Hundreds of tonnes of weapons are pouring into Libya by land, sea and air to fuel its civil war, a UN sanctions committee reported this week.
In the most comprehensive report ever made public on Libya’s arms imports, a panel of experts set up by the UN Security Council says the country is awash with weapons, unchecked by an international embargo.
Providers include companies from Belarus, Bulgaria, Egypt, Hungary, Ukraine, Greece, Jordan, Sudan, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Qatar and Turkey.
The report, delivered to the UN Security Council in February and now made public, lists weapons imports ranging from pistols to Mig fighter jets, all violating an embargo ordered by the UN in 2011.
It portrays a country in semi-anarchy with militias battling one another amid a rising tide of casualties and says the absence of embargo enforcement means “continuing large scale illicit trafficking is inevitable.”
The report castigates UN member states for poor controls, in one instance recording a passenger telling inspectors he watched ammunition boxes unloaded from an Afriquiya flight on 17 September last year after it arrived in Tripoli from Istanbul. “When passengers protested about their luggage being left behind in Istanbul the militia, controlled a well-known Fajr (Libya Dawn) commander and overseeing he unloading of the boxes, ordered them to leave the airport,” the report says.
Egypt, meanwhile, is accused of sending jets and a helicopter, with photos published indicating Egyptian helicopters are now in use in Libya. The panel noted a “significant increase in the capacity of the air force in the past few months,” saying “while some of the aircraft have been refurbished in Libya it appears that some aircraft and spare parts have been obtained from abroad.”
Some states are said to be complicit in the trade. “While the Panel is still seeking conclusive evidence, its investigations indicate that military materiel currently entering Libya is sponsored by a number of (UN) member states,” it concludes.
“To date, despite the violations reported in the Panel’s three previous reports, no action has been taken against most of the violators. What is more, some have been involved in further violations.”
Weapons imports include hundreds of tonnes of ammunition and millions of bullets.
The picture it paints of Libya is bleak, saying militias are paid by the state with some also supplementing their income through bank robberies, kidnap-for-ransom and people-trafficking.
It lists a July 2013 order with Belarus for “more than 3,000 tonnes of ammunition for small arms and light weapons. The end-user certificate was signed by Khaled Al-Sharif, [the former deputy defence minister] and the deal was brokered by Slobodan Tesic through Chariso Limited.”
Many of the weapons go straight back out again, and have “reinforced the military capacity of terrorist groups operating in different parts of the region, including Algeria, Egypt, Mali and Tunisia.”
Also lax are financial controls on two exiled children of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi, with reports of a “strong possibility that Hannibal and Aisha Gaddafi, individuals designated under the assets freeze measure, have moved very large sums of money from their bank accounts into what are believed to be “front companies.”
The European Union is revealed to have had guns and ammunition sent to its security detail stolen at Tripoli National airport last April including 20 rifles, 70 handguns and 42,000 rounds of ammunition.
The panel accuses the United Nations Special Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) of failing to facilitate travel in Libya for the experts, despite persistent requests.
In evidence that may form the basis of war crimes prosecutions, it names a series of militia leaders in Tripoli responsible for torture and mistreatment in detention centres.
The panel also lays bare the chaos in Libya’s finances, saying that 1.7 million of Libya’s 6 million population are paid by the central bank as public employees, including militia members.
Some successes have been noted, including the seizure by Greece of a Turkish vessel with 1,103 tonnes of ammunition bound for Libya from a Ukrainian company.
The panel calls for the UN to set up a naval “monitoring force” to screen merchant ships for weapons, along with the establishment of “safe areas” to give civilians refuge from attacks.
But to date the UN, which first received the report a month ago, has given no indication of following the recommendations. Nor is it clear what happens next. This is the last report of the sanctions committee. Its tenure was extended under last summer’s UN Security Council resolution 2174, promoted at the time as “tightening” a sanctions regime that its experts say is being comprehensively violated.