On 20 September 2017 the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Libya, Dr. Ghassan Salamé, announced an Action Plan for Libya at a High-Level Event on Libya on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.


2. Security and Defence

The discussions held on security and defence were notably frank, with participants expressing a strong demand for what they consider their fundamental right to security. Many emphasized that there was “no possibility of rebuilding the State” or of achieving a “desired sustainable status” without effective and practical solutions in the areas of security and defence.

It is worth noting that a significant number of meetings were attended by members of local armed groups. However, the presence of these groups did not prevent other participants from expressing their disapproval of weapons being used for political ends. Nor did their presence prevent participants from objecting to the unregulated proliferation of weapons, which they fear is leading to chaos and uncertainty.

While participants expressed their concerns and fears about the lack of an effective state, divided military establishment and weak security institutions, they emphasized that security should not come at the price of freedom. Military and security institutions must derive their strength from legitimacy and the respect they enjoy from citizens. The general consensus was that Libyans regard the right to security and the establishment of unified national security and defence institutions as indispensable foundations of a stable society.

A set of general principles related to military and security institutions emerged from the discussions. The debate also resulted in a set of practical recommendations, including several that were found controversial and some that were detailed and thus tabled for further deliberation.

2.1 General foundations and principles for a unified Libyan military

The issue of how to unify Libya’s military received special attention due to the severity of current divisions. These divisions are widely perceived as a threat to the prospect of building a united nation for all Libyans. Developing a unified military, the participants agreed, was crucial to rebuilding the Libyan nation and state. The participants agreed to a set of fundamental principles necessary for restoring security and rebuilding the state, including the following:

a. Establishing unified military and security institutions is a fundamental precondition for rebuilding the state. A divided military represents the greatest risk to Libya’s present and future.

b. All military and security institutions should be subject to civil authority and must not be used for political ends. Such institutions must dedicate all efforts to serving the people’s interests and representing their collective will without oppression. The military institution must respect the peaceful transition of powers and commit itself to neutrality in the political sphere, resisting any interference in civil affairs.

c. The military’s first responsibility must be to protect the nation, its sovereignty, and the unity of its people and lands, whilst respecting the constitutional order.

d. The competencies of the military and security institutions must be clearly defined and distributed. To avoid institutional overlaps that might negatively affect community security and stability, a clear and detailed definition of the military’s tasks has been developed.

e. The military’s tasks are defined as follows:

– To defend the nation and its borders and secure vital areas and strategic resources.

– To protect the nation from foreign intervention and all attempts to tamper with the nation’s core interests.

– To guarantee public security and preserve national unity and the stability of the state. In extreme circumstances, the military may intervene to ensure such security and stability.

– To combat all types of terrorism and smuggling in cooperation with security institutions.

f. The military is a professional body that should strive to enhance collective national belonging amongst all regions and groups. Its organization must be based on objective standards in accordance with defined and agreed-upon military legislation. Further professionalization of the military will require discussion with legal and professional experts and consultation with army officers. Such professionalization will require the following:

– Clearly defined and agreed-upon military legislation, whether by restoring previously adopted laws 2 or by establishing a new legal and regulatory framework.

– Rehabilitation of Libya’s military and security institutions to ensure respect for individual liberties and improved relations with citizens, possibly drawing on UN expertise in this field.

– Establishment of two essential conditions for joining the military and security institutions: proof of Libyan nationality and possession of a National ID number.

Appointments to military and security posts must be made without any form of discrimination or favouritism, whether regional, tribal, or cultural. This in turn requires that the problem concerning National ID numbers must be solved through the process of collective national reconciliation.

g. Appointments to military posts should be based solely on standards of efficiency, professionalism, and effectiveness. The practice of granting promotions and ranks to satisfy certain people or groups must be halted.

h. The military justice system should be reactivated, with its scope limited to disputes related to military personnel.

i. A special force should be established, with appropriate numbers of personnel, equipment and levels of training, to protect vital strategic locations and to secure national resources (oil and water) and national institutions.

Previous laws adopted in 2011, or the application of Law No. 19 passed by the General National Conference of 2015 and related to the powers and characteristics of different military posts.

A number of other detailed proposals emerged that require further deliberation:

a. Participants agreed on the need for a motto for the military, but proposed a number of different suggestions, including:

– “Loyalty to God and the Nation” (rather than to peoples, tribes, cities or regions)

– “Loyalty to the Nation”

– “Loyalty to the Nation and the Libyan People”

– “Loyalty to God, the Nation, and the Presidency”

b. Participants also proposed possible names for the unified military institution, including the “Libyan Army”, the “National Libyan Army” and the “Libyan Armed Forces”. Some stressed the importance of avoiding any name that could be divisive or partisan, since the military belongs to all Libyans.

c. In terms of the transition to a permanent state and stable state institutions, some participants suggested that the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces establish official military administrations in all parts of Libya. This would allow the military’s authority to spread throughout all military units in all regions of the country. These administrations may be dissolved after a referendum has taken place and when Libyans have eventually established permanent, stable, and elected institutions.

d. Some participants called for building trust between the military institutions in the east and west, as well as making every effort to integrate and unite these institutions. Other participants indicated that the presence of militias and brigades in some regions will prevent such trust and integration. Some also proposed that the military units in the east should form the nucleus of the nation’s professional armed forces.

e. Some participants suggested the military’s authority should be extended throughout Libya regardless of geographic considerations and potential risks of partisan conflict. Others called for the establishment of three military zones in each of the three historical provinces.

f. Some participants welcomed the possibility of drawing on the experience of commissioned and non-commissioned officers who had worked for military institutions before 2011 whether in official or advisory roles. Others demanded that all those who participated in repression during the February Revolution should be excluded from any military roles.

g. Some participants preferred UN supervision to assist in coordinating initiatives related to rebuilding the military. Others welcomed the initiatives of neighbouring countries in this regard, and commended the Cairo dialogue.

h. Some participants agreed that lifting the UN Security Council’s arms embargo was a prerequisite for building the State and limiting weapon proliferation. Others argued that stable state institutions need to be established before the embargo is lifted.

2.2 Practical conditions for unifying the military

In addition to general foundations and principles for rebuilding the unified military institution, the consultation process was also an opportunity to discuss practical and detailed conditions related to this topic. The following points were touched upon in the meetings:

a. The leadership of the military must be limited to the following three levels:

– The supreme commander of the military should be a representative of the highest political authority, at whose disposition shall be placed the National Council of Defence and Security.

– Governmental supervision should be conducted by a representative of the Minister of Defence. This representative would be directly accountable to the highest political

authority in all matters related to the military.

– The military and executive level shall be supervised by the military’s Chief of Staff and will comply with the constitutional framework.

b. Leadership centres should be organized and regulated in a chain of command and in accordance with standards of capability, experience and respect of military rank.

c. Military officials should be appointed according to standards of competency, experience and respect of military rank.

d. All military leaders, units and sub-units shall be under a unified leadership such as the military Chief of Staff to prevent division and disintegration.

e. All personnel with a criminal conviction should be expelled from the military. This includes those released by the previous regime during the 17 February Revolution.

f. The salary system for military officials should be reviewed. This is necessary to restore the prestige of military work and to end the practice of one person holding multiple positions.

g. Women should be integrated into the military according to Libyan social needs and norms in order to improve the military’s effectiveness.

h. Soldiers should be assigned to different regions and rotated through different units to ensure the military is national and non-partisan in character.

i. Consideration should be given to the proposal of extending service for retired military personnel whose experience and expertise can be useful.

A few disagreements emerged among participants regarding the practical conditions for unifying the military. Some of these related to the relationship between the supreme commander of the military and the political authority. Some considered that the powers of the Minister of Defence must be returned to the Chief of Staff of the military for a period of 5 years, renewable for one year. This proposal relates to the important behind-the-scene role the military plays during the institution-building phase. Others held that the military’s Chief of Staff must be headed by a non-controversial person who respects the laws and standards in place and is characterized by the highest levels of honour and nationalism.

Some participants suggested establishing military councils in the east, south and west, to be supervised by the President of the Government. Others suggested that councils at any level of the military should be supervised by the General Command.

to be continued


Related Articles