serious children’s rights violations and abuses continue to operate without fear of being held to account for their crimes.

Our children came to the world with no intentions, predictions, or expectations. The only thing a child wants is a warm safe home, and that’s something children in Libya don’t have. It is our responsibility to provide it to them, but all they have got is sleeping every night in fear, a fear that they don’t even understand.

How to bring peace to Libya

The following has been prepared by Next Century Foundation Research Officers Mais Mayouf and Ivan Tarkhanov for submission by the Next Century Foundation as a statement to the 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council:

The Next Century Foundation notes with concern the build-up of forces around the town of Sirte in the State of Libya. The near total violation of the UN arms embargo continues, as does the proliferation of foreign forces on the ground, many of whom are mercenaries.

Increasing levels of foreign involvement in Libya have helped a civil war become a proxy war. As things stand, the blatant breaching of the UN arms embargo sustains the proliferation of weapons in Libya.

The Next Century Foundation notes shortcomings with the way the arms embargo is currently enforced. It is important to emphasise that most weapons do not arrive in Libya by sea but rather by land and air.

Only a swift return to negotiations can avoid a bloodbath around the town of Sirte. The Next Century Foundation calls on both principal parties to halt the military buildup and return to talks. Any comprehensive political arrangement should also be approved by the Council of Representatives seated in Tobruk. It is vital that the unity and sovereignty of Libya remain the ultimate goal of any peace talks.
The need for a national, Libyan owned, political dialogue is paramount.

Peace building initiatives must harness local energy and include civil society actors to ensure a stable and socially grounded framework for a lasting peace. The Next Century Foundation believes that Libyan civil society actors have been grossly underrepresented in previous peace initiatives and in a failed state like Libya they are important.

Stop thinking of the Libyan conflict as a mere domestic issue. The conflict has caused great suffering in Libya but it has also proliferated instability throughout the Sahel and in the Mediterranean as a whole. Further escalation of the Libyan conflict will send ripples far beyond Libya’s borders.

Healing the Nations: Libya

Libya is a beautiful country with many resources and a wild history; we’ve passed through many tragedies and conflicts and we’ve survived them all, because we acted united with one voice and one hope.

Basically, by the end of Gaddafi’s rule, we had lived four decades believing that any troubles that don’t concern us directly aren’t too important – as long as we have “safety” everything is okay.

So of course, after the long period of fighting for freedom, we’re not going to accept another dictator. That would be one step back, like replacing an executioner with another. That is not respect for our martyrs, the youths who lost their lives for us.

But sadly since 2011, irresponsible and irrational young men carrying guns and using all kind of weapons, without training. Raids through civilian neighborhoods, we lost entire families, houses got destroyed, hospitals, airports and universities got raided, and they even put mines in houses.

What I want to say is we need a government that can support the citizens; that takes a stand controlling the streets militia, and that is willing and able to prevent any attacks without international involvement.

What Libyans need and yes I’m speaking on behalf of all Libyans, the people who have no interests in what’s going on, we need a strong civilian government, and trained police and army forces who are following this government, their loyalty must be for Libya only. The grudges and the lamentation over the past should stop, we should move on towards a brighter future. That’s what Libyans have hoped for and are still hoping for.

 

Citizens trapped between war and COVID 19 in Libya

Covid 19 is the nowadays issue, and family meetings and conversations among friends aren’t free of it. You cannot fail to think about the extent of its impact on everything that surrounds us, our social life, our mental health, and certainly, economic conditions.

For some people it’s a subject for contemplation. Who among us hasn’t given a thought to how this tiny thing, that one cannot see with the naked eye, could make the world stand on one finger, make the world stand still. A “sick leave for the environment”, an environment which has been functioning day and night for thousands of years, so that we may live the life we ​​aspire to. I don’t deny the negative aspects, but it’s also important that we do not exclude the bright side of the existence of this pandemic.

Admittedly, one of the things that I’m always thinking about – particularly after we saw  the response of the developed countries to this disease, which did not satisfy many of their citizens, especially with the large number of deaths and infected people that increases daily in high proportions – is how the developing countries, especially those facing internal conflict, will deal with this pandemic?

We will shed little light on Libya, which, after having a revolution against an authoritarian and dictatorial government, that was part of a series of so-called “Arab Spring revolutions” that started in the sister country of Libya, Tunisia in 2011. “Arab Spring” is a meaningless name, as after these revolutions, these countries are now living an autumn that hasn’t come to an end. The fall of its fallen leaves is represented in many human lives lost. Libya is passing through civil war that targeted all Libyan cities and towns, until fighting eventually moved to its capital, Tripoli.

Tripoli has been facing conflicts that lasted for more than a year now, which led to a population over stacking at its center; as many citizens living in its suburbs were forced to leave their homes in the search for security in the city center, in addition to a previous presence of many other displaced people from other cities that had also come in search of security in the capital.

On March 14, 2020, Mr. Fayez Al-Sarraj, the head of the Presidential Council of Libya,  announced “the state of emergency” after the outbreak of the disease in the world, especially in neighboring countries, and took many measures, including closing borders and airports, suspending studying in schools and universities, closing all restaurants and shops, and imposing some regulation in grocery stores and bakeries to limit the spread of the disease. A lot of people have made the attempt to adhere to the new regulations and commitment to social distancing, which included not gathering in mosques and holding prayers at home. However, there were no sufficient medical preparations (in terms of medical staff, emergency teams, sterilization teams, and availability of PPE) to receive cases. Consequently, on March 24, 2020, when the first case was recorded in Tripoli, there was an obvious confusion among the medical staff, after the symptoms and travel history of that patient were confirmed with the diagnosis of Corona virus infection. This confusion continued, and was made worse by the security situation and the state of war the city is passing through and that included targeting the Khadra Public Hospital, where a health isolation center was supposed to be established.

Nearly two weeks after registering the first case, a medical committee and a sterilization team were formed and transformed one of the health centers into a center to detect suspicious cases, and set up a health isolation center to receive critical cases in a hospital in Tripoli, and provided medical personnel and care staff to deal with moderate and non-critical cases at their homes, and of course, supplied the hospitals with the personal protective equipment needed. In addition awareness programs have been established targeting all media and social media, and training courses for medical staff and volunteers, and all of that under the supervision of the CDC in Tripoli.

Also, Libyan embassies in most countries took care of the Libyan community abroad, and one of the procedures they use is to test people wishing to return home, and in cases where the sample was positive, they would be isolated in hotels paid by the Libyan authority, and if it was negative, they’d be allowed to return home on condition that they isolate themselves in their homes and refrain from mixing with their families and friends for two weeks.

All of these procedures maintained a low rate of infections and also very low mortality rate. The total registered case was 70 infections and 3 deaths in two months, and the cause of death of these three people was the presence of underlying health problems in addition to infection with coronavirus, and the percentage of cases that were cured was very high. According to reports from Tripoli CDC, it’s likely that the reason behind the low infection rate is probably the genetic factor of the patients and the strain that infected this region is different from the strains that infected Asia, Europe and America.

From my point of view, what was the main reason behind these numbers were the measures that the state launched and the people’s commitment to it. Whereas, as soon as there is a little easing off from from both the state and the citizens, especially since the return of the Libyans from abroad, and the entry of travelers in legal and illegal ways, and their lack of commitment to the self-isolation imposed on them, the number of infections have reached 90 cases in the last week of May alone. The question now is: Is this because of the state’s negligence and corruption or misbehavior and irresponsibility of the people? I want to place the blame on the citizens, but is it possible to put the blame on them in this very bad security situation in which homes are not completely safe, where the death rate of people as a result of shells falling over their homes is much higher than the death rate as a result of corona virus?

 

In Arabic: Saif al Islam’s confidante talks Libya

Osama Mohamad, a loyal supporter and friend of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, talks in Arabic to Lina Kay and William Morris about Libya’s future prospects, Saif al Islam’s chances of ever being elected, the processes of living in peace, and the difficulties that face the many groups involved.

What hope for Libya?

Hala London Radio writes: Catch up on this special edition of Hadith Al Sa3a as Lina chats with William Morris about the latest in Libya, striving for peace, and Next Century Foundation (of which William is the Secretary General). The video is in English and you can watch it below:

When will America take a Clear Position on Libya?

Ahmed Shebani, President of Libya’s Democratic Party, has contacted the Next Century Foundation to say that the Democratic Party is calling for a peaceful demonstrations in Martyrs Square, Tripoli, to demand that the UN envoy to Libya to be declared persona non grata.

In a statement, the Democratic Party claims that the forces of General Khalifa Haftar (pictured) have been bombarding Tripoli for over five weeks now, yet the international community is not doing anything tangible to stop the violence.

The Democratic Party statement says that both the United Nations and the European Union are unable or unwilling to come to the help of the suffering civilians in Tripoli, which is creating a climate of deep mistrust of both organisations among ordinary Libyans.

The statement goes on to claim that while both the UN and the EU had been so quick to sanction some Libyan individuals for allegedly not complying with international law, both organisations failed to condemn General Haftar’s conduct let alone issue any sanctions against him personally.

The Democratic Party statement concludes by saying that “Libya is being accelerated towards a failed state because of such double standards”.

The Democratic Party adds that it would like to appeal to the United States of America to stand by the forces of democracy in Libya.

After Palermo – What Next for Libya?

On the 18thNovember, a conference to discuss the future of Libya was held in Palermo, Italy. The previous conference had been in May, held in Paris by the French President Emmanuel Macron. Elections this December in Libya – a vaunted outcome of the Paris summit – have officially been ruled out by the UN Special envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame. This is hardly surprising since the country still lacks electoral law, not to mention violent militia infighting that would likely prevent safe elections. Instead, Salame has claimed that Libya will host a National Conference in early 2019, with elections projected for the spring. He blamed both sides of Libya’s political divide – the Government of National Accord (GNA) in the West and the House of Representatives (HoR) in the East – for trying to postpone a vote while over 80% of Libyans support elections.

Indeed, Libya is still a severely divided country. Rifts between the European powers played out on Libyan soil only postpone an already agonisingly slow UN-led peace process. Italy supports the internationally recognised GNA headed by Fayez al-Sarraj while France (along with Russia, Egypt and the UAE) supports General Haftar in the East, who presides over the HOR. Both are ineffectual rulers. While Prime Minister Sarraj of the GNA has very little influence outside of Tripoli, General Haftar is a law unto himself.

Despite feigned benevolence from the international community, the majority of the powers involved are driven primarily by self-interest. Libya needs fresh political parties its people can get behind, not incompetent governments imposed by the UN or undemocratic war lords. Unfortunately, however, no other Libyan representatives from alternative political parties were invited to Palermo. Many of Libya’s key political factions were excluded, and by key factions we do not just mean the Muslim Brotherhood or the warlord people smugglers. There are plenty of genuine Libyan factions that deserve to be included. If different political parties or blocs are not included in these mediated dialogues, then there is a very little chance that Libya will haul itself out from this political stalemate.

Financial motives of international powers are also hard to separate from the political situation. While the Libyan energy market has thus far been dominated by the Italian energy company ENI (the gas pipeline conveniently lies in the west of the country), the French energy company Total has recently began to expand its shares in the market. Libyan oil is cheap and can easily be exported to Europe, ensuring that vested interests are always attempting to influence Libya’s domestic agenda.

The headlines surrounding the Palmero conference indicated where international attention was truly focused. As the first political initiative of the new right wing populist government of Giuseppe Conti, all eyes were on the presence – or absence – of world leaders at the event. Already on its first day former Italian PM Matteo Renzi deemed the Conference a ‘resounding flop’ as it became evident that the likes of Macron, Trump and Putin were no-shows.

This kind of politicised rhetoric is unhelpful, and draws attention away from the real issues faced by Libya. The GNA has almost no control in the West and relies heavily on militia support. The south of Libya is caught up in fighting between Tuareg and Toubou militias. General Haftar is tightening his iron grip in the east, having seized oil ports from the National Oil Corporation in the summer. Civilians live in a climate of fear and lack basic commodities.

There is a fine line between the necessity for genuine international attention on problems faced by Libya and self-serving intervention by greater powers.  Perhaps next year’s National Conference in Libya will be more inclusive of Libyans themselves, rather than just providing an opportunity for others to show off their diplomatic stature. The international community – as a unified whole –  must support and empower the Libyan people. A solution for peace will not be possible without their total involvement.

Photo above: Fayez Mustafa al-Sarraj, Chairman of the Presidential Council of Libya and Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord.

NCF update: Libya’s lurch from one crisis to another

Since the death of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya has remained in a persistent state of crisis. Western politicians and media have largely failed to understand developments during this period and the nature of the divisions in the country are now such that external observers have repeatedly lost track of who is in charge of what, and this confusion shows no sign of abating. The Next Century Foundation wishes to provide some much needed clarity regarding the current situation in Libya.

POLITICAL FORCES

The entrenched divisions in Libya are reflected by its myriad political factions, who each claim to have authority over the region. The international community has done little to diffuse these tensions by supporting whichever faction best suits their vested interests rather than prioritising the interests of the Libyan people. Currently, there are four main political factions in Libya:

  1. The Government of National Accord (GNA) – The GNA was established in 2015 in UN-backed negotiations to try and impose a stable authority in the region. It is the only internationally recognised government in Libya and is headed by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. Unfortunately, however, the GNA has failed to exercise any kind of authority extending beyond its very limited domain in western Libya, where it operates from Tripoli. Many argue that the GNA is a corrupt institution, accusing its leaders of earning exceptionally high salaries while doing little to resolve the country’s problems.
  2. The High Council of State – The High Council of State was formerly the General National Congress in Tripoli, formed in Libya’s first democratic elections in 2012. After its members refused to dissolve the congress in 2015 (and lose their salaries) a deal was struck during the UN negotiations to re-establish the congress as the ‘High Council of State’, an advisory body to the GNA. The reality, however, is that they have long since diminished as an influential political force. It is headed by Khaled al-Mishri, who replaced Abdarrahman Swehli in April 2018. He is a leading figure in the Justice and Construction Party (the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya).
  3. The Tobruk Parliament – also known as the House of Representatives, it was established after controversial national elections with a turnout of around 18% in 2014. It is based in Tobruk, a port city in the east of Libya. Its chairman is Aguila Saleh Issa who regards his Tobruk-based government (headed by Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thenni) to be the only legitimate government in Libya. It is also important to note that the Tobruk parliament has endorsed the leadership of General Khalifa Haftar.
  4. General Haftar – General Khalifa Haftar controls almost the entire east of Libya. With a personal militia force at his disposal (which he calls the ‘Libyan National Army’ (LNA)) and backing from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and France, Haftar has taken command of key strategic centres like Tobruk, Benghazi and most recently Derna. The capture of Derna on 28th June was an important step in consolidating Haftar’s position, as it remained the last sizeable bastion of opposition to him in the east. Prior to Haftar’s takeover, since October 2014 Derna had been led by the Shura council of Mujahadeen, a coalition of Islamist militias. On May 7th, General Haftar announced the “Zero Hour” for the “liberation of Derna” and his forces began ramping up their military offensive.

Other, arguably more influential, centres of power in Libya are its financial institutions. Saddiq Kabir, for example, is head of the Central Bank and responsible for paying the salaries of many Libyans. Mustafa Sanalla is head of the National Oil Corporation and Abdullmaged Breish is head of the Libyan Investment Authority.

It should also be noted that General Haftar recently attempted to oust Saddiq Kabir from his position as governor of the Central Bank but was unsuccessful. He accuses Libya’s Central Bank of funneling money to extremist groups and the Muslim Brotherhood.

INTERNATIONAL INVOLVEMENT

The external interference in Libya from countries near and far has done little to encourage a quicker resolution to the conflict. This is particularly evident in the way General Haftar’s support comes more from abroad than at home. Egypt, for example, has been supplying his forces with training and various weapons, even carrying out direct air raids in Derna against Haftar’s opponents. At the same time, the UAE are operating their largest foreign military base in Al Khadim, 100 kilometres east of Benghazi. In much the way Iran have entrenched a military presence in Syria aimed at lasting into the future, the UAE have identified the chaos in Libya as too good an opportunity to miss for extending their regional influence.

France, on the other hand, has been hosting conferences in Paris aimed at fostering dialogue between General Haftar and al-Sarraj, all the while providing General Haftar with extensive military support during his endeavours in Derna and beyond. It would not be overly cynical to suggest that France’s main concern regarding Haftar’s quest for leadership is the financial benefits it could accrue through Libya’s oil. With such a multitude of foreign actors behind one man, Libyans have good reason to fear that they will be the ones benefitting least in any eventual political settlement.

The complexity in the east is mirrored by the chaos along the southern border. Since 2011, the constant state of flux in Libya has made it very easy for neighbouring countries like Chad and Sudan to infiltrate the 1500-kilometre-long border as and when they like. There is no longer any effective government presence in the south, only ongoing struggles for authority and control amongst local militia forces. Since 2014, the presence of Chadian rebel group FACT in the southern Fezzan region has only increased: they have been reported to have taken temporary control of key areas in the city of Sabha for example. Counterbalancing this is the similarly sizable Sudanese presence in the south. Fighters from JEM, a Sudanese opposition group, have been fighting alongside Haftar’s forces. The various forces pulling against each other in the south highlight the difficulty that any central Libyan government will have in regaining full control of the area in the future.

POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS

On May 29th, French President Emmanuel Macron hosted a summit in Paris with representatives from Libya’s four political factions: al-Sarraj, Haftar, Saleh and al-Mishri. Each representative endorsed a motion to hold elections in Libya on 10th December, when the mandates of the High Council of State and the Tobruk Parliament will run out. It was also agreed that by 16th September a constitutional basis and electoral laws would be established.

Whether these elections (if held at all) will be fruitful, however, is another matter. In May of this year twelve people were killed in “an ISIS attack” on the headquarters of the Electoral Commission. Nor is it likely that there will be agreement on a draft constitution any time soon. A constitution is vital for providing a consensus around the rules and legal framework that would govern the elections. Particularly in Libya, elections in the absence of a constitution would be more likely to exacerbate conflict rather than resolve it. However, despite the relative consensus over the necessity for a constitution, there is still division over its content. Some Libyans want a referendum on the current draft constitution while others want a completely new text. There are also reports that the constitutional committee was abandoned after it became apparent that its leader had dual Libyan-American nationality. Whatever happens, once an agreement has been arrived at it is essential for the international community to support the decision of the Libyan people, 1 million of whom are registered to vote in December’s elections should they take place.

On 14th June a coalition of armed forces seized the largest oil terminals in Libya’s eastern oil crescent, resulting in many civilian causalities and damage to infrastructure. General Haftar has since accused the Central Bank of channeling money to the militia leader responsible for blockading the oil terminals. Although General Haftar’s LNA was successful in recapturing the facilities on the 25th June, he announced that management of the facilities would be transferred not to the internationally recognised National Oil Corporation, but to a different NOC in the east. In retaliation, the official NOC imposed a force majeure on the oil terminals; 850,000 barrels a day were blocked from exportation and Libya lost over an estimated 900 million dollars. On the 11th July Haftar was made to hand back control of Libya’s oil ports to Sanalla’s NOC following a letter from US President Donald Trump that threatened legal action over Haftar’s crippling of Libya’s oil production. Although this relieved the immediate crisis, it brought to the fore underlying frustrations in Libya over the distribution of wealth and the plundering of resources. These concerns need to be addressed in order for political reconciliation to progress. The situation also highlighted the need to protect the country’s wealth so that – despite the political turmoil – public services will continue to function.

WAY FORWARD?

Although the upcoming elections are heralded as a positive step forward by many, it is difficult to see how they will bring about any fruitful change while the country is so fragmented. If there is no constitution then corruption and political violence will only flourish. Divisions in Libya will also remain entrenched while international powers continue to exploit the region and prevent self-determination of the Libyan people. There is little point in diplomats congratulating themselves on rhetorical commitments to elections and ongoing dialogue, for there will be very little to congratulate until Libya reemerges as a functioning state.

Indeed, the situation in Libya remains desperate. The al-Sarraj government has had three years to create some stability with a view to peace, and has yielded no results. Lawlessness in Tripoli is rife and the government turns a blind eye to foreign aircraft landing on Libyan territory at will. There has been a scarcity of bread, fuel, and electricity in the capital for years now, the Central Bank is regularly late in paying the salaries of much of the Libyan population, and the drafting of the new constitution has suffered numerous setbacks.

Compounding the humanitarian crisis are the large numbers of refugees being trafficked through Western Libya from Chad, Niger, and Sudan. The position of the GNA in western Libya is also weakened by the growing threats of militias who control other nearby cities such as Misrata and Zintan. Exasperated by the lack of constructive change under al-Sarraj’s government, they plan to march on Tripoli to incite change in the capital.

All of these failures are pointing in the direction of a change, a fresh approach in the governing of Libya. Whether the international community has enough credit to install a new government in place of al-Sarraj is doubtful considering their underwhelming track record. Nor can we be certain that the international community has the will to implement such wide-sweeping reform in what is now an even more divided Libya. The best hope for a Libyan government to reassert its sovereignty over the whole country is to find ways of making compromises which generate goodwill amongst the key domestic actors. General Haftar agreeing to allow four oil export ports to reopen is an example of this. At the same time, the kind of decentralised style of government which was so prominent in Libya following its independence must be the foundation from which oil rents can be fairly redistributed to help address dire living standards. Gradually, local authorities could coordinate with each other on the security front and move towards a unified national force. By no means is it an easy task, but it may represent an encouraging starting point on the way to rebuilding what is a terribly torn country.

#Libya #UN

By Ardi Janjeva and Isobel Thompson