Archive for category The United Nations

Libya: in suspended animation

Ghaddafi symbolically rubbishes the UN Charter on 23rd September 2009 (STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

With nearly a month passing since the last UNOCHA situation update for Libya, the conflict in the troubled North African state appears to have reached a stalemate, welcome in the narrow humanitarian sense but less so in the broader political.

According to UN official figures, well over a million people (mostly expats) have fled Libya since the troubles began on 17th February. An uncertain number (ranging from a few to several thousand) have either perished or have been seriously injured.

Thus far, 14 countries have recognised the TNC according to this press release. Worth noting too that of these, only Gambia and Senegal are African states. Notwithstanding early rhetoric, only three Arab League countries, namely Qatar, the UAE and Jordan have recognised the TNC.  Libya ironically, remains suspended from the Arab League. Did it indeed ever belong?

It is hard to imagine that an legitimate power sharing agreement can be put in place so long as Ghaddafi retains even the vestiges of power. Admittedly he is a potent symbol for some (possibly even many), but for all the wrong reasons.


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Dispatches from the Tunisian border

30 April 2011

Highlights UNOCHA

  • Some 634,835 people have fled Libya since the beginning of the conflict (up to 27 April).
  • About 18,500 Libyans crossed into Tunisia at Dehiba between 21 and 27 April
  • The fighting at Dehiba has stopped the outflow of refugees from Libya’s Western Mountains.

Highlights UNHCR

  • UNHCR reports that large numbers of recent arrivals are straining resources at Dehiba.  The vast majority of people (more than 30,000) are being hosted by the local community and UNHCR is working with the authorities to expand the capacity of existing camps and to support host families.
  • African refugees continue to try to make for Europe on their own initiative, and according to a report from the Somali community at the Choucha camp (near the Ras Adjir border crossing), three Somali refugees drowned on Thursday morning after their boat carrying some 280 people heading towards Italy capsized in high seas. These deaths add to the hundreds of people who have drowned or are missing in the desperate attempt to reach the safety of Europe from Libya.

For further information please contact: On the Egyptian border: Helene Caux on mobile: +201 294 66 378 On the Tunisian border: Firas Kayal on mobile +216 508 561 99 In Geneva: Sybella Wilkes on mobile +41 79 557 91 38

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Games without frontiers

Valerie Amos has the most difficult job in the world. The organisation she heads (The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs or UNOCHA) may be the “eyes and ears” of the United Nations Security Council, but she is it’s soul and voice.

Thus far, Valerie Amos and her very able team have reached an uneasy agreement with the Libyan government and have in theory, unfettered access to the Libyan interior

to establish a humanitarian presence in Tripoli and to enable the UNOCHA to move around and see exactly what is happening for themselves

We should also shelve the idea of an immanent humanitarian military intervention (either by the EU or NATO ) provided this latest plan can be implemented to the satisfaction of the UNOCHA which can, in theory at least, ask for “military assets” if they are somehow hindered in their work. The official view on this is that they are “not at that point at all”.

UNOCHA has had intermittent access to the port facilities at Misurata for quite some time, and now rightly, asks for land access via the Tripoli thoroughfare. When the time is right, Col. Ghaddafi, will almost certainly try to play the humanitarian card to leverage political support from the African Union which could cast a long shadow on the way resolution 1973 is implemented.

In the meantime, attacks on Misurata and other opposition held areas continue with undiminished ferocity.

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The humanitarian crisis by numbers

26 April 2011

On 17 April, an agreement was signed between the UN and the Government of Libya, to facilitate humanitarian access into Libya and establish an international UN presence in Tripoli. Below is a summary of the official version of the crisis in Misurata:

300 people were reported killed and 1,000 injured by 18 April with at least 4,700 third-country nationals (TCNs) and Libyans waiting to leave by 24 April.

Children as young as 9 months have been killed, with at least 21 child deaths (UNICEF).

12 evacuation operations have been organized by the humanitarian community (including the Qatari Red Crescent and the International Committee of the Red Crescent) transporting over 8,500 people mainly TCNs, and war wounded.

Water and electricity has been cut off for over 50 days.

Author’s note: The number of casualties reported includes official hospital figures only. Many fatalities have simply not been recorded. There are numerous reports of civilians being buried where they fell and within 24 hours (according to Islamic law). These figures do not include government forces (regular or foreign mercenaries).

(International Organization for Migration, update 24 April 2011).

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The Privatisation of Terror

25 April 2011

A Sky News report strongly suggests that the Libyan government is still arming and training foreign mercenaries at the Army College in Misurata and that it’s “graduates” are among the leading elements of government backed forces attacking the civilian population in that city.

As the news report suggests, the morale of foreign mercenaries appears to be at a very low ebb, with discipline now being enforced at the point of a gun.

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Time, times and time again

A supporter of the National Council of Libya which is fully recognised by France and Italy

Two developments in recent days, signal a new phase in the civil war in Libya and a government fast running out of options.

Firstly, the welcome eviction of the last of the government sniper teams from the city centre of Misurata, which has forced an ominous change of tactics according to a statement made by Khaled Kaim, the deputy foreign minister on Saturday.

“There was an ultimatum to the Libyan army: if they cannot solve the problem in Misurata, then the people from Zliten, Tarhuna, Bani Walid and Tawargha will move in and they will talk to the rebels. If they don’t surrender, then they will engage them and fight.”

While it is unusual for a government to give “an ultimatum” to it’s own army, Kaim’s statement suggests that the government intends to arm and deploy civilians from neighbouring areas, possibly very soon, to regain the initiative and seize the port facilities at Qasr Ahmed. Reports on Saturday confirm that the city was still being shelled from positions outside the city.

The second development is an attempt by the government to muster the support of the Arab League for political reforms that would pave the way for a pro-Ghaddafi political party to return to power through the popular vote. The opposition has flatly rejected these overtures not simply because it feels that the Ghaddafis have no part to play in their future state but also because they fear his political patronage and wealth will unfairly favour loyalists, leaving Saif al-Islam at the reins of a new democratic state.

The International Community and the Arab League need to think hard about taking some more brave steps to prevent further institutionalisation of violence in Libya.


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All roads to Qasr Ahmed

The head of OCHA has received assurances that humanitarian aid will be allowed in.

19 April 2011

Various media reports confirm that heavily armed pro-Ghaddafi forces are attempting to violently seize the strategic port of Misurata and to permanently cut off supply lines to the civilian population of Libya’s third largest city. The attack on Misurata’s port facilities is taking place along three main axes:

Along Tripoli street, which provides direct access to the airport from the north and which leads directly to the city centre. Having been the scene of much bitter fighting over the past month, well entrenched government sniper teams are still preventing residents from consolidating their hold on the centre. From here, opposition forces control one of three routes into the port area.

Along the Al-Thaqil road to the east of the airport. This road offers the most direct route to the port which cannot be approached from the south east because of barren open land.

Along the western suburbs where the dense road network and urban landscape provides cover rocket launchers, tanks and mortar teams to attack the civilian population. The western suburbs also offer direct access to a coastal road that leads to the port.

The port is also the scene of refugee camps.

(The Wall Street Journal)

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Dispatches from the Genocide Awareness Network

Recalling the statement of Foreign Minister Dr. Tonio Borg at the Mediterranean Diplomacy Forum organised by the Parliamentary Assembly Mediterranean and the Mediterranean Academy for Diplomatic Studies on 1 April 2011

Malta cannot be neutral between life and death and in Libya’s case it is siding with life

Recognizing the significance of the statement made by Shahida Azfar, UNICEF MENA Regional Director in AMMAN on 5 April 2011

The current fighting in Libya is putting children at high risk [and that ….] their right to education, play, health and even survival are under serious threat

Recognizing that the spirit of resolution 1973 (2011) in condemning the gross and systematic violation of human rights is being undermined by a closely coordinated strategy of political and military deception, reminiscent of the Bosnian War of the 1990s

Recalling the asset freeze imposed by paragraph 17, 19, 20 and 21 of resolution 1970 (2011) on all funds, other financial assets and economic resources which are owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by the Libyan authorities

We the People of Malta, do hereby call on our elected representatives to provide, without further delay, full diplomatic recognition of the Majlis al-Watani and its representatives in Malta and to do all it can to further the aims of resolutions 1970 (2011) and 1973 (2011).

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Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Crisis: Situation Report No. 22

This report is produced by OCHA Libya in collaboration with humanitarian partners, covering the period of 5 to 7 April. The next report will be issued on or around 10 April.


· The United Nations and the humanitarian community were able to deliver life-saving humanitarian aid through a World Food Programme-chartered ship which has docked at Misrata port on 7 April.

· A temporary cessation of hostilities has been urgently called for by the United Nations Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos.

· The presence of landmines, abandoned munitions and unexploded ordnances inside Libya pose a serious threat to civilians.

· The US$ 310 million Flash Appeal for the Libyan Crisis is currently funded at 39 per cent with US$ 120 million committed and US$ 1.4 million in pledges.

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Libyan Arab Jamahiriya • Crisis Situation Report No. 21, 05 April 2011


  • There remains a dire need for further access and humanitarian intervention in conflict-affected areas in northwestern Libya, and particularly in Misrata. Intervention in the health sector and regarding the protection of civilians are needed urgently.
  • Between 13,200 and 13,600 people remain stranded at camps and transit points in Tunisia, Egypt, Niger and Algeria.
  • In addition to the huge constraints being placed on large numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons, ongoing fighting has placed enormous strain on medical supplies, equipment and specialist personnel. This resulted in large areas contaminated with landmines. There are reports that Libyans are removing landmines by hand and that 40 anti-tank and 26 anti-personnel mines have been removed near Ajdaibya. Unexploded ordnance (UXOs) pose a greater problem as do abandoned weapons and like landmines, require specialised equipment and personnel for safe removal. There is a need for community-based communication campaigns to appropriately sensitize populations on the dangers of landmines, unexploded ordnance and abandoned weapons. There is also a need to conduct assessments, including recording and documenting of these new mines. There is no effective coordination for reporting, recording and documenting identified landmine and OXO hazards within the country due to the security situation in Libya. There is a lack of available capacity to effectively mitigate this threat.

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