Libya: One Year On, Transition Has Progressed but Challenges Remain - UN Envoy

Libya has moved forward in its political transformation since its liberation one year ago but still faces many challenges, including ensuring security, promoting national reconciliation and upholding the rule of law, the top United Nations official there told the Security Council today.

The July elections and the formation last week of a new government, led by Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, are examples of the country's progress, said the Secretary-General's Special Representative and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Tarek Mitri.

"But you all are aware, many challenges remain, particularly in the area of security," he added, as he briefed the 15-member body via videoconference from the capital, Tripoli.

Mr. Mitri, who was appointed to lead UN efforts in Libya in September, discussed the recent fighting in Bani Walid, a small city that was one of the last to fall to rebels groups during last year's conflict that led to the overthrow of former dictator Muammar al-Qadhafi, and which Libyan army forces seized control of last month after saying it harboured a number of supporters of Mr. al-Qadhafi. The Libyan authorities declared military operations in Bani Walid over on 24 October.

"In meetings with the Prime Minister and the President, I conveyed strongly the concerns of the United Nations and the international community with regard to the protection of civilians, and urged the return of the displaced families in the shortest time possible while ensuring basic services," said Mr. Mitri.

In addition, UNSMIL has provided teams to help assess humanitarian needs in Bani Walid and to help the authorities in clearing munitions there.

Elsewhere, fighting broke out in southern Libya in September, leaving several dead and wounded, he noted. Tripoli has also experienced bouts of violence between armed brigades, leaving several wounded, while Benghazi and the east continued to suffer from a number of serious security incidents.

"The events of Bani Walid, Tripoli, [and] Benghazi underscore the need for rapid and effective policy decisions and practical measures to be taken in the area of security sector reform," Mr. Mitri stated.

Such initiatives include the implementation of a national security coordination mechanism; interim security measures while new Libyan defence and police forces are built and supported by national intelligence; the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former revolutionaries, and a weapons and ammunition control programme.

"Along with security sector reform, it remains just as urgent for the Libyan authorities to fully activate the judiciary so that perpetrators are held to account and rule of law upheld," said the envoy, adding that UNSMIL continues to work on the issue of conflict-related detentions, including urging the Ministries of Justice, Defence and Interior to accelerate the screening of detainees and to investigate cases of mistreatment and torture.

Another major task, now that the new government has been formed, is to intensify consultations and reach decisions regarding the constitutional process, starting with the establishment of the Constitutional Commission. UNSMIL continues to urge the General National Congress to "consult widely and move swiftly" on the process of drafting a constitution, said Mr. Mitri.

He recognized the progress achieved over the last year towards stabilizing a country "bereft of democracy, institutions, human rights and rule of law over the last 42 years," and stated that the problems faced should not be underestimated but are not insurmountable.

"Building a democratic State is a cumulative process that needs time and patience but it necessitates, first and foremost, a sustained, coherent and determined effort by the government," he stated.

"One year since the liberation, the people of Libya are demanding more of their elected authorities," he added. "This is a sign of a vibrant democratic life. UNSMIL has spent the last year working closely with the government, civil society and the international community to ensure that no effort is spared in helping achieve the objective of democratic state-building."

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