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

Ambassador Jonathan Cohen
U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
November 2, 2018


Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President, allow me to congratulate China on assuming the presidency of the Security Council and to assure you of our support through the course of this month. And thank you, Madam Prosecutor, for the briefing on your efforts pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1970 to bring to justice those responsible for atrocity crimes committed in Libya.

Mr. President, seven years ago, the UN Security Council unanimously referred the situation in Libya to the International Criminal Court in the face of the horrific atrocities being committed by the Qadhafi regime. Today, much has changed in Libya, but it’s still the case that Libyans are not free from violence, conflict, or instability. Just last month, one of Libya’s most vital economic institutions, the National Oil Corporation, was attacked by terrorists.

In the past two months, over 100 people were killed in clashes in and around Tripoli, hundreds more were wounded, and thousands displaced, all due to unacceptable actions of spoilers to Libya’s political process. The United States strongly condemned the recent violence in Tripoli. The political process cannot proceed under the threat of violence and the Tripoli ceasefire must be respected.

As we’ve said many times before in these briefings, the human rights situation in Libya is grave, and perpetrators of violence must face justice. Saif Al-Islam Qadhafi and Al-Tuhamy Mohamed Khaled, the former head of Libya’s notorious Internal Security Agency, must be held to account for their crimes, including the murder and persecution of hundreds of civilians and alleged torture against individuals perceived to have been enemies of the Qadhafi regime.

We also reiterate our calls for the relevant Libyan authorities to ensure that Major al-Werfalli is held accountable for alleged unlawful killings.

We repeat our warning that those who tamper with security in Tripoli or elsewhere in Libya will be held accountable for their actions. As I said before the Security Council just last month, a handful of political spoilers should not be permitted to thwart the process of achieving a more secure and stable Libya. The continuation of this type of fighting puts people across the country at risk of violence at the hands of criminals and of terrorists.

Mr. President, the United States remains deeply concerned about the vulnerability of migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers in Libya, who are preyed upon by human smugglers and traffickers. Those responsible must be brought to justice. We encourage the Government of National Accord to continue efforts to hold such individuals accountable, including any complicit government officials.

We also welcome the UN Security Council’s action in June to designate for sanctions six individuals involved in the human trafficking and smuggling of migrants in Libya. The United States is pleased to have implemented concurrent sanctions against these individuals who threaten the peace, security, and stability of Libya. We further welcome the UN Security Council’s unanimous adoption last month of Resolution 2437, authorizing Member States to continue to inspect and seize vessels involved in migrant trafficking and smuggling off the Libyan coast.

The United States looks forward to continued collaboration with the Libyan authorities, fellow UN Security Council members, and other allies to fight the scourge of human trafficking and smuggling in Libya and around the world. Let me repeat the words of Ambassador Haley: “There is no place in our world for such abuses of human rights and human dignity.”

In looking over the broad landscape of where Libya is today, much work remains to be done to create lasting and stable peace. It’s appropriate in today’s setting to emphasize the crucial role accountability has in achieving that goal. Terrorists, armed groups, and criminal gangs must not be allowed to act with impunity.

Those responsible for egregious abuses and atrocities must be held accountable, not only to bring victims a measure of justice, but to signal to all future abusers that such crimes will not be tolerated.

The United States is committed to pursuing justice in Libya. We remain a steadfast partner of the Government of National Accord, the UN Security Council, and our international partners in working toward this goal and toward a more peaceful and prosperous Libya.

Mr. President, in closing, I reiterate U.S. concerns regarding the ICC’s activity with respect to situations in Afghanistan and the West Bank and Gaza, including our objection to any ICC investigation or other activity concerning U.S. or Israeli personnel.

Thank you, Mr. President.