Unsatisfied with destroying Libya, the UN still makes demands

Unsatisfied with destroying Libya, the UN still makes demands
6 min read
24 Nov, 2015
Comment: Narratives in Libya are dictated by UN-affiliated organisations that distance the ongoing violence from the 2011 NATO intervention, writes Ramona Wadi.
Framing Libya's conflict as 'non-international' ignores the role of NATO in its destruction [AFP]

As violence in Libya continues to surge, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has released a report of human rights violations committed in the fragmented territory so far this year.

The report commences with an ambiguous sentence that sets the scene for international impunity:

"Libya continues to be embroiled in deadly violence and multiple armed conflicts, non-international in character, affecting several regions and contributing to a general breakdown of law and order."

Conveniently, the current atrocities in Libya are dissociated from the conditions that caused the country to descend into chaos. Even more hypocritical is the United Nations' enforced oblivion and impunity - it has eliminated itself from the scenario, despite the eagerness with which the organisation enforced a no-fly zone under the pretext of protecting civilians.

The result was an international "bombing people to save people" endeavour by NATO which resulted in the murder of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and the descent of Libya into a failed state.

An allegedly 'non-international conflict'

There is no room for describing the current violence as "non-international in character". The violence is a result of premeditated regime change orchestrated by the international community.

Not content with having constructed the usual self-styled impunity, the report's background begins with a description of the NATO war as "the 2011 internal conflict and its aftermath". The planned destabilisation of Libya by imperialism was not considered by UNSMIL, thus lessening the credibility of the report.

     The same rhetoric is disguised under the illusion of peace talks and the perpetual imminence of forming a unity government

Apart from an extremely detailed overview of the brutal reshaping that has characterised Libya since NATO's intervention in 2011, the report follows the systematic procedure of futile conclusions and recommendations.

UNSMIL seems to remain oblivious to the fact that no number of declarations will break the systematic cycle of violence which the international instigators have cleverly disguised as "instability".

Four years ago, the UN sought to quell alarm at the rise of powerful militias by calling the violent manifestation a necessary but transient phase to a democratic transition.

Today, the same rhetoric is disguised under the illusion of peace talks and the perpetual imminence of forming a unity government - a premise that has so far failed to materialise.

   What's been going on in Libya?

The General National Congress was the Islamist-led elected body ruling Libya for two years following Gaddafi's ousting and death. After its 18-month deadline to form a new constitution passed in January 2014, the body resolved to extend its mandate.

General Khalifa Haftar, a senior figure in the forces that toppled Gaddafi, called on the GNC to disband. In May, Haftar led troops against Islamist militias in Benghazi and the GNC in Tripoli in an offensive named Operation Dignity.

Amid the chaos, an election was held to form the House of Representatives, which took power from the GNC in August. With rival militias ruling Libya's streets, the election turnout was just 18 percent. Islamist militias then launched Operation Libya Dawn to fight Haftar's troops.

With the lack of security in the capital, the House of Representatives hired a Greek car ferry harboured in the eastern city of Tobruk as a temporary legislature.

In late August, a group of GNC members reconvened in Tripoli and claimed legislative authority over the country, effectively replacing the House of Representatives as Libya's parliament. The Tobruk-based House of Representatives remains the internationally recognised government, though its actual authority on the ground in Libya is limited.

Libya's Supreme Court, based in Islamist-held Tripoli, ruled in November that the formation of the House of Representatives was unconstitutional, legally dissolving the Tobruk-based legislature and nullifying its decisions.

The Tobruk-based parliament refused to accept the court's ruling, saying it was made "at gunpoint".

Libya remains torn between the rival parliaments and the heavily armed militias that support each. Allegiances between the militias change frequently, which only adds to the instability, violence and danger faced by ordinary Libyan citizens.

Meanwhile, the spread of the Islamic State group in Libya, as well as the rise of warring militia factions, has twisted the concept of control into a power-wielding competition in which the people have been rendered worthless pawns - with absolute approval from the UN.

It is easy for the international organisation to adhere to the fallacy of good intentions and supporting democracy. Yet, the outcome of foreign intervention has historical precedents and the UN was conscious of unleashing a recapitulation of previous imperialist ventures, with additional perils.

Documenting the horrific human rights violations is important. However, practicing dissociation on a number of levels has resulted in a report that is conceptually flawed and provides a testimony of international disregard for human rights violations.

In turn, the constant use of euphemisms continues to prove the absurdity of UN attempts to broker peace talks, while at the same time granting further impunity to the militias created by foreign intervention.

Little does UNSMIL admit that the so-called "non-international conflict" plaguing Libya is the result of the international community's backing of various militia groups, which in turn pledged allegiance to one of the two governments claiming legitimate rule.

Libya Dawn is the epitome of Western rebel funding in Libya, while General Khalifa Haftar's army is an example of how former CIA assets return to the scene at opportune moments.

Ansar al-Sharia's pledge to align itself with IS in June 2015 is yet another example of how the global war on terror waged by the West has resulted into the repudiation of borders dictated by the same imperialist powers.

'Conflict-related detainees'

Last summer, following the Tripoli court's death sentences against former officials from the Gaddafi regime, protests broke out across Libya, which were mostly ignored by mainstream media.

It is also interesting to note that UNSMIL's report refers to Libyan political prisoners as "thousands of 2011 conflict-related detainees" - a disservice and dehumanisation of all prisoners being tortured in Libya. Apart from the insistence upon distorting Libya's reality into a mere conflict, the refusal to discuss the issue of political prisoners directly is another blemish upon the UN and its affiliated bodies.

When protests broke out in Libya in last summer, footage was released of Saadi Gaddafi being questioned and forced to listen to another man being tortured in the next room.

One must question why the issue of torture was briefly propelled to prominence after the footage was revealed, only to be forgotten within a few days. The result was that other forms of torture against Libyan prisoners - far more brutal than that witnessed in the clip featuring Saadi Gaddafi, were given less attention.

     If anything, the report will be used by the UN as proof of its efforts in the interminable 'transition to democracy'

UNSMIL, it seems, has collected a lot of data regarding crimes against humanity committed by militias, yet there is no outright condemnation of such crimes. Rather, the report states that "all parties to the conflict appear to be committing violations of international humanitarian law including those that may amount to war crimes".

Recommendations are rife, yet there is nothing substantive about the illusion of enforcing any form of restraint, while UNSMIL itself is reluctant to use the proper terms to describe the human rights violations happening daily in Libya.

Statements such as those calling upon armed groups to "immediately release" all detainees incarcerated illegally will not dent the treacherous structure that governs Libya's dismal failure.

If anything, the report will be used by the UN as proof of its efforts in the interminable "transition to democracy", while ensuring that Libya continues to fulfil the role determined in 2011 by Western powers - that of providing a permanent nucleus for the dissemination of violent instability.

Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger specialising in the struggle for memory in Chile and Palestine, colonial violence and the manipulation of international law.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.