Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Libya

Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis
Acting Alternate Representative for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
May 17, 2021


Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you, Madam Prosecutor, for your 21st briefing to the Security Council on the International Criminal Court’s work on the situation in Libya.

Prosecutor Bensouda, as you prepare to end your term, the United States commends your efforts since the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1970 to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the heinous atrocities committed against the Libyan people. Let me start by noting the important and necessary step that President Biden took in lifting the sanctions previously imposed on you, Madam Prosecutor, and your colleague, Phakiso Mochochoko. These sanctions were inappropriate. As Secretary Blinken has said, U.S. concerns with the ICC “would be better addressed through engagement with all stakeholders in the ICC process.” For our part, we hope this can help us return to a time of cooperation between the United States and the ICC. After all, justice, accountability, and the rule of law are values we share, and we believe they’re advanced by engaging with the rest of the world. Which brings me to today’s topic: the ICC’s investigation into the situation in Libya.

First, let’s start with the investigations themselves. The U.S. government is deeply alarmed by the reports of continued atrocities and other human rights abuses in Libya – arbitrary killings; indiscriminate airstrikes; forced disappearances; torture, unlawful detention; sexual and gender-based violence. We need to document these abuses and do something about them. So, we strongly support the UN Human Rights Council’s creation of an international fact-finding mission to do just that. This mission must be granted full access throughout Libya.

The discovery of mass graves in Tarhouna, reportedly containing the remains of more than 100 men, women, and children, horrified the world. We thank the ICC, the United Nations, and national authorities for cooperating in sending an investigative team to inspect and investigate these mass graves. We support continued efforts to investigate and exhume these mass graves, and to collect and preserve evidence for use in future prosecutions and other potential Council actions.

Now, let’s talk about justice. Former senior officials of the Qadhafi regime – who are subject to arrest warrants 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 misery, violence, and turmoil. So, 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.

Furthermore, we urge this Council to take overdue action on designating malign actors. Libyan armed groups and security forces on all sides stand accused of perpetrating and enabling human rights abuses. And specifically, the United States has nominated Mohammed al-Kani and the Kaniyat militia to the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee for gross human rights abuses including disappearances, torture, and killings. The horrific mass graves – the one I mentioned earlier – offer clear evidence of their crimes. These designations would send a strong message by the Security Council for Libyan authorities and the international community to act against human rights abusers, and to end the culture of impunity in Libya that has fueled the conflict.

Victims and survivors deserve justice. And accountability will deliver a powerful deterrent message to those who bear responsibility for atrocities and other human rights abuses, that such actions will not be tolerated.

Finally, let’s discuss how we can promote peace and security in Libya. As the Libyans have made clear – and this Council has unanimously affirmed – external actors involved in this conflict – including foreign forces and mercenaries – must cease their military interventions and withdraw from Libya immediately. 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. The recent violent instability in Chad underscores the dangers foreign mercenaries pose – not just to Libya, but to the entire wider region.

The ICC’s work in Libya is a critical element of our international commitment 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 ICC’s investigations and contributions, which we hope will help bring true justice to the people of Libya.

Thank you, Mr. President.