By Edith M. Lederer
The U.N. envoy for Libya warned Monday that the oil-rich country’s “perverse economic model” based on corruption and trafficking in people and goods “must be shattered” to end its political crisis and progress toward stability and democratic elections this year.
Ghassan Salame also warned that the continued influence of armed groups on politics and the economy “is perilous, and unless resisted is in danger of expanding.” Those groups include the Islamic State, which he noted took credit for the May 2 attack on headquarters of the High National Elections Commission in the capital Tripoli that killed 13 people.
After Salame addressed the U.N. Security Council, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley disclosed that the council is considering putting six leaders of human trafficking networks on the U.N. sanctions blacklist.
She said evidence against the six people, who were not identified, “is clear” and “failing to move forward with the designations would be a travesty in the face of so much global outrage over these abuses.”
Council diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because consultations were private, said Russia put a “hold” on the designations and has asked for additional information about the individuals.
Netherlands’ deputy ambassador Lise Gregoire van Haaren, whose country proposed imposing a travel ban and asset freeze on the six leaders, said: “We fully support the use of targeted sanctions to dismantle these trafficking networks, improve the human rights situation of migrants and help stabilize Libya.”
The Netherlands’ U.N. Mission said if all 15 council members agree to the sanctions, it would be the first time the leaders of violent human-trafficking and people-smuggling networks were included on the U.N. blacklist.
Salame, the U.N. envoy, said Libya must address the flow of trafficked people and goods through its borders as well as the issues of subsidies and “the severe mismatch between the official and black-market exchange rate.”
“These facets provide opportunities for those few who sit at the heart of Libya’s political stalemate, plundering the nation’s coffers, resisting any actions while might challenge their predatory economy,” Salame said. “It is this perverse economic model which must be shattered if the political process is to meaningfully progress.”
Libya plunged into chaos following a 2011 uprising that toppled and later killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Since 2014, the country has been split between rival governments and parliaments based in the western and eastern regions, each backed by different militias and tribes.
A U.N.-brokered deal in December 2015 to create a unity government failed, and Salame told the council that his efforts to find amendments to the agreement that would bridge political differences also failed because “the parties are unwilling to make the necessary concessions.”
“It is now time to turn this page” to focus on elections, he said.
Salame urged the Security Council to “demand far more” from the transitional U.N.-backed Presidential Council based in Tripoli in its remaining months, in preparing for elections and providing services for the Libyan people.
He also cited “dramatically” different views on the current draft of a new constitution.
The adoption of a constitution “is a crucial moment in the life of a nation,” Salame said, and shouldn’t be a reason “for more division, feuds or tension.”
The U.N. mission has been consulting with a wide array of Libyans on a timetable “for the people to democratically express their will, in either a referendum or national elections,” he said, adding that he will outline his proposal in his next appearance at the Security Council.
As for the armed groups, Salame said the U.N. has engaged them directly and is in the final stages of consulting with Libyan authorities to finalize a new strategy to deal with them.
“It will not unravel armed groups tomorrow but will help the long process begin in earnest,” he said.
In addition, Salame said, a new push is needed to build professional armed forces and police operations in the country.
Edith M. Lederer – Correspondent – Associated Press, The Washington Post, Fox News, Chicago Tribune, Washington Times, HuffPost, ABC News, USA Today, Time Magazine, and The Independent.