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

Stephen Townley
Deputy Legal Adviser
New York City
May 8, 2017



Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Madam Prosecutor, for the briefing on your office’s efforts to pursue accountability for atrocity crimes committed in Libya.

Stability in Libya – through unity and leadership – is critical for many reasons, including so that human rights violations and abuses can be meaningfully addressed. This includes addressing reports of arbitrary detention, extrajudicial killings, and the exploitation of migrants. We must work diligently toward ending impunity for such violations and abuses in Libya, which in turn can reinforce the rule of law and foster stability.

Political reconciliation among all Libyan parties remains the key to achieving peace and to realizing the goal of a Libya that is stable, democratic, and free from the violence that has caused and continues to cause great human suffering throughout the country. We are encouraged by recent meetings of Libyan leaders in Abu Dhabi and Rome, as well as by the international community’s ongoing support for the Libyan Political Agreement framework, and we urge Libyans on all sides to work actively toward its implementation. As Ambassador Haley told the Council just a few weeks ago, we need all Libyan parties and leadership to work together to rebuild the country, to engage in dialogue, and to find a compromise. The road ahead will be challenging, but ongoing discord and conflict will have far graver consequences for the Libyan people.

Moreover, violent extremism flourishes where instability is prevalent. We remain deeply concerned about the continued terrorist threat in Libya, which raises the risk of further atrocities. Although we are encouraged by recent successes in driving ISIS out of Sirte and Benghazi, we must ensure that terrorist groups do not have the opportunity to re-establish themselves and regain power in the absence of strong Libyan institutions and leadership. Conflict in and around Tamanhint airfield reminds us that the risk of division and the escalation of violence in Libya requires our urgent attention. At the same time, we must remain mindful of the need to comply with international law during counterterrorism operations.

The United States remains dedicated to pursuing accountability for violations and abuses committed during the 2011 revolution. In this regard, we appreciate the continued efforts to bring Saif Qadhafi, accused of helping orchestrate the murder and persecution of hundreds of civilians, to justice. We urge all relevant Libyan actors to facilitate the transfer of Saif Qadhafi to The Hague so he may stand trial for his alleged crimes against humanity. We welcome the continued reports of Libya’s cooperation with the Prosecutor, consistent with this Council’s calls for such cooperation and Libya’s obligations under resolution 1970.

We have also taken note of the Court’s recent decision to lift the seal on an arrest warrant for al-Tuhamy Mohamed Khaled, who is accused of being responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Libya. We stress the importance of working to ensure accountability for such atrocity crimes, which would send a vital deterrent signal in the midst of ongoing violence that those who commit atrocity crimes in Libya will ultimately face justice.

The United States remains committed to supporting the Libyan people as they struggle for peace, prosperity, and democratic governance. Accountability for crimes in Libya will be key to an enduring success in this endeavor. We look forward to continued collaboration with this Council to realize a better future for all Libyans.

Thank you, Mr. President.