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Leon briefs the UN Security Council on Libya

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Bernardino Leon

Bernardino Leon, the UN envoy to Libya, spoke to the UN Security Council on the progress of the UN-brokered Libyan political dialogue, he said that time is running out for all the leaders of the factions. He said “Overcoming the political polarization and divisiveness in Libya will be no easy task…the onus is on Libya’s leaders on all sides, and at all levels, to make that final push towards peace.”

On Wednesday, Leon met with Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO to discuss the efforts of UNESCO to protect the cultural heritage of Libya, how they can support its media sector and how to combat the country’s educational needs.

Leon also gave Bokova an update on the current situation in Libya. He says that the country is plagued with political, security and humanitarian challenges. However, Leon is confident that the solution to this is, forming a National Unity Government in Libya to combat these issues.

The Director-General said “we stand at your side to help assist the Libyan people to protect and preserve their cultural Heritage and to sensitize youth to the crucial importance of cultural heritage for identity and as a source and economic development”

When briefing the Security Council, Leon gave the 15 member council an update on all the issues in Libya. Leon says that it has been a year since Libya fell into a deep hole of armed hostilities and the disruption of the political process, he also mentioned how it has been fifteen months since military operations began in Benghazi, these military operations have fueled the conflict between the rivalling parties, he adds that this war in Benghazi has resulted in hundreds of thousands of Benghazi’s population to be internally displaced.

Leon also talks about the situation in the south being atrocious, with the absence of an official state and of a functioning security apparatus which has been exacerbated by tribal groups, who are in search for power and resources. On the national scale, Leon says, the scale of human suffering is outrageous. He says Libya has the potential to become one of the biggest players in the oil industry, but statistics still mount against them, many UN agencies state that: 1.9 million people require urgent humanitarian assistance, 1.2 million people are lacking in food supplies, the number of internally displaced people is 435,000 and is still rising, the healthcare system is almost collapsing, many neighborhoods suffer from frequent electricity cuts across Libya.

He added, there are almost 250,000 migrants that are estimated to be in Libya or using Libya as a transit state to get to Europe. These migrants face issues of protection, many of them are arrested arbitrarily, others are abused sexually, and some are forced to work. In 2015 alone, the Mediterranean claimed 2,000 migrants lives, these migrants will do anything to get to Europe.

Leon also spoke about the economic issues in Libya, he says that Libya’s economy continues to contract at a staggering rate, this is a result of a substantial reduction in oil revenue, and the financial reserves are also depleting at a rapid rate.

He highlights the fact that issues of general lawlessness still remain in Libya, with many violations and abuse of international Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. Armed groups from all sides continue to take civilians captive based on their political orientation, most of the time they try to exchange their captives for ransom or to exchange prisoners with another group.

Leon reiterates his call for all sides to take the necessary steps to protect civilians and to facilitate their evacuation. He reminds all parties of their obligation to end arbitrary detention and protect civilians from these punishment measures.

Leon also commented on the issue of Islamic State in Libya, he said that they have exerted control on the city of Sirte in central Libya, despite the multiple attempts to topple the radical group, IS still have the upper hand in Sirte. IS have then committed revenge attacks on multiple civilians, by decapitating them and crucifying them in the middle of the city.

He says that the threat posed by IS to the Libyan people is immanent. There should be a strategy put forward to contain the threat of IS. All factions must unite under one flag and should swarm to get rid of IS, and send a message to other groups like them not to step into Libya.

When speaking about the dialogue which took place in Geneva, he said the two day talks were focused on how to finalize the draft by the 21st of October, this is the date the mandate of the House of Representatives will come to an end according to a constitutional declaration.

Leon says that since the United Nations Support Mission in Libya launched the Libyan political dialogue, it is finally coming to an end, the talks have come a very long way. He said, with respect to the leaders of the HoR and the GNC, he asks of them not to squander this historic opportunity to resolve the issues in Libya. He makes it clear that sanctions will be imposed on those who try to hinder the process.

He stresses on the fact that time is running out, and Libya should unite to get rid of IS and form a National unity government. The UN proposition calls for a one-year National Unity Government, in which a Council of Ministers, a Prime Minister and two Deputies have the power of the executive.