Thank you, Madam President. And thank you, Special Representative Salamé, as well as the Ambassador from Sweden, for your briefings. The United States stands fully behind the efforts to help bring peace to Libya.
The Libyan people have been waiting more than seven years for a better future. After rising up against one of the world’s most brutal tyrants, the promise of Libya’s revolution remains unfulfilled. The stakes for international peace and security are high. Libya’s insecurity doesn’t just affect Libyans. Groups like ISIS have taken advantage of the conflict to put down roots. Loose arms from Libya are fueling violence from the Sahel to the Sinai. Brutal militias conspire with criminal gangs to smuggle migrants to Europe. The lawlessness in Libya is an issue that concerns us all.
Last year, a horrific video emerged that captured the world’s attention. It showed migrants being sold into slavery in Libya. It was sick and inhumane. There is no place in our world for slavery. We must never tolerate the conditions that could allow such a barbaric practice to occur.
Sadly, human rights abuses against migrants occur all too frequently in Libya. One desperate survivor of a Libyan detention facility told Doctors Without Borders recently, “I’ve endured two months, three weeks, one day, and twelve hours of hell.” We can only imagine how many thousands of migrants are enduring their own hell in detention facilities right now.
This is a crisis that calls for immediate action from this Security Council. The groups that are responsible for these abuses are the same ones that are destabilizing Libya. Those who torture migrants and refugees profit from smuggling, and they use these profits to undermine the authority of government institutions. These ruthless smugglers are threatening Libya’s peace and security.
This time, the Security Council is in a position to respond and live up to our responsibilities. The Council is considering sanctions against six individuals involved in migrant smuggling and human trafficking in Libya. These designations would be an important step toward holding the perpetrators of abuses accountable. We regret that the Security Council has not yet reached consensus on these designations. Failing to move forward with the designations would be a travesty in the face of so much global outrage over these abuses. There is strong regional support for these designations. And the evidence showing the involvement of the six people is clear. So the United States hopes that the Security Council can move forward with these sanctions designations as soon as possible to deter further abuses.
In the meantime, we continue to encourage the Government of National Accord to work closely with international agencies to assist vulnerable migrants and refugees. The International Organization for Migration and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees have done good work. They are helping to repatriate migrants in a safe and voluntary manner from detention facilities and assist those with claims to protection. IOM and UNHCR must be able to continue these important efforts. In the long run, of course, addressing Libya’s instability requires a political solution. That is where Special Representative Salamé’s work comes in.
The United States is a firm supporter of the UN dialogue. This should be the only mediation process. Separate international initiatives will distract from the UN’s efforts and undermine prospects for national reconciliation. While the UN works on talks, all parties must exercise restraint. There should be no unilateral action outside of the UN process. Political spoilers must stop undermining the dialogue and engage with the UN in good faith.
As Special Representative Salamé has said, the Libyan people are eager for elections to bring an end to interim governments and political transitions. So we appreciate the progress the UN has made to prepare for elections. These elections must be well prepared, so we do not end up with any further instability.
There is a strong international consensus that for the elections to happen, there needs to be a constitutional basis. The United States stands behind this consensus.
Libyan leaders need to commit to both the election process and to respecting the will of the Libyan people. Special Representative Salamé must have the space to consult with Libya’s leaders on how to move forward with a democratic and inclusive constitutional process. We look forward to hearing more from him on next steps.
Since 2012, the United States has given more than $32 million to support election preparations and the drafting of a new constitution in Libya. We urge other donors to step up to meet the needs of Libya’s election commissions so the government can finish its preparations.
On May 2, terrorists attacked the headquarters of the national election commission in Tripoli. We condemn this cowardly attack, which only deepens our commitment to support free and fair elections. We recognize the immense courage of the election officials who continue to report to work despite these threats. They are working to help build a democratic Libya, and they deserve our full backing. It’s people like these we need to remember in the Security Council. We need to support the Libyans who are pushing for peace, instead of those fighting for their own selfish interests. Those Libyans who are holding out from the UN process need to understand that they must come to the table. Despite all the insecurity, there is hope.
One 24-year-old student named Salim, who participated in the 2011 revolution, recently attended a workshop on reconciliation. Reflecting on his experiences, Salim said, “I refuse to take part in an act of vengeance. That is not what 2011 was all about. And if we can be reminded that our aspiration was freedom and a better life, we might start thinking differently.” Salim is right.
It is long past time for Libya’s leaders to put aside their narrow agendas and instead think about the aspirations of the Libyan people. It is long past time for Libyans to come together around the cause of a stable, unified, and democratic government. The United States will not hesitate to use all of the tools we have to help Libyans achieve this goal.