Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing by the ICC Prosecutor on the Situation in Libya

Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis
Senior Advisor for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
November 23, 2021


Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you, Prosecutor Khan, for your briefing. We congratulate you on your appointment as Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. We wish you success in your new role. The United States looks forward to working with your office and commends the efforts of the Court to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the atrocities committed against the Libyan people since the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1970 in 2011. The United States has historically been, and will continue to be, a strong supporter of meaningful accountability and justice for the victims of atrocities through appropriate mechanisms. Justice, accountability, and the rule of law are values we share and continue to believe are best advanced together.

This brings me to today’s topic: The Court’s ongoing investigation into the situation in Libya.

The chronic insecurity we are witnessing in Libya today is best addressed through accountability – which starts with rigorous documentation and investigation. The precarious human rights situation makes such work all the more difficult. Numerous armed groups and forces have faced allegations of arbitrary killings, indiscriminate airstrikes, forced disappearances, torture, unlawful detention, and sexual and gender-based violence. Disturbing reports of violence committed in Libyan prisons, with detainees subject to torture and their families denied visitation rights, continue. The situation for internally displaced people as well as that of migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers remains dire. Regrettably, Libya remains ill-equipped to accommodate such large population movements.

The unearthing of the mass graves in the town of Tarhouna remains at the forefront of our minds. The gravity of the allegations connected to these graves demands our ongoing attention and a concerted international response. We thank the Court, the United Nations, and national authorities for their ongoing investigative work, including efforts to exhume the mass graves, and to collect and preserve evidence for use in future prosecutions, truth-telling, and other transitional justice measures.

As another marker of the importance of documentation, we also welcome the report of the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya, FFM, released on October 1. The Mission interviewed more than 150 individuals and reviewed hundreds of documents on violations and abuses in Tripoli, Ganfouda and Southern Libya. The establishment of the FFM by the Human Rights Council in June 2020, mandated to document alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by all parties in Libya since the beginning of 2016, represented a positive step toward accountability. We welcome the recent resolution extending the Mission’s mandate, but deeply regret that the extension was granted for only nine – rather than the customary 12 months. The Mission must be afforded the time to conduct an exhaustive review of its current and future findings.

Now, on the question of justice. Former senior officials of the Qadhafi regime – such as Abdullah al-Senussi and Saif al-Islam Qadhafi, the latter of whom is subject to an arrest warrant by the ICC for charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity – must face justice. The perpetrators of serious human rights violations, war crimes, and crimes against humanity must not be allowed to continue to inflict violence and turmoil. We call upon the Government of National Unity to take all possible action to secure the arrest and surrender of those wanted by the ICC. Moreover, any individual, group, or country providing protection and refuge to these individuals should and must immediately alert and otherwise facilitate their transfer to the appropriate authorities.

We also continue to monitor the Libyan legal proceedings against al-Senussi. We support the ongoing efforts to build domestic capacity to punish perpetrators of human rights abuses and violations and encourage support for local capacity building and judicial reform in Libya. Guaranteeing due process rights, as well as protecting the rights and security of victims and witnesses is central to the success of any domestic prosecutions.

We would like to express our concern, as reported in the UN Security Council Final Report of the UN Panel of Experts on the Sudan, that Abdallah Banda, a prominent ex-JEM Darfuri commander subject to an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court, launched his own rebel group and has received financing and military materials from the Libyan National Army in return for support.

This briefing is also an important reminder that the victims and survivors of human rights violations and abuses in Libya deserve justice. To achieve that end, such groups need the help and support of civil society advocates. The work of civil society, however, continues to be curtailed by the damaging effects of Decree 286 that regulates the activities of non-government organizations. We have credible reports that NGO’s fear retaliation if they should meet with international organizations. The severe restrictions imposed by this decree impede domestic efforts to secure justice for victims and survivors. We strongly urge the Government of Libya to revoke this decree given its harmful effects on the rights and freedoms of its people.

Finally, I’d like to turn to how we can promote peace and security in Libya. The United States reaffirms our call for all actors in Libya to commit to ensuring that free and fair elections take place as scheduled. We welcome Libyan 5+5 Joint Military Commission’s action plan for the withdrawal of all foreign forces, fighters, and mercenaries from Libya in line with UN Security Council resolution 2570 and the Libyan Ceasefire Agreement. Further, all external military support inconsistent with the UN arms embargo must end. That includes the training and financing of mercenaries, proxy forces, and armed groups. This violent instability remains a threat to the entire wider region.

The ICC’s work in Libya is a critical element of our shared commitments to accountability, peace, and security. To achieve these goals in Libya, the appropriate mechanisms – including international, hybrid, and domestic courts – need to deliver for victims of atrocities. We will continue to support the Court’s investigations and contributions, which we hope will help bring true justice to the people of Libya.

Thank you, Mr. President.