By Abdur Raman
The Mediterranean country of Libya is experiencing a social and economic crisis since the overthrow of President Muammar Gaddafi through the intervention of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 2011.
The UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on Monday ( June 22) that orders a fact-finding mission to Libya in order to document violations and abuses committed in the country since 2016.
The resolution strongly condemns all acts of violence in Libya, and urges UN human
rights chief Michelle Bachelet to immediately establish and dispatch a fact-finding mission to the country, according to news agency reports.
The draft resolution was tabled earlier in March by a group of African countries, but the UN's top rights body was forced to suspend its main annual session for three months due to the coronavirus crisis, postponing a vote by the 47-member council until Monday.
"The resolution expressed concern at reports of torture, sexual and gender-based violence and harsh conditions in prisons and detention centres." The Libya Observer
Recently, the International Criminal Court, pointed out that mass graves discovered in the North African country are associated with war crimes. In this regard, UNHRC condemned all acts of violence in Libya and pledged to investigate the abuses committed in the civil war, involving "torture, sexual and gender-based violence and harsh conditions in prisons and detention centers."
EU has its interest in Libya
Meanwhile, Frence President Emmanuel Macron threatened on Monday( Jun 22) that his country would not tolerate Turkey’s military intervention in Libya, accusing Ankara of playing “a dangerous game”. Turkey has intervened decisively in recent weeks in Libya, providing air support, weapons and allied fighters from Syria to help the government based in Tripoli repel a year-long assault by eastern military leader Khalifa Haftar. “We won’t tolerate the role that Turkey is playing in Libya,” he said.
Turkey’s help appears to have secured Libya’s capital and the west of the country for the Tripoli government against Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), which
is backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia.
Paris has been accused of supporting Haftar politically, having previously given him military assistance to fight Islamist militants. France denies backing Haftar but
has stopped short of rebuking his allies, while repeatedly criticising Turkey.
Macron, who spoke earlier on Monday by phone to U.S. President Donald Trump on the crisis in Libya, briefly condemned the role of Russian mercenaries in Libya,
but focused mostly on Ankara’s role.
“This is a Mediterranean subject that affects us because today from Libya each day men and women are fleeing misery to come to Europe. Do you think we can let Turkey for a long time import Syrian fighters to Libya given everything we know?”
Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa's head of operations Heba Morayef stated that they welcome "the establishment of the fact-finding mission as
an important and long overdue step towards ending the rampant impunity that has for years fuelled by the horrific crimes committed in Libya." Even when the resolution was put forward in March by a group of African countries, the Coronavirus outbreak forced the UN to suspend its main annual session until now. "We call on all parties in conflict and their allies to fully cooperate with the mission's investigation team and to facilitate its work in bringing to justice all those responsible for these violations," Moraysef added.
The foreign affairs ministers of Germany, France, Italy, and the European High Representative for Foreign Affair made a joint call Saturday for a humanitarian
truce in Libya, urging all sides must resume peace talks. “We call on all the Libyan actors to get inspired by the spirit of the Holy Ramadan, engage in resuming talks for a genuine ceasefire,” said the statement, signed by the EU’s Josep Borrell, France’s Jean-Yves Le Drian, Italy’s Luigi di Maio and Heiko Maas of Germany, adding that their “call” is that of the U.N. to halt fighting amid the global pandemic. Back in January, an agreement to respect the disregarded international arms embargo on Libya was the result of the German-led peace summit, attended by countries with interests in the conflict and the two warring sides, including the UAE.
"We agreed on a comprehensive plan forward," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, adding that they all “agree that we should respect the arms embargo and that
the arms embargo should be controlled more strongly than it has been in the past." The LNA, which is backed by Egypt, the UAE, France, and Russia, has been fighting off a year-long offensive over Tripoli which is the last stronghold of Fayez al Sarraj’s Government of National Accord (GNA), which is backed by Turkey, Qatar, and Italy.
From 2014 and on, Libya has had two political power centers, the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli, that is having a hard time governing the capital city and some western areas, and another government in Tobruk, an eastern city which has remained under Haftar's control. The North-African nation which has major oil reserves had been under foreign rule for centuries and gained independence in 1951. Colonel Muammar Gaddafi seized power in 1969 and ruled the country for four decades until he was ousted in 2011 by Western military intervention.
According to the U.N., more than 280 civilians and about 2,000 fighters have been killed and 146,000 Libyans displaced since Haftar launched his assault to seize the
Meanwhile, Russia is involved in the Libyan civil war with the aim of supporting one side against another. It is there to stay itself. Russia’s ally, General Khalifa Haftar, commander of the self-proclaimed National Libyan Army, has lost his 14-month military campaign to capture the capital Tripoli. His rivals at the helm of the Government of National Accord (GNA) forces, backed by -extremist militias, managed to chase his troops deep into the east of the country.
Danger of ‘miscalculation’ in Libya
The political initiative for peace talks, declared by the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Saturday and supported by Washington, Moscow and other EU countries, has put a spoke in the GNA’s wheel, created more of an appetite for a peace deal and opened the door to Haftar’s exit. After turning the tide on Haftar, due to generous military aid from Turkey, the GNA is facing a dead end. Haftar’s backers, including Russia, Egypt and the UAE, are clear: Any attempt by the GNA for a military push past Sirte will backfire. The US – and the UK – see a window of opportunity for negotiations that would potentially end years of conflict. Russia’s narrative is simple: Nato and the west’s intervention to topple Muammar Ghaddafi in 2011 destroyed Libya, and it is there to fix it. President Vladimir Putin, therefore, wants to position himself as the only arbiter of peace. This would allow Russia to extend its influence over the Mediterranean and Nato’s southern flank. It’d also help Moscow to influence the oil industry still further and secure lucrative infrastructure contracts in Libya.
But Russia’s leader faces three dilemmas. First, the recent setbacks have exposed significant concerns about Haftar’s military and leadership tact. Second, comes the issue of legitimacy. While the UN recognises the GNA and the parliament in the east – which praises Haftar – loyalties on the ground are based on different and more complicated tribal, ideological and political interests. For Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, Haftar is a unifying power against what the newly-appointed US Ambassador Richard Norland calls the three M’s: the militias, the money distribution across the country and the Muslim Brotherhood.
For Russia, the bigger the portion of Libya Haftar controls, the more legitimacy he will get from his foreign backers and tribal cheerleaders. And as long as Haftar
maintains his control on the energy resources and a large piece of land, Russia can claim significant power in Libya. The third dilemma facing Russia is the US's belated action in Libya. American and British diplomats are encouraging the GNA to thwart Russia’s push to build a military base on the Libyan Mediterranean coast for the first time since dismantling the Soviet bases in Tobruk and Tripoli. Achieving this would mark a significant strategic victory in both Washington and London.
President Donald Trump’s administration is currently focusing on domestic issues such as the recent Black Lives Matter protests as well as the coronavirus pandemic
and its economic fallouts in the US. So, Norland may find himself hindered when it comes to facing up to Moscow's efforts. This explains why Turkey has been given the green light to represent Nato’s interests in Libya.
The West is repeating the very same mistakes of the proxy war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan during the 1980s. Back then, the US, Saudi Arabia and their allies allowed thousands of fighters into Afghanistan as part of a bid to drive the “infidel communists” out. When the Soviets finally decided to back up and leave,
Afghanistan was then riddled with radical groups, among them was al-Qaeda, which would later wreak havoc on western societies and help give birth to Isis.
The US is looking the other way as fighters from Syria flood into Libya. One can’t help it but think the US is effectively taking the risk of creating a hotbed for
another Isis to emerge some 200 miles away from Europe’s coast. This is not to suggest the Syrian mercenaries fighting for Haftar are not dangerous for Libya and
the region. Stability in Libya will only come if all foreign fighters are expelled. For this to happen, Libyans will have first to stop fighting and start talking.
Opportunities for peace don’t come round every day in the region.