Image: UNICEF/Alessio Romenzi
New York: The overall situation in Libya remains “highly volatile”, Martha Pobee, UN Assistant Secretary-General for political affairs and peace operations, told the Security Council on Monday.
Despite some progress, a constitutional and political stalemate continues, prolonging tensions and fuelling insecurity, while clashes in and around Tripoli surge, she added.
“The economic situation remains dire,” she continued. “We have witnessed demonstrations by frustrated Libyans over the lack of progress on elections and poor State services. In addition, the human rights situation in the country remains of “serious concern”.
Leaders must ‘heed the call’
While promising progress has been achieved on the constitutional track, consensus on the eligibility requirements for a presidential candidate remains elusive.
Earlier this month, demonstrators across Libya expressed their frustration over political divisions and deteriorating living conditions.
They demanded that elections be held soon, and solutions to the country’s electricity crisis and fuel shortage. Some stormed and damaged the Parliament building in Tobruk, the centre of power for the eastern faction vying to control the country.
“We urge Libya’s political actors to heed the call of their people, and to demonstrate responsible leadership by addressing their grievances,” said the senior UN official.
Divisions provoke violence
As armed groups rally behind their leaders, military activity has increased in the western region – power base of the internationally-recognized Government based in the capital - including on the eastern flank of Tripoli, Misrata and in the outskirts of Sirte.
“We are deeply concerned about the armed clashes in Tripoli that took place on the night of 21 July and the skirmishes in Misrata on 23 July, between armed groups resulting in an unconfirmed number of civilian casualties,” she stated, calling for the ceasefire to be maintained.
At the same time, Ms. Pobee expressed concern over the ongoing disagreement regarding the leadership of the National Oil Corporation (NOC).
Since 16 April, a shutdown had reduced Libyan oil exports by two thirds and cost the country $4 billion in lost revenue.
On 12 July, the UN and internationally backed interim premier, Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah, appointed the former Libyan Central Bank governor as new NOC chairperson, with oil exports resuming on 19 July.
Although it is too soon to confirm whether oil production will return to full capacity and how it will impact oil production and exports going forward, Ms. Pobee underlined the need for the Corporation to “remain neutral and free from the pressure of political interests”.
Threat to basic human rights
Meanwhile, the economic situation has impacted people’s fundamental rights to basic services and access to food, water and sanitation, healthcare, and education.
Moreover, the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has received reports that medical facilities lacked surgical supplies and faced severe challenges from extended power cuts and lack of generator fuel; protestors have been arbitrarily arrested by armed groups; and serious allegations of torture have been made against Libyans, migrants, and asylum-seekers in detention facilities and prisons.
“Of most concern, a radio station in Zawiya broadcasted hate speech against migrants, asserting they were responsible for spreading diseases,” warned the Assistant Secretary-General.
“Libyan authorities must investigate all allegations of torture and other human rights violations…[and] those responsible must be held accountable”.
Voices of youth
While the UN prioritizes a return to the electoral process, Ms. Pobee underscored the need to keep supporting, and encouraging Libyan counterparts to focus on effectively addressing the key drivers of the political and economic stalemate.
Young Libyans want their leadership to improve living conditions and for elections to be held as soon as possible so they may choose their legitimate representative, according to the UN political affairs official.
“We count on the members of this Council and the wider international community to continue supporting the United Nations in its efforts to facilitate a mutually agreeable solution which will put an end to the continuing crisis,” she concluded.
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