UN EXPERTS HAVE CALLED for all mercenaries and mercenary-related private contractors to leave Libya, saying their departure is long overdue, and is a vital precondition to peaceful elections scheduled for later in 2021.

“Nine months after the ceasefire agreement calling for withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya, mercenaries and private military and security contractors continue to operate in the country”, said Jelena Aparac, chair of the UN’s Working Group on the use of mercenaries.“Their continued recruitment and presence in Libya impedes progress in the peace process and constitutes an obstacle for the upcoming elections.”

Well-trained and well-armed private contractors from Russia, Syria, Sudan and Chad operating in Libya, some of whom meet the criteria for mercenaries, could also negatively affect the security and stability of other countries in the region, the experts warned.

The experts emphasised that these mercenary and mercenary-related actors must leave immediately, and there must be an immediate end to the transfer of military weapons and materiel into Libya. “We appeal to the international community to take concrete steps to aid this process”, Aparac said.

In the UN-facilitated Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, participants agreed on a roadmap to credible, inclusive and democratic national elections, to be held on 24 December 2021. “If elections are to be held in December 2021 as scheduled, Libyans should be able to undertake that process in a safe and secure environment, and the presence of these actors impedes that”, Aparac said.

In June 2020, the UN Working Group warned that reliance on mercenaries and related actors since 2019 had contributed to escalation of the conflict in Libya and undermined the peace process, which was a breach of the existing arms embargo imposed by the UN Security Council. At that time, they urged governments to investigate all allegations of human rights violations and humanitarian law violations.

“A year on, and looking forward to elections, we remain concerned that any political process aiming to establish sustainable peace has to include a genuine commitment to human rights”, the experts said. “There must be real accountability for abuses committed by mercenaries, mercenary-related actors, and private contractors.”

* Source: Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights