Period of the review: 12 February - 7 May 2018
Prepared by Ijechi Nwaozuzu
Libyan women attend a UN-sponsored event encouraging female candidates to participate in the country’s last elections in 2012 (UN Photo/Iason Athanasiadis)
Pursuant to Security Council Resolutions 2106 (2013), 2122 (2013), 2242 (2015), 2323 (2016), 2331 (2016) and 2367 (2017), the Security Council calls for the full, equal and effective participation of women in all activities related to the democratic transition, conflict resolution and peacebuilding in Libya and calls upon Libyan authorities to prevent and respond to sexual violence in conflict and to address impunity for sexual violence crimes (PP. 11). Pursuant to Resolution 2376 (2017), the Security Council calls for the continued implementation of the Libyan Political Agreement (OP. 1), and for the provision of essential services, and delivery of humanitarian assistance and in accordance with humanitarian principles (OP. 2). In this vein, the Council requests UNSMIL to take fully into account a gender perspective throughout its mandate (OP. 4).
The report outlines political, security and humanitarian developments in Libya from 12 February 2018 until 30 April 2018. The intensification of military activities the Southern region of the country coupled with ongoing human rights violations committed by parties to the conflict continue to drive instability in the country. All parties to the Libyan conflict continued to violate international humanitarian law and international law (para. 31). Civilians continue to be targeted on the basis of their tribal origin or family identity, or for their perceived political affiliations and opinions (para. 35). Simultaneously, arbitrary detention and torture continued to be widespread in both prisons and detention facilities across the country, with detainees lacking access to legal mechanisms to seek justice or redress (para. 38). Amidst preparations for municipal elections throughout 2018, consultations continued between representatives of the House of Representatives and the High Council of State to reach an agreement on amendments to the Libyan Political Agreement (para. 2). With support from UNSMIL, meetings were held throughout the country to build momentum towards encouraging dialogue and broad participation in the political process (para. 27). UNSMIL also continued to support Libya’s national reconciliation programme, in collaboration with the Peacebuilding Fund and UNDP (para. 47). In February 2018, the Ghadamis and displaced Tuareg groups in Awal agreed on a reconciliation road map, which included measures to document human rights violations, evaluate destruction to the property and houses, and ensure future accountability and reparations mechanisms (para. 47).
Of 96 paragraphs in the report, 10 (10%) included references to WPS-relevant issues, reflecting a decreasing trend across all recent reports. Similar to the previous report, this report references efforts by UNSMIL to promote women’s participation in political and reconstruction processes. In particular, a dedicated Women’s Support and Empowerment Unit is being established for the Presidency Council (para. 66), small and medium-sized enterprises have been created by many women as part of the country’s economic recovery (para. 23). This report also shed light on the subjection of women to violence and restrictions on freedom, especially for women prisoner and migrant women (para. 46). However, unlike the previous report, it failed to discuss the role of women in the Libyan disarmament programme as well as importance of women-focused risk-awareness training in small arms and light weapons. Resolution 2376 requests UNSMIL to fully take into account a gender perspective throughout its mandate and to assist the GNA in ensuring the full and effective participation of women in the democratic transition, reconciliation efforts, the security sector and in national institutions in line with Resolution 1325 (OP. 4). If the recent UNSMIL Action Plan for Libya is to be a common agenda where international interest and Libyan needs are met, then the implementation of every aspect of this Plan needs to systematically integrate gender analysis and the Women, Peace and Security provisions. These commitments, if fully implemented, have the potential to strengthen opportunities for sustainable feminist peace in Libya.
The report detailed disarmament efforts in Libya, including the success of the Mine Action Service’s stockpile clearance and destruction project in Misratah (para. 63). However, it did not go further in addressing a much-needed, fundamental reframing of the ongoing security crisis in Libya, and the value of women’s meaningful participation in the process. Gender-based violence, including rape and forced prostitution, international military engagement, and gender stereotypes reinforced by a range of legal, social and cultural structures (para. 46), remain key factors inhibiting gender analysis and women’s meaningful participation in politics, peacebuilding, reconciliation and humanitarian work. The report also failed to stress the international community’s commitment to refrain from selling and supplying arms and ammunitions to armed groups in Libya. While the report focused solely on the clearance and destruction of small arms and light weapons, it is unclear whether it also includes the recent addition of prohibited weapons under Article 8 of the Rome Statute.
Unlike the previous report, there were no indication of UNSMIL’s efforts in providing gender-specific care, including emergency reproductive health kits and psychosocial services for migrant women and refugees in transit. Further, while the Secretary-General highlighted both the arbitrary detention of, and risk of sexual and gender-based violence for, women prisoners across the country, he failed to discuss specific measures to address and end conflict-related SGBV, including tackling harmful gender norms in the form of “moral crimes” (para. 46) which continue to disproportionately affect women and their access to public spaces and participation. He also failed to discuss the continuing violence against women’s human rights defenders and activists. Lastly, in spite of touching briefly on ongoing inflation and economic instability in the country, the report failed to incorporate this economic reality into issues faced by marginalised groups in particular like migrant women and ethnic minorities, including unemployment, food insecurity and housing shortages.
Unlike the previous report, there were no mention of the percentage of women as registered voters for the 2018 municipal elections. Consequently, there were no discussions on women’s meaningful participation in both the political and peacebuilding process, including women representation in public office, as well as mechanisms to ensure this. This is a huge missed opportunity, especially when the report had acknowledged the participation of women in various international events (paras. 66-67), and where the previous had recognised that the involvement of women in post-conflict dialogues has led to recorded successes in negotiations and investigations. It also runs contrary to UNSMIL’s mandate to “assist the GNA in ensuring the full and effective participation of women in the democratic transition, reconciliation efforts, the security sector and in national institutions in line with resolution 1325 (2000)” (OP. 4). Currently, UNSMIL’s political and mediation support has been focused on political actors, and women remain missing at all levels of the Mission’s efforts as well as traditional conflict-mediation mechanisms. The key factors affecting women’s meaningful participation were not addressed in the report, including a lack of mobility, increased violence against women as well as inaccurate representation or portrayals of women in the media. Lastly, the report failed to encourage greater engagement between the government, UNSMIL and civil societies in the Libyan peace process and to emphasise the participation of women’s groups and civil societies in the design and implementation of UNSMIL’s disarmament programs and efforts, as mandated by Resolution 2242 (2015).
Relief & Recovery
The report highlighted the prevalence of kidnapping and other forms of intimidation against judges and prosecutors as a inhibiting factor to accountability (para. 52). It also touched on the implementation of the UN human rights due diligence policy in Libya (para. 54) and improved support from UNSMIL in the assessment and mitigation of grave violations of international law. However, the report remained silent on needed investigations and prosecutions of perpetrators of current ongoing human rights violations. It is worth noting that recent developments in UNSMIL’s plan to improve gender mainstreaming in the investigation of crimes, including SGBV, do not include specific measures on UNSMIL’s role in supporting investigations and prosecutions for human rights violations. In this regard, the Secretary-General missed the opportunity to address this, as well as suggest specific measures relating to the release of arbitrarily-detained women as well as relief and reconciliation services for victims of SGBV in detention and elsewhere. Consequently, the report also missed the opportunity to engage civil society organisations and women’s groups in providing adequate services and relief mechanisms for victims of SGBV, even though UNSMIL’s mandate specifically requests “wider engagement and participation of women from across the spectrum of Libyan society in the political process and public institutions.” This is concerning in light of the recent engagement by the Council with Libyan civil societies and comprehensive recommendations which have been provided by on-the-ground actors in the country.
The Secretary-General should request for the GNA curb the flows of small arms by ratifying the Arms Trade Treaty and implementing it through enforced national laws and regulations. Future reports should also include the roles of the GNA and UNSMIL, as well as progress, in disarmament work and efforts made to promote the full and effective participation of women and youth in all discussions on disarmament and arms control. Lastly, the Secretary-General should request for State parties involved in the conflict in Libya to document the gendered impact of arms and to report on national mechanisms for rigorous, transparent, and gendered risk assessments of international transfers of arms and export licences, in order to fully implement obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).
The Secretary-General should call for the UN Special Envoy and UNSMIL to strengthen engagement with women peace activists, human rights defenders and women-led civil society for effective grassroots conflict analysis and response. He must also reiterate the need for gender-sensitive services for migrants who are vulnerable to arbitrary detention and SGBV.,including through improving access to international protection through humanitarian visas, refugee resettlements, and access to information and fair hearings. In a similar vein, gender-responsive protection mechanisms based on UNSMIL’s Action Plan for Libya, should be better implemented to ensure the protection of women human rights defenders and female political candidates or activists. Lastly, future reports should provide focus on the socio-economic reintegration of marginalised groups, like migrant women and ethnic minorities, in the Libyan peace process. To do so, the Secretary-General should discuss UNSMIL’s role in supporting local initiatives that promote reintegration and rehabilitation,as well as national initiatives to reduce unemployment, food insecurity and housing shortages.
The UN Special Envoy and UN Women should be requested to report on the efforts made to integrate gender analysis and the Women, Peace and Security provisions in the implementation of UNSCR 2376 (2017) and UNSMIL’s Action Plan for Libya. Future reports should incorporate the UN Special Envoy’s reports on efforts to ensure the participation of women and youth in all sessions of the upcoming National Conference, both formal and informal, and across the municipal elections. The UN Special Envoy’s report should also cover efforts to ensure that the law of the upcoming elections provides women and youth with a fair chance to participate in elections, including by considering a minimum quota for women and another separate minimum quota for youth. Lastly, the Secretary-General should inquire the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and relevant donors to report on the existence and quality of specific human and financial resources available to strengthen women’s meaningful participation in all aspects of society, particularly at decision-making levels.
Relief & Recovery
The GNA, together with UNSMIL, should be explicitly called upon to investigate and monitor human rights violations, including SGBV and threats to Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) and civil society advocates. This must be done through gender-sensitive transitional justice measures including restitution and reparations. A safe environment should also be established, in law and practice, so that judges and prosecutors can perform their obligations in line with domestic and international law to prosecute perpetrators of conflict-related crimes, without fear of retaliation. Accompanying this, future reports should inquire the GNA on efforts made to revise existing and adopt new legal, social and cultural structures aimed at eliminating all forms of discrimination and violence against all rural women and girls in both the public and private spheres.