With Libyans now ‘fighting the wars of others’ inside their own country, UN envoy urges Security Council action to end violence

UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe Ghassan Salamé, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), briefs Security Council.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


Fighting in Libya “shows no signs of abating”, the head of the United Nations Support Mission (UNSMIL), told the Security Council on Monday, painting a grim picture of worsening humanitarian conditions, and warning that the instability and influx of foreign weapons is fueling a proxy war in the north African country.

Briefing the Council via video teleconference from the Libyan capital, Ghassan Salamé, who is also the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative, said: “The war around Tripoli has already left nearly 1,100 dead, including 106 civilians.”

“Hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes in the capital and neighbouring districts as a result of the fighting; tens of thousands crossing the border to Tunisia seeking safety for their families.”

The conflict exploded on 4 April when the head of the eastern-based militia known as the Libyan National Army (LNA), General Khalifa Haftar, launched an offensive against the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), based in Tripoli.

“The war has worsened humanitarian conditions and hindered access to food, health and other life-saving services,” Mr. Salamé stressed. “The parties, ignoring calls for de-escalation, have intensified air campaigns, with precision airstrikes by aircraft and armed drones”.

The geographical scope of the violence has also spread.

According to the UNSMIL chief, on 26 July, for the first time, the GNA forces launched an air attack on the main rear base of the LNA in the Jufra region. And on 27 July, General Haftar s forces launched airstrikes at a GNA airbase in Misrata.

In addition to heavy weapons and ground attacks, there is an increase in foreign mercenaries.

“Forces on both sides have failed to observe their obligations under international humanitarian law,” lamented Mr. Salamé, calling “the most tragic example of indiscriminate attacks” a migrant detention centre hit on 2 July, which killed 53 and injured at least 87, including children.

Tragedy at Sea

To add to the downward spiraling situation, on 25 July, up to 150 migrants lost their lives after a boat they were travelling in capsized off the coast of Libya, further underlining “the urgent need to address the root causes of the migrant issue and their immediate suffering”, the Special Representative stated.

As UN humanitarian agencies work diligently to mitigate the “terrible conditions” in detention centers that are holding over 5,000 refugees and migrants – 3,800 of whom are exposed to fighting – Mr. Salamé urged the Council to call upon the authorities in Tripoli to shutter them and free those detained.

“UNSMIL has devised a plan for an organized and gradual closure of all detention centers and seeks your support for its implementation”, he continued, noting that so far this year, nearly 4,500 refugees and migrants disembarked in Libya, “with serious risks of detention, arbitrary arrest and being trapped by the fighting”.

The Special Representative urged European countries “to respond to the Secretary-General’s repeated pleas, revisit policies and move migrants and refugees to safety”.

He also noted “with alarm” the increasing frequency of attacks on Mitiga airport, which serves as the only functioning airport in the greater Tripoli area, several of which “have come perilously close to hitting civilian aircraft with passengers on board”.

“I am afraid that with the almost daily bombardment, luck will run out”, he said. “I call upon the authorities in Tripoli to cease using the airport for military purposes and for the attacking forces to halt immediately their targeting of it”.

Uptick in violence

Briefing the council on the latest assaults, he explained that on 26 June, pro-GNA force retook the city of Gheryan, some 80 kilometers south of Tripoli.

“There are unconfirmed allegations that human rights abuses may have taken place in the town, which we are investigating”, warned Mr. Salamé, expressing fears that the recent “uptick in violence” may be “a new phase in the military campaign”.

The LNA maintains that they will not stop their attack until Tripoli is conquered while the GNA forces insist they can push General Haftar s forces back to eastern Libya.

And yet, “the parties still believe they can achieve their objectives through military means”, he highlighted, saying that both leaders have “publicly reaffirmed their commitment to a future political and electoral process but have yet to take practical steps to stop the fighting”.

“Libya’s present and future need not be taken hostage by the warring parties,” argued the Special Representative.

Turning to information dissemination, he underscored “the hatred and invective on social media and satellite television stations is fueling the violence on the ground”.

“I urge those who dwell in their self-contained silos of enmity to cease spewing hatred and start talking face-to-face with their compatriots,” he exhorted.

Pointing to the armed drones, recoilless rifles, mortar and rocket launchers that have been transferred to Libya, the UNSMIL said the nation “has become a terrain of experimentation of new military technologies and recycling of old weapons”.

“There is no doubt that external support has been instrumental in the intensification of airstrikes,” he observed adding that imported weaponry is being accompanied by foreign personnel working as pilots, trainers and technicians.

“More than ever, Libyans are now fighting the wars of other countries who appear content to fight to the last Libyan and to see the country entirely destroyed in order to settle their own scores,” Mr. Salamé declared.

Indications show that the weapons delivered by foreign supporters are “falling into the hands of terrorist groups or being sold to them”, he bemoaned. “This is nothing short of a recipe for disaster”.

UN Mission’s reduced footprint

Due to the security situation, UNSMIL had to reduce its presence in Libya, but has not pulled out, allowing the UN to respond to humanitarian needs, human rights concerns, de-escalating the fighting and resuming the political process.

He was “particularly worried” that health workers and facilities are “repeatedly targeted”, noting that many medical doctors and health workers have been wounded and killed, “including 5 yesterday”.

“Impunity should not prevail especially for those who attack hospitals and ambulances” Mr. Salamé spelled out. “Protecting civilians and humanitarian workers requires sanctions against those committing crimes”.

“Almost seventy years ago, the United Nations decided to create an independent Libya”, he concluded. “Only with your imprimatur we can together help the Libyans move past this dark and violent episode and towards a more hopeful and promising future”.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

MasterCard at European Business Summit 2015: A focus on innovation will drive inclusive economic growth for Europe

Children are still dying in Yemen war, despite partial ceasefire, says UNICEF chief

London wants new skyscrapers to protect cyclists from wind tunnels

Security Union: Commission receives mandate to start negotiating international rules for obtaining electronic evidence

Release of prize-winning Reuters journalists in Myanmar welcomed by UN

The EU’s outermost regions: strengthened partnership bears fruit

EU prolongs economic sanctions on Russia by six months

European Citizens’ Initiative: Commission decides to register ‘Right to Cure’ initiative

10 lessons from the COVID-19 frontline for a more gender-equal world

The European Parliament rewrites the EU budget in a bright day for the Union

Why exchange programs are essential for the medical students of the 21st century

Doctors vs. Industry 4.0: who will win?

Western Balkans: MEPs take stock of 2018 progress

World Health Organization calls crisis meeting over deadly Ebola outbreak in DR Congo

Business uncertainty rises as US grants only temporary exception to EU for steel and aluminium tariffs

Cybersecurity needs a holistic approach. Here are three ways to build protection

Commission offers discount on fines to banks for competition infringements

Oleg Sentsov awarded the 2018 Sakharov Prize

These 5 charts show our shifting behaviour around coronavirus

Conflict, climate change among factors that increase ‘desperation that enables human trafficking to flourish’, says UN chief

Nine children killed or maimed in Afghanistan every day: UN Children’s Fund

Although Greece is struggling to pay salaries and pensions Varoufakis is “optimistic”; the Sting reports live from EBS 2015

Draghi repels Trump’s threats, rejects Schauble’s dictums

This surgeon runs a makeshift hospital for over 200,000 people

UN chief extends condolences to families of China landslide casualties

Education in Emergencies: EU announces record humanitarian funding for 2019 and launches #RaiseYourPencil Campaign

A European Discovers China: 3 First Impressions

Why philanthropy for – and by – Africans is the future

Voices of Afghan women ‘must be heard at the table in the peace process and beyond’ UN deputy chief tells Security Council

Drinking water: new plans to improve tap water quality and cut plastic litter

JADE Team at the European Business Summit 2017

Respect people’s peaceful assembly and fair trail rights, UN human rights wing urges Nicaragua

The consequences of Brexit seen by a European young entrepreneur

The EU Spring Summit set to challenge austerity

How India is solving its cooling challenge

Why the 21st century’s biggest health challenge is our shared responsibility

These entrepreneurs are turning discarded fishing nets into surfboards and swimwear

Building cybersecurity capacity through benchmarking: the Global Cybersecurity Index

Ministers for Youth miss the opportunity to improve social inclusion of young people

Harnessing the power of nature in the fight against climate change

Nearly three million more displaced year-on-year, warns refugee agency chief, but solutions are within reach

UN commission agrees roadmap on ensuring women’s social protection, mobility, safety, and access to economic opportunities

EU confronts environmental threats as global leaders attempt to revive the global sentiment at NYC climate week

Why remote working doesn’t have to mean alienated employees

UN chief seeking ‘renewed commitment’ to global rules and values, as world leaders head to New York

Strong multilateral institutions key to tackling world’s dramatic challenges, UN chief says In Moscow

We had the hottest June ever this year – this is what happened around the world

Human Rights and Democracy: striving for dignity and equality around the world

China, forever new adventures

Employment and Social Developments in Europe: 2018 review confirms positive trends but highlights challenges, in particular linked to automation and digitalisation

Main results of Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) – 18-19/10/2018

UN expert condemns new sentence for jailed Venezuelan judge as ‘another instance of reprisal’

This new programme could hold the key to solving global health challenges

Two-thirds of employees would trust a robot boss more than a real one

LGBTQ+ inclusion on the other side of the screen

How communities are dealing with economy, society and education in COVID-19 crisis     

A Sting Exclusive: EU Commission’s Vice President Šefčovič accentuates the importance of innovation to EU’s Energy Union

November infringements package: key decisions

Bigotry makes politicians ‘complicit in the violence that follows’ : UN independent experts

Acute food insecurity ‘far too high’ UN agency warns, as 113 million go hungry

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s