The United Nations' top envoy in Libya today announced an initiative to bring together some of the country's most influential actors to settle long-divisive issues, as the world Organization's human rights arm expressed deepening concern over the violence plaguing the east of the country, particularly the city of Benghazi.
In the political initiative announced by Tarek Mitri, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Libyan parties will meet in the week before parliamentary elections scheduled for 25 June to work out a binding declaration of principles.
"It will feature discussions on urgent and divisive issues in order to reach an agreement, or to narrow the rift, which will pave the way towards concluding the transitional period, beginning with elections," UNSMIL said in a press release.
Many issues, including regional representation and the continued existence of revolutionary militias, remain unresolved in Libya following the 2011 uprising that ousted former leader Muammar al-Qadhafi, and this year has seen some of the worst violence since that struggle, according to Mr. Mitri.
On Wednesday, UNSMIL urged the country's officials to agree on precise means to counter terrorism and other challenges to security and state authority, as fighting raged in Benghazi and elsewhere in the east.
Today, during the press conference in which he announced the dialogue initiative, Mr. Mitri said that it has already gained the support of several Libyan actors, chief among them the National Dialogue Preparatory Committee, which includes in its advisory council representatives of all national forces.
Meanwhile, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) today expressed deep concern over the toll on civilians due to the armed clashes in eastern Libya.
"We urge all sides to exercise the utmost restraint to avoid further escalation and engage in peaceful dialogue and we call upon the authorities to renew their efforts to meet their obligations under international human rights law, specifically with respect to protecting the right to life," OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville said at a press briefing in Geneva.
Mr. Colville strongly condemned the 4 June murder in Sirte of Michael Greub, an official of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and deplored the detention of four UNSMIL staff members in recent weeks.
"We are concerned that space to operate for human rights defenders, humanitarian workers, media professionals, and all those engaged in efforts to support Libya is shrinking by the day," he said.
"We call on all parties in Libya to ensure that UN officials and aid workers can perform their impartial human rights and other work without harassment or intimidation," he added.