Remarks at a UN Security Council Meeting on Libya and the ICC

Ambassador Jonathan Cohen
Acting Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
May 8, 2019


Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you, Madam Prosecutor, for your briefing.

Eight years ago, the UN Security Council referred the situation in Libya to the International Criminal Court. The resolution addressed a dangerous moment in Libya’s history. Qadhafi’s horrific abuses stunned the world.

Now, as then, we stand against impunity, and support efforts to bring to justice those responsible for atrocities in Libya. We reiterate our call for Saif Al-Islam Qadhafi and Al-Tuhamy Mohamed Khaled, the former head of Libya’s notorious Internal Security Agency, to be held to account for alleged crimes against humanity, for torture, and for the murder and persecution of hundreds of civilians in 2011. We also renew our call for Libyan authorities to hold Mahmoud al-Werfalli to account for alleged unlawful killings.

The United States is deeply concerned by instability in Tripoli, which is endangering innocent civilians. Lasting peace and stability can only come through a political solution.

All parties should rapidly return to UN political mediation, the success of which depends upon a ceasefire in and around Tripoli.

We support the ongoing efforts of UN Special Representative Salamé and the UN Support Mission in Libya to help avoid further escalation and chart a path forward that provides security and prosperity for all Libyans.

This briefing is an important reminder that accountability not only provides justice for victims of past violations and abuses, but it also signals that future violations and abuses will not be tolerated.

We remain concerned about abuses that human traffickers and smugglers have perpetrated against migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers in Libya. We support efforts to hold these individuals, including government officials found to be complicit, accountable. The United States will continue to work to end impunity for human rights abuses, including the persistent problem of human smuggling and trafficking that has plagued the region.

We strongly condemn attempts by terrorists, including ISIS-Libya and AQIM, to use violence against innocent Libyans and key institutions to sow chaos. They must not be allowed to succeed, and we will continue to work to defeat these groups.

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. Perpetrators of atrocity crimes must face justice, but we must also be careful to recognize the right tool for each situation.

However, I must reiterate our longstanding and principled objection to any assertion of ICC jurisdiction over nationals of states that are not party to the Rome Statute, absent a UN Security Council referral or the consent of such states. Although we note the recent decision not to authorize an investigation into the situation in Afghanistan, we remain concerned about illegitimate attempts by the ICC to assert jurisdiction. Our position on the ICC in no way diminishes the United States’ commitment to supporting accountability for atrocity crimes.

Thank you, Mr. President.