Priorities for the Government of National Accord and the international community to implement the peace agreement and combat violent extremism

In Arab Countries by CIHRS

ليبياNext week, the Libyan House of Representatives (HOR) is scheduled to vote on a proposition for the formation of the Government of National Accord (GNA), which is expected to lead the transition in Libya, along with the HOR as the legislative body and the High Council of State as a consultative body, as stipulated in the road map laid forward in the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA).

Since violent armed clashes re-erupted in May 2014, the human rights and humanitarian situation in Libya continues to witness further deterioration, where civilians and civilian infrastructures are the daily targets of the numerous militias and paramilitary groups. This has created a propitious climate for the Islamic State to continue to gain a foothold in several Libyan cities, threatening international peace and security and pressing international actors to act more swiftly.

The formation and recognition of the new government, while marking an important step towards implementing the peace accord, does not guarantee peace and stability in Libya if not coupled with genuine progress on the ground to consolidate the rule of law and democratic governance and ensure basic liberties.

Following more than a year of UN backed peace negotiations, parties from the HOR and the General National Conference (GNC) signed the LPA on 17 December 2015, which was followed by the creation of the Presidency Council, the head of the executive power which is also designated with drafting the list of ministers composing the new government. On 25 January 2016, the HOR voted down a proposed list of ministers and requested the Presidency Council to work on a second proposition with only 12 to 17 ministerial portfolios within 10 days. In the same session, the HOR also formally endorsed the LPA, placing a reservation on article 8 of the additional provisions of the political agreement. [1]

Adopting and implementing an immediate comprehensive strategy that addresses the core grievances that plague the Libyan state institutions, most notably security institutions and the judiciary, breaks the cycle of impunity for grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, and creates and fosters an enabling environment for civil society to operate freely should be the priority for the GNA, HOR and international community in order to achieve sustainable peace and combat the spread of extremist groups in Libya.

  1. Set a comprehensive and transparent national strategy to rebuild national security institutions:

Setting a transparent national strategy to build security institutions should be on the top of the GNA and HOR priorities. Genuine commitment to fighting terrorism and extremist groups should be reflected through taking concrete steps to set the basis for a national army and police, with guarantees of transparency and accountability and in respect to Libya’s international human rights obligations, including not granting amnesties for perpetrators of international crimes. This can be done through setting plans that include coherent vetting processes regarding integration, filtration and new recruitment within both institutions, as well as setting a clear identification of chains of command.

Since the 2011 uprising, the successive Libyan legislative authorities have set no national strategies or clear plans to rebuild national security institutions. Instead, laws and decrees adopted by the Transitional Council, GNC and HOR have fostered the creation of paramilitary structures not controlled by the state. These institutions, such as the High Security Committee to Defend Libya, the Chamber of Libyan Revolutionaries, the National Guard, Libyan Dawn, and Operation Dignity, gave militias and paramilitary leaders sovereign positions in the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior. In addition, amnesties have made these rival armed factions the real power brokers on the ground. These rival armed factions continue to perpetrate grave violations in total impunity. The GNA and HOR should stop repeating these fatal mistakes.

Recent attacks by the Islamic State (IS) only prove the immediate need for a shift in policy. On January 5, IS intensified attacks on the Sidra and Ras Lanouf oil terminals. Then, on January 7, IS affiliated militias attacked several cities killing dozens.

According to the LPA, upon the adoption of the agreement, the Prime Minister shall establish a temporary security committee to facilitate the implementation of the security arrangements until the formation of the Government of National Accord. [2] These arrangements include the application of article 34 related to a cease-fire, the withdrawal of armed groups from cities and vital infrastructures, as well as their disarmament and confronting terrorism threats.  Annex 6 of the agreement adds that the temporary security committee has to ”Develop and commence the implementation of appropriate plans for security structures and forces, including effective command and control arrangements; supervise the development of a security plan for securing the cities, starting with the capital, in coordination with the relevant security institutions; approve appropriate operation methods and rules of engagement for all army, police and armed formations, as well as disciplinary and penal procedures; monitor and follow-up the implementation and effectiveness of the above arrangements and address any shortfalls.”

The immediate activation of this committee is vital to stabilize the security and humanitarian situation, until the formation and adoption of the government. The Prime Minister adopted his first decree on January 13 regarding the establishment of a temporary security committee. Yet no steps were taken to date to implement the decree that entered into force on January 25, the date in which the HOR formally endorsed the political agreement.

One of the causes behind the delay in the implementation of this committee, was the decision taken by the defacto executive authorities in Tripoli, on January 14 to prosecute all the selected members of the committee with charges of destabilizing national security. [3] As a result, the committee was prevented from taking any concrete action towards the implementation of the security arrangements.

The GNA once functional should immediately announce its plans regarding the building of security institutions, according to the article 45 of the agreement in order to implement the security priorities stipulated in the LPA. [4] The functions of the temporary committee shall be assumed by the “Committee for Monitoring the Implementation of the Interim Security Arrangements” that was elaborated on under article 37.

In this context, and in order to activate security related provisions within the agreement, reform security institutions and activate the Committee for Monitoring Security Arrangements,[5] efforts should be made to ensure that rival militias and paramilitary groups conform to article 42 of the LPA, which stipulates that “all armed formations shall commit themselves to the provisions of the Libyan legislation in force, international humanitarian law and international human rights law.”

The Presidency Council of the Government of National Accord should issue immediately a formal public statement calling on all armed groups to commit to Article 42 of the LPA. This includes publically informing these groups of the principles of the international humanitarian law and the international human rights law.

If these steps are not tackled immediately, then the international community will be supporting fragmented security institutions with weapons which could end up in the hands of extremist groups or used for additional internal fighting in Libya which will further paralyze the functioning of state institutions and open the door for more human rights violations.

  1. Break the cycle of impunity: reactivate the domestic criminal justice system and trigger international accountability mechanisms

The ability of the justice system in Libya to carry out transparent and effective investigations and prosecute ongoing serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law is blocked due to the inability of courts around the country to begin and implement legal proceedings or prosecute alleged perpetrators of crimes. This is due to direct threats and attacks against judges, lawyers and other members of the legal community by armed groups.

During 2012, 2013, and 2014, hundreds of cases of alleged grave violations committed by armed groups including extrajudicial killings, the widespread use of torture and arbitrary arrest were submitted to Libya’s General Public Prosecutor with no concrete measures taken towards achieving accountability.

To date, no perpetrator belonging to any of the armed groups on the ground has been held accountable for committing human rights abuses in Libya since 2011. According to a report issued by the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) on 16 November 2015: “Due to the collapse of the criminal justice system in parts of the country, victims have little avenue to seek protection and remedy amidst total impunity. Even in those rare cases where police reports had been filed, little action was taken to open prompt, thorough, effective, impartial, and independent investigations and to bring perpetrators to justice. To the best knowledge of UNSMIL, no perpetrator belonging to an armed group has been convicted since 2011.” [6]

The legal community was targeted by all parties to the conflict including, state and non-state actors. According to a local human rights group, in the period between 2013- 2015, 8 members of the judiciary and 3 lawyers were murdered and a number prosecution offices and courthouses attacked.[7]  Another recent example occurred on 15 December 2015, when the court and prosecutor office in the East of Tripoli was completely destroyed during fighting between two armed groups.

Amnesty laws issued in 2012 and 2014 have meant that there is no accountability, and the Libyan authorities have failed to establish an instrument for transitional justice, which resulted in denying the Libyan citizens a national mechanism for redress.

This requires the immediate activation of article 26 of the LPA under confidence measures, which stipulates the commitment of Libyan parties through the GNA and the HOR to effectively secure courts, prosecutor offices and their members, also to take full control of all detention facilities and place them under judiciary control. The article adds that “all detainees should be handed to the judiciary during the 30 days after the approval of GNA by HOR, the prosecutor office will then have 60 days to liberate these persons or to bring them to courts”. Furthermore, the article stipulates that “the transitional justice law issued on December 2013, should be activated in the three months following the establishment of the government”.

In parallel, efforts to document, investigate and ensure accountability for grave human rights breaches by international, transparent and impartial mechanisms should be triggered and supported. What is needed in Libya at the moment are concrete efforts to ensure a comprehensive accountability plan that would lay the ground for the respect of human rights, breaks the cycle of impunity, guarantees non repetition, as well as address the population’s grievances. The continuation of an international, independent, effective, and transparent investigation into past and ongoing violations is now the only available channel through which accountability can be sought. This includes establishing facts as well as indentifying perpetrators of grave violations, especially by establishing a clear chain of command and individual responsibility.

Such investigations would additionally play an important role in the implementation of the peace plan within a framework that sets forms for accountability and the respect of human rights in the country. It additionally supports the national justice system to start investigation on previous and ongoing grave violations, and act as deterrence to prevent the commission of further violations by armed groups and militias. All state and non-state armed factions operating across the country must realize that their actions are being monitored and investigated and that accountability for the crimes they commit is a real possibility.

  1. Break the monopoly of extremist discourses over the public space by creating an enabling environment for civil society

Breaking the monopoly of extremist discourses through the protection of public space where moderate actors are enabled to work freely in order to pave the ground for the peace process should be a priority of all stakeholders in Libya. This priority is inescapable to gather public support to the LPA implementation and to raise awareness on the vitality of moving forward towards a national reconciliation process as well as peaceful means to redress the political division and the chaotic humanitarian situation.

According to a report by the Libyan Center for Freedom of Press (LCFP), in the period between June and December 2015, Libya witnessed at least 49 attacks and threats on media workers and outlets across different cities.[8]

Members of civil society organizations and activists are targets of frequent threats, kidnapping from militias and paramilitary groups and other abuses. On 5 June 2015, seven staff members of Shaikh Taher Azzawy Charity Organization, were abducted while travelling in a humanitarian convoy in southwestern Libya. Five staff members were subsequently released and two remain detained. On 16 March 2015, the Benghazi offices of the National Council on Civil Liberties and Human Rights (NCCLHR), the national human rights institution in Libya, were raided. The office of the NCCLH in Tripoli was also attacked by militias and eventually shut down in November 2014. In another recent example, which took place on February 10, an unknown armed group abducted two members of the Ain Zara municipality, Mohammad Al-Murghani and Basheer Al-Fitouri. Both men were released hours later.

Moreover, both de facto authorities in the East and the West imposed restriction on freedom of association.  In the East of Libya on 21 November 2015, the Head of the General Authority of Information and Culture, Omar El-Gawairi, issued a statement asking security officialsto “capture the spies and traitors” and thus ban any media or civil society organizations funded by foreign sponsors or linked to foreign departments. He also added, “Libyan citizens should take the initiative to close shops of agents and hideouts of spies, and then expel them outside of Libya“.[9]  Also, four days later, in the West of Libya, the Culture and Civil Society Ministry issued a notification requesting civil society organizations to notify and seek the approval of the ministry prior to attending events, conferences and meetings outside Libya.[10]

These attacks shut down the public sphere for moderate voices. CSOs, local activists and actors, as well as media outlets who are trying to work objectively are squeezed between the dangers of death or exile; while others are forced to stop their work due to fear of reprisals.  The public space inside the country is monopolized by extremist voices who continue to work safely under the security and financial support of rival political and armed groups.

The priorities set forth for the GNA within the agreement include “developing an integrated media policy based on rejecting incitement to violence, hatred, extremism and all forms of discrimination, in addition, to providing  mechanisms for citizens to express their opinions peacefully”.  Also, article 29 of the agreement stipulates that “All Libyan parties should stop launching or participating in any media campaigns that incites or promotes any form of violence, hatred, or threat to civil peace and national unity for any reason whatsoever.

A safe public space which guarantees freedom of expression and association will allow civil actors including human rights activists, media workers as well as local municipals and tribal elders to play a key role in the success of the LPA implementation. Empowering and enabling those actors could very well be Libya’s only hope to fight extremism of all kinds and drain the spread of extremist ideologies across the country.

Recommendations

  • Libyan State:
  1. End any involvement with ongoing grave breaches to international human rights and humanitarian laws, notably indiscriminate attacks on civil areas, infrastructure and targeting of civilians;
  2. The Presidency Council of the Government of National Accord shall activate immediately the Committee for Monitoring the Implementation of the Interim Security Arrangements;
  3. The Presidency Council of the Government of National Accord should issue immediately a formal public statement calling all armed groups to commit to the Article 42 of the LPA. This includes publically informing these groups of the principles of the international humanitarian law and the international human rights law;
  4. Reform security institutions through a comprehensive and transparent vetting process that would ensure that perpetrators of human rights violations are held to account;
  5. Take measures to ensure the safety and independence of judges, lawyers, members of the justice system, and citizens who attempt to seek justice and reparations for violations committed against them or others;
  6. Implement the transitional justice law (issued in December 2013) in order to guarantee victims access to justice and reparation;
  7. Strengthen the capacity of the National Council on Civil Liberties and Human Rights , the National Human Rights Institution in Libya, and guarantee its independence;
  8. Protect activists, CSOs, journalists and media outlets from attacks and secure a safe public space for them;
  9. Guarantee freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.
  • United Nations Security Council:
  1. Consider placing a conditionality clause with regards to lifting the arms embargo on Libya upon the reform of security institutions by GNA and HOR;
  2. Enact and implement sanctions on persons who assist or commit grave violations of human rights and humanitarian law in Libya in accordance with relevant UNSC resolutions and findings of relevant international commissions.
  • UN Human Rights Council:
  1. Continue to monitor the human rights and humanitarian situation in Libya;
  2. Monitor and set concrete follow-up mechanisms with regards to the implementation of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) investigation mission recommendations;
  3. Take measures to ensure the continuation of international investigations into international human right and humanitarian law violations.
  • The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights:
  1. Continue monitoring and documentation of breaches of human rights and humanitarian law in Libya;
  2. Put in place measures to protect Libyan civil society and ensure capacity building for civil society in the areas of information gathering, evidentiary standards for international legal proceedings and safe means of digital communication.
  • The International Criminal Court:
  1. Open a formal investigation into violations committed by particular individuals in Libya since 2011 based on its open mandate as per UNSC resolution 1970.
  • Member States of the United Nations:
  1. Ensure the continuation of an international investigative mechanism for grave violations of international law in Libya at the United Nations;
  2. Make use of existing evidence of violations of human rights and humanitarian law gathered by civil society, the United Nations and others to ensure international accountability through the use of domestic investigations and the use of universal jurisdiction;
  3. Take all measures required to ensure the opening of a formal investigation by the International Criminal Court into past and ongoing grave violations of international humanitarian law with a view to ensuring individual criminal responsibility and accountability for such violations.

[1] Article 8 of LPA: “All powers of the senior military, civil and security posts stipulated in the Libyan legislations and laws in force shall be transferred to the Presidency Council of the Council of Ministers immediately upon signing this Agreement. The Presidency Council must take a decision on the occupants of such posts within a period that does not exceed twenty (20) days. In case a decision is not reached during this period, the Presidency Council shall take decisions on new appointments within a period that does not exceed thirty (30) days, while taking into account the Libyan legislations in force”.

[2] Annex 6 of LPA signed on 17 December 2015: Security arrangements

[3] Declaration of National salvation government , appointed by GNC in the Western region: http://goo.gl/pdYTFa (in Arabic)

[4] Article (45) of LPA stipulate :

  1. The Government of National Accord shall work towards activating all existing laws, decisions and regulations in force and develop the necessary arrangements related to the integration and rehabilitation of members of armed formations according to a suitable timetable. It may submit new draft laws to the House of Representatives as it deems necessary and appropriate for the implementation of this purpose.
  2. The Government of National Accord shall work according to a specific timetable to account for all armed formations.
  3. The Government of National Accord shall work towards developing strategies and plans that aim to integrate and rehabilitate members of the armed formations into civilian and military state institutions, and shall provide them with job opportunities to live in dignity within Libyan society.
  4. Members of armed formations shall have the right to join the State’s military institutions whenever they fulfill the conditions and standards necessary for that.

[5] Article 37 of LPA

[6] Report on the human rights situation in Libya, 16 November 2015: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/LY/UNSMIL_OHCHRJointly_report_Libya_16.11.15.pdf

[7] The 2014 annual report of the Libyan Judges Association

[8] Report of the Libyan Center for Freedom of Press:

http://lcfp.org.ly/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/FourthReport.pdf

[9] EU-funded Libyan Cloud News Agency is a shop of spies, says Al-Thanni government official: http://www.libyaobserver.ly/news/eu-funded-libyan-cloud-news-agency-shop-spies-says-al-thanni-government-official

[10] “No Meetings Without Our Permission Tripoli Authorities Tell NGO Activists,”  https://www.libyaherald.com/2015/11/26/no-meetings-without-our-permission-tripoli-authorities-tell-activists/

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