UN envoy: Involvement of mercenaries from foreign private military companies in Libya is growing

UN envoy: Involvement of mercenaries from foreign private military companies in Libya is growing

November 18, 2019 - 20:24
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Written By: AbdulkaderAssad

The UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame has briefed the Security Council on the latest developments in the country saying he was angry and sad to report that on Monday there was another mass civilian casualty event, referring to the in the Wadi Rabea in southern Tripoli.

Salame said that regardless of whether the attack, which was carried out by Khalifa Haftar's warplanes, deliberately targeted the factory or was an indiscriminate attack, it may constitute a war crime.

"The frontlines in Southern Tripoli are highly fluid. The dangers and direct consequences of foreign interference are increasingly evident. To fill gaps in manpower, there is growing involvement of mercenaries and fighters from foreign private military companies. The insertion of these experienced fighters has naturally led to an intensification in the violence. I am gravely worried by the expansion of artillery fire northwards into the city. Over the past days, the number of civilians killed and injured has been rising and many families are leaving the areas impacted by the shelling. A further escalation of ground fighting in these densely populated areas would lead to disastrous humanitarian consequences." Salame explained to Security Council member states.

He added that the use of air power and precision technology has become a dominant feature of an otherwise low intensity conflict.

"UNSMIL estimates the total number of drone strikes in support of Libyan National Army forces at well above 800 since the beginning of the conflict. The total number of drone strikes in support of the Government of National Accord is estimated at around 240. It is our judgment that the drone infrastructure and operations are facilitated by external parties to the conflict. There were also several incidents of precision airstrikes conducted by unknown aircraft between September and November. In addition, the increasing use of unguided bombs in airstrikes conducted by Khalifa Haftar's forces in populated areas of Tripoli caused an increase in the number of civilian casualties." Salame remarked.

He added that reports indicate that everything from spare parts for fighter aircraft to tanks, from bullets to precision missiles, are being brought into Libya in support of different groups involved in the fighting.

Salame said Mitiga Airport remains closed and that it has been more than two and a half months now that this key outlet for the civilian population of Tripoli and Western Libya has been forced to shut due to indiscriminate shelling and airstrikes.

"Mitiga Airport needs to reopen as soon as possible. Together with the GNA Ministers of Interior and Transportation, I am working on a number of practical steps to achieve this goal, including the clear delineation between the civilian and military sections of the airport, as well as the establishment of a dedicated UN terminal." Salame said.

Salame thanked Germany for its work in preparing for an international summit in Berlin, saying three Senior Official Meetings have already taken place and there will be a crucial fourth meeting this Wednesday, on 20 November.

"In the last discussion on 21 October, participants worked to agree on a draft communique that outlines six baskets of activities necessary to end the conflict in Libya." He added.

These six baskets, according to Salame, include the need for the return to the Libyan-led political process and accompanying economic reform; a ceasefire, implementation of the arms embargo and security reform; as well as the upholding of international human rights and humanitarian law.

"Putting implementation of the arms embargo at the heart of international commitment is essential in practical terms and as a message to the Libyan people." He explained.

Salame said UNSMIL had worked to substantiate an Operational Annex to the draft communique.

"The annex has two purposes. It serves to outline the commitments of the members of the Berlin Group to ending the conflict and advancing the political process through tangible actions, benchmarked by indicators and outlining responsibility for those actions. It also serves as the “bridge” to the intra-Libyan political dialogue, which will be launched under UN auspices immediately following the Berlin Summit." He remarked.

According to Salame, one of the tangible outcomes of the international summit would be the establishment of a follow-up committee that would work with UNSMIL to implement the outcomes agreed in the final communique.

"Such a committee would play a fundamental role in terms of ensuring respect for a ceasefire and better implementation of the arms embargo. It would contribute to supporting a return to the political process, implementation of agreed economic and financial reforms, practical ways and means to ensure no impunity for violations of IHL. The committee would also support the necessary DDR process for groups across the country." He added.