Statement by Ambassador Günter Sautter as Chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee in the Security Council VTC briefings by subsidiary organs, December 16

16.12.2020 - Speech

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As chair of the 1970 Committee I would like to make three points. I would like to talk about what we should have achieved. I would like to talk about what we have achieved and I would like to talk about what we could achieve.

I will start with the first point. As members of the Security Council, we now have a unique opportunity to help make peace in Libya. We all know one of the most important contributions of this Council is to ensure the full implementation of the arms embargo. As Chair of the Libya Sanctions Committee, I have therefore used every opportunity to call upon members of the Committee and this Council as well as the broader UN membership to live up to this obligation.

Our success has been limited. Despite the commitments made during the Berlin Conference in January and enshrined in Security Council Resolution 2510, blatant violations of the arms embargo continue to this day. The Panel of Exports’ reporting on the presence of the Wagner group and Syrian mercenaries as well as arms from Turkey or the United Arab Emirates illustrates this. My key message today therefore continues to be: Everybody must implement the arms embargo. All foreign fighters and mercenaries must leave Libya.

My second point: what we have achieved. This is much more down to earth. We have indeed come a long way, although a lot remains to be done. Still, we have made concrete progress on several points. The monitoring of the arms embargo was our key priority. We have organized briefings of the Committee on the implementation of the arms embargo, we have encouraged the Panel of Experts to frequently update Committee members and have engaged UNSMIL to provide us in New York with situational updates. On the travel ban, we have closely monitored cases of non-compliance and initiated an unprecedented exemption for humanitarian reasons. On the assets freeze, we have engaged on a number of complex implementation issues with Member States.

The Committee has very closely followed an attempt to illicitly export petroleum and has contributed to safeguarding Libya’s natural resources. This has indeed made a difference. We initiated the update of the implementation notice on the travel ban and have worked on a draft Implementation Assistance Notice covering the oil sanctions. I have further initiated the process for an update of the Committee’s Guidelines, which still reflect that status of the regime in 2011. This work is still ongoing, and I hope that we will soon be able to reach a consensus. The Committee is currently deliberating the listing of violators of international law and human rights. If approved, the Committee will have sanctioned individuals for the first time since 2018. Here, too, I am still hoping for consensus in this Council.

As Chair, I convened two meetings of the Sanctions Committee on the implementation of the sanctions measures and the committee with the participation of several regional member states and regional organizations. We also held a joint meeting with two other Sanctions Committees on cross cutting issues last year and have engaged the Libyan Investment Authority to discuss the implementation of the asset freeze measure on two occasions.

Germany has also contributed in its national capacity as Co-Penholder of the Libya Sanctions file.

My third and last set of points are on what we could achieve. Here, please allow me to become a bit more general in my remarks. My first remark is on Outreach: to have effect beyond political messaging, sanctions need to be implemented. Implementation across the United Nations membership is highly diverse – strict in some places, nonexistent in others. Outreach on sanctions implementation must therefore be a key part of the committee’s work – in order to assist those who are willing but unable to implement and to encourage those who are able but unwilling. We still have not tapped the full potential of reaching out to the broader membership. I find it good news that there is general agreement on this within this Council. 

My second remark is on transparency. Sanctions always have a political dimension. Naming and shaming is an essential part of any set of sanctions. It is therefore vital to create transparency. This must include transparency on the violation of sanctions established by the Security Council. Unlike in other sanctions regimes, the rules of procedure of the Libya Sanctions Committee do not foresee that all reports of the Sanctions Panel be published. All members of the committee should muster the courage to correct this.

My third point is on decision making. Cooperation with colleagues on the committee has been excellent. Still, in many cases, the committee has not been able to live up to its responsibility. I believe a key reason for this has been that all decisions can only be taken in unanimity. The work of the committee would increase significantly if majority decisions could at least be applied on procedural questions.

My Fourth point is on coherence. The Secretariat and the Panel of Experts of the 1970 committee are doing an outstanding job. Still, the institutional setup with which the United Nations deal with sanctions is simply not adequate. The Security Council needs one single sanctions Secretariat in charge of all sanctions regimes. This is even more important than outreach concerning sanctions implementation. It is essential to make sure that follow up on the implementation of sanctions imposed by the Security Council is effective efficient, coherent and professional.

A word on the humanitarian dimension: we have had heated debates on the humanitarian impact of sanctions in this Council. One thing should be beyond doubt: sanctions committees must ensure that existing humanitarian exemptions be granted swiftly and reliably. When this is not the case the legitimacy of the Council on sanctions is damaged. It is therefore good news that this committee has made substantial progress in this respect. In times of COVID-19 this has been particularly important. 

My last remark is on responsibility: as members of the Security Council, we share a responsibility to learn such lessons. We all know that this is not a technical matter. This implies that we need to engage again and again in serious debate about these issues – even if that may be painful at times. I firmly believe that provoking this debate, even if it is painful, is a key responsibility of the chair.

In Closing: I would like to take this opportunity also on behalf of my predecessor, Ambassador Jürgen Schulz, and my team to thank the Panel of Experts for its outstanding work. It needs to be able to count on Member State cooperation. Following the arrest of a former Committee member, I have continuously emphasized the need for Member States to respect the privileges and immunities of experts on mission.

I would also like to thank Ms. Sana Khan and her team at SCAD for their fantastic support.

A very special thanks goes to Tiffany Jenkins and Agapi Nehring from the German mission, our two Libya sanctions gurus. You are the best!

Although my successor at this time is not yet determined, I would like to assure my support to the next Chair of the Committee for a seamless handing over of Tasks.

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