The International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda informed the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday that the fighting in Libya continues unabated and warned that the suffering of the Libyan people must stop
“To my great regret, the fighting in Libya continues unabated. Over the past six months, violence has escalated and armed clashes have occurred in several areas of Libya, including Derna in the east, Murzuq in the south, and Tripoli in the west. As always, my Office continues to closely monitor the ongoing conflict, gathering information from diverse sources and assessing whether crimes within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court may have been committed,” she said.
She said they are paying close attention to the ongoing armed conflict in and around Tripoli since early April this year and that reports indicate that the fighting has already cost 432 lives, including at least 23 civilians.
More than 50,000 people have reportedly been internally displaced by the hostilities, while others remain trapped in conflict-affected areas. In addition, there are serious concerns for the safety of migrants and refugees who are detained in centres near areas of conflict.
“On the 16th of April, I issued a statement calling on all parties to the armed conflict to fully respect the rules of international humanitarian law. I emphasised that all parties to the armed conflict must take all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, including schools, hospitals and detention centres.
“In particular, I urged commanders, whether military or civilian, to ensure that their subordinates do not commit Rome Statute crimes. The law on this is clear. Where a commander knew, or should have known, that their subordinates were committing or about to commit crimes, and failed to take all necessary and reasonable measures within his or her power to prevent or repress such crimes, the commander may be held criminally responsible,” she said, adding that the ICC stands ready to investigate and, where appropriate, to prosecute any persons party to the ongoing armed conflict should they engage in conduct constituting a crime within the jurisdiction of the ICC. The suffering of the Libyan people must stop.
Sudan’s President Omar al Bashir was overthrown in April following months of incessant countrywide protests. Less than two weeks earlier, protesters forced Algeria’s long-time President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down.
The ultimate push in both instances came from the army.
The crucial distinction is that the involvement of the army in Algeria was very subtle, with the head of the army suggesting that Bouteflika should step down. In contrast, the Sudanese army threw the decisive punch that abruptly ended al-Bashir’s regime.
In this sense, the role of the Sudanese military may be more appropriately compared with the situation in Zimbabwe when the army’s involvement led to the resignation of Robert Mugabe in November 2017. It is also similar to the coup that toppled Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaore in November 2014 which also followed days of protests.
But the tail-end involvement of the military after intensive and popular protests raises questions about how this should be applied. While there have been some hiccups and inconsistencies, the rule has allowed the AU to reject coups d’état and suspend governments from its membership. But the recent round of popular protests that finally led to the toppling of authoritarian presidents is a reminder of the conundrum the AU faces.
Gaps emerged with the intervention of the Egyptian military in the removal of President Mohammad Morsi in 2012 following days of extensive popular protests. The intervention of the military was the decisive last step that ended Morsi’s rule.
The AU labelled the events a coup and condemned the military. It demanded a return to civilian rule. Egypt was also suspended from AU membership.
In the end the AU blinked, and later that year Egypt’s membership was reinstated. It even went one step further, allowing Sisi to take over as the rotational head of the AU in 2019.
The events in Egypt and the subsequent AU response underscored the unique dilemma that a combination of popular protests and military intervention pose for the continental body’s policy against coups.
A 2014 report from an AU High Level Panel considered the compatibility of popular uprisings with the AU’s framework against unconstitutional changes of government.
The report said that a necessary condition for the removal of government to not constitute a coup was that the military shouldn’t be involved. The other criteria were that the protests be popular and peaceful.
But the report was never formally adopted by the AU. This means that it doesn’t have a definitive policy on the issue.
Confusion in the ranks
Two other instances point to a lack of clarity on the AU’s part – Burkina Faso and Zimbabwe.
When President Blaise Compaore fled Burkina Faso in November 2014, the military took advantage of the political vacuum and arrogated power. The AU rejected the military takeover and demanded the establishment of a civilian authority.
The military was given two weeks to ensure a civilian-led transition, which it honoured. One of the military leaders was then named prime minster.
The events in Sudan have created another troubling scenario for the AU. The chairperson of the AU Commission labelled the move a “military take-over” and noted that a “coup is not the appropriate response” to Sudan’s myriad challenges.
On 15 April, the AU Peace and Security Council endorsed the chairperson’s statements and demanded the establishment of a civilian-led transitional authority within 15 days, failing which Sudan would be suspended.
Yet, in a joint communique of the “consultative meeting of the regional partners of Sudan” on 23 April, led by Egyptian President Sisi, and attended by the AU Commission chairperson Moussa Faki, the participants recommended the peace and security council extend the transition period by three months. The council later extended the period of such transition by 60 days.
Under the Lome Declaration, once the Peace and Security Council labels a change of government as unconstitutional, it must immediately suspend the relevant government. But, apparently because of the gaps in the applicable norm on unconstitutional change of government relating to popular protests, this does not always happen.
The Sudanese situation raises complex issues. Given unfolding events, the initial two-week deadline for a return to civilian rule appeared to have been impractical. An extension was therefore understandable. But it creates the danger that military rule might become entrenched. The Peace and Security Council needs to agree on a schedule for the transition to civilian authority within the provided timeline.
To ensure consistency in future, the AU should clear the dust on the report of the High Level Panel on Egypt. It should clarify the rules on whether tail-end military intervention to support sustained popular protests against despots may in some instances constitute an exception to unconstitutional change of government.
In addition, the AU standards speak about the removal of “democratically elected governments”. In practice, it never asks whether the removed government was democratic, and does not have mechanisms to make a proper determination on the issue.
The AU should give equivalent focus to the pervasive problem of unconstitutional retention of government power. But, in cases where coups occur, it should continue to insist on civilian-led and controlled transitions within a reasonable time to allow for diplomatic efforts, regardless of the nature of the regime that was removed.
A task force by the African Union, European Union and the United Nations has called for the rescue of stranded migrants and refugees in Libya.
The AU-EU and UN task force met on 16 April 2019 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia following the latest developments in Libya and the escalating conflict in Tripoli.
Chaired by the Special Envoy of the Chairperson and Commissioner for Social Affairs, H.E. Madam Amira Elfadil, and attended by the Head of the EU Delegation to the AU, the Chief of Mission IOM and the UNHCR Representative to the AU, the task force deliberated on the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Libya, as the available humanitarian space continues to be threatened each passing day by the ongoing conflict.
The meeting highlighted the urgent need for humanitarian assistance, especially for basic needs such as food, water and medical services for internally displaced persons, migrants and refugees caught in the conflict, and called upon the AU Member States and the international community to come to their rescue by providing the necessary support and assistance.
The task force called upon and appealed to all warring parties not to use civilians, including migrants and refugees as human shields but instead provide them with safe passage/corridors to safe and secure areas where they can be afforded the necessary humanitarian assistance.
The meeting noted with concern that in spite of the progress made by the Assisted Voluntary Humanitarian Return Programme (AVHRP) implemented by IOM and relevant Member States and evacuation of refugees by UNHCR, a considerable number of refugees seeking protection and resettlement, and migrants remain in Libya. With more than 7,000 migrants and refugees being held in detention centres. In addition, there is a growing number of internally displaced persons whose plight causes grave concern.
In respect to the need to accelerate the return programme, the task force appealed to all concerned Member States with nationals in Libya, to double their efforts, including, in provision of consular services and issuance of travel documents so as to facilitate and fast-track their return from Libya. The task force also appreciated the role played by Niger in hosting the majority of vulnerable refugees and asylum-seekers evacuated from Libya.
In the same vein, the task force also appealed to the Libyan authorities to continue facilitating landing rights to other airlines, consular services of concerned Member States and fast-tacking of exit visa processing to allow swift return of those wishing to return to their countries of origin.
The task force expressed much appreciation for the continued support and assistance offered by the people of Libya and its authorities to the multitude of stranded migrants and refugees in Libya this far, and appealed to other Member States to generously contribute, accordingly. The task force also calls for the protection of all migrants and refugees in line with international and regional standards.
The task force will continue to engage and work with all stakeholders, including concerned Member States, the Libyan authorities and the international community in seeking practical solutions to the migrants’ situation in Libya as we continue to seek for a durable political solution to the impasse.
One hundred and fifty-three emerging Libyan leaders have received certificates after completing a ten-day intensive leadership workhop in Istanbul, Turkey, organized by the African Development Bank.
The Tamayoz Residential programme, provided by Adam Smith International, exposed participants to leadership examples and success stories, provided deeper understanding of a leader’s responsibilities, transferred knowledge of the latest organizational leadership tools, and presented work-based assignments related to Libya’s challenges and solutions.
Tamayoz means distinction and uniqueness in Arabic.
The workshop which concluded Wednesday, included negotiation, team building, problem solving and decision-making. The course stimulated lively discussion on topics of particular importance to Libyans, bringing experts from the Middle East and North Africa region and further afield to highlight partnerships between the public, private and civil society organizations. Other themes discussed were economic diversification; encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship; peacebuilding and reconciliation; and local governance and development.
The exercise brought together participants from across Libya, as well as the public, private and civil society sectors.
Speaking at the close of the programme, Mohamed El Azizi, Bank Director General for North Africa, said that Tamayoz would help shape the future of Libya by contributing to improving service delivery and fostering long-term institutional effectiveness and efficiency, as well as improving cross-sectoral collaboration.” We are one of the first multilateral banks to do it,” he stated.
Dr. Moammer of the National Research Centre for Polmers said the program “opened new horizons, new relationships and stimulated communication between participants from different regions in Libya.”
Yacine Fal, Deputy Director General for North Africa, added that Tamayoz marked the first initiative by the African Development Bank to build a leadership cohort and was thrilled with the commitment shown by Libyan participants – “a first step to building a great leadership cohort ready to drive the country’s recovery and development,” she added.
The new graduates echoed the sentiment.
“Tamayoz is a platform for emerging leaders to come together and learn about successful tools for building pioneering organizations in our society,” Abdul Qader Abdel Salam of the University of Sabha, said.
The Tamayoz programme is an initiative led by the African Development Bank and the Libyan government and implemented by ASI to support the political transition in Libya by strengthening the leadership capacity of its public, private and civil society sectors. It aims to build long-term institutional effectiveness, efficiency and prosperity. It also aims to improve service delivery through fostering future leaders and improving cross-sectoral collaboration in Libya.
In 2016, more than 1,200 Libyans took part in two e-learning courses conducted as part of the initial stage of the programme. The most promising participants were then invited to attend the advanced residential leadership workshop in Istanbul, Turkey.
At least a dozen people are dead after a rubber boat which spent more than 10 days at sea capsized off Misrata, Libya, on Monday.
Ten survivors were rescued and returned to Libya where they were treated by IOM medical staff. Three other passengers remain missing.
“The survivors were all suffering from complete dehydration and exhaustion after being stranded at sea for days,” said IOM physician Dr. Mohamed Abughalia.
“People suffered from trauma, severe malnutrition and burns sustained from the boat’s engine fuel.” Four cases in need of emergency medical care were transferred to a private hospital in Tripoli.
Six others were moved to detention centres by Libyan authorities, where IOM continues to provide medical care.
“We continue to advocate for alternatives to detention for migrants returned to Libyan shores, specifically for those most vulnerable,” said IOM Libya Chief of Mission Othman Belbeisi, who also expressed concern about the lack of search and rescue capacity as the weather worsens with the onset of winter.
“The absence of mechanisms to better manage returns coupled with reduced search and rescue capacity at sea is making the crossing increasingly dangerous for migrants. There are more possibilities to die at sea now than one year ago. This is not acceptable. Saving lives at sea should be the number one priority, and search and rescue operations clearly need to be reinforced.”
Media accounts of the migrants’ ordeals differ, but it appears the boat, which was attempting to travel to Italy, was blown hundreds of kilometres off course. Red Crescent spokesman Baha al-Kawash told Agence France-Presse the migrants left for Italy from the city of Sabratha, west of Tripoli, but their vessel was blown 270km east and later overturned. IOM is following up on the current humanitarian and medical needs of migrants in the detention centre and hospital to ensure they receive adequate assistance. The Organization will provide mental health and psychosocial support to the survivors.
A flight to Ghana is the first return flight to leave Libya in the wake of this week’s ceasefire agreement ending hostilities in southern Tripoli and surrounding areas. The reopening of Tripoli’s Mitiga Airport permitted a commercial flight to leave the airport for Ghana, carrying 21 migrants, said IOM, the UN Migration Agency on Monday.
The Ghanaian migrants boarding their return flight at Tripoli’s Mitiga Airport on 10 September 2018. Photo: IOM / Hmouzi
The migrants – from different districts of Tripoli – expressed interest in returning safely to their home country through IOM’s Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) programme. The programme provides a safe pathway home to migrants who wish to return home but have little means of accomplishing that. Upon arrival, the returning migrants will be provided with sustainable reintegration assistance to further aid them when returning to their community of origin.
“We are relieved that this flight was able to leave Libya safely and we hope to charter more flights in the coming days and weeks to meet the increasing demand,” said Ashraf Hassan, VHR Programme Coordinator at IOM Libya’s mission. “We have observed a large number of people applying to return home through VHR. We are taking advantage of the current ceasefire and relative calm to assist them to exit to safety.”
Other chartered flights are also scheduled to leave Libya later this week with migrants on board assisted from different urban areas. The charters had already been scheduled for departure, however, following the eruption of violence and fighting between the warring parties two weeks ago and the cessation of operations at Mitiga airport, the flights had been postponed.
“The recent clashes in and around Tripoli have endangered the lives of locked-up migrants, further aggravating their suffering and increasing their vulnerability,” explained Othman Belbeisi, IOM Libya’s Chief of Mission.
“We continue to respond to existing and emerging humanitarian needs including increasing requests for voluntary humanitarian return, as our teams on the ground are directly registering these requests in detention centers and urban areas to expedite the safe return of people.”
IOM launched its VHR hotline through social media platforms, to scale up efforts in reaching out to a larger number of stranded migrants across Libya whose lives may now be at a far greater risk due to the current security conditions.
IOM, the UN Migration Agency, has responded to the urgent humanitarian needs of hundreds of displaced Libyans and migrants affected by violence, following armed clashes in the Libyan capital.
IOM provides emergency assistance to displaced Libyan families. Photo: IOM Libya, 2018
Early Monday morning (27/08) heavy clashes erupted between armed groups in Tripoli, causing THE displacement of civilians AND migrants in the affected area. Despite the security constraints, on 28 August IOM, Libyan and Malian authorities were able to ensure the safe transport of 118 men, 22 women, 16 children, two infants and eight medical cases to Mitiga airport for their further safe return home to Mali.
Prior to departure the migrants received non-food items and health and protection assistance as part of IOM’s Voluntary Humanitarian Return Assistance. Unfortunately, an additional 30 migrants scheduled to depart were unable to reach the airport due to security constraints. IOM is following up to ensure their return as soon as possible.
“We are coordinating closely with the Libyan authorities and our humanitarian counterparts to ensure assistance reaches all those in need,” said Othman Belbeisi, IOM Libya Chief of Mission. “Our priority is the safety and well-being of civilians affected by the violence.”
The current security situation forced families to flee for safety. As part of its humanitarian response IOM provided mattresses, blankets and hygiene kits to displaced Libyan families who were able to seek shelter in a school in Tripoli. The humanitarian situation and needs of these families are being assessed by IOM.
At the same time, migrants at the Ain Zara and Salaheddin detention centres in the affected area were evacuated by the Directorate for Combatting Illegal Migration (DCIM) to safer centres with the support of humanitarian actors.
As part of a joint humanitarian response coordinated between the UN agencies and international organizations, UNHCR distributed core-relief items including 500 blankets in Abu Slim detention centre, while IOM provided mattresses, food and beverages to more than 400 migrants, including 322 evacuated from other unsafe locations. MSF teams are conducting medical consultations, as well as providing food, water and nutritional supplements to people still in detention centres.
On 30 August, in close coordination with the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and the Somali Embassy, IOM provided direct humanitarian assistance in the form of medical consultations, food, water and non-food items to around 90 Somali migrants affected by the violence. Migrants who expressed a desire to go back home will be provided with Voluntary Humanitarian Return Assistance to guarantee their safe return. IOM is closely coordinating with UNHCR to find solutions for the Somalis who do not wish to return home.
IOM continues to monitor the situation closely and respond to the humanitarian situation of the affected populations in Tripoli, while coordinating with the Libyan authorities, UN agencies and international organizations to ensure existing needs are addressed.
IOM staff remains on the ground, continuing regular operations.