Moscow stops UN blacklisting of Libyan militia

A member of the Libyan security forces checks a driver's document as they are deployed in Misrata, Libya November 19, 2020. (REUTERS)
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Updated 21 November 2020

Moscow stops UN blacklisting of Libyan militia

  • Libya descended into chaos after the NATO-backed overthrow of dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011

NEW YORK: Russia has  stopped a UN Security Council committee from blacklisting a Libyan militia group and its leader for human rights abuses because it said it wanted to see more evidence first that they had killed civilians.
The US and Germany proposed that the council’s 15-member Libya sanctions committee impose an asset freeze and travel ban on the Al-Kaniyat militia and its leader Mohammed Al-Kani. Such a move has to be agreed upon by consensus, but Russia said it could not approve.
“Our support in the future is possible, but conditioned by the provision of an irrefutable evidence of their involvement in the killing of civilian populations,” a Russian diplomat told his Security Council colleagues in a note.
The Libyan city of Tarhouna, which was recaptured in June by the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), had for years been controlled by the Kaniyat militia run by the local Kani family, which fought alongside Khalifa Haftar’s eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA).
Last month, Libyan authorities dug 12 bodies from four more unmarked graves in Tarhouna, adding to the scores of corpses already discovered since June.
Libya descended into chaos after the NATO-backed overthrow of dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. Last month the two major sides in the country’s war — the GNA and the LNA — agreed on a cease-fire.
Turkey backs the GNA. Russia supports the LNA. Those foreign powers have been cited in earlier UN documents as supplying weapons in defiance of the arms embargo.
The US and Germany wrote in their sanctions proposal that international human rights groups and the UN political mission in Libya, known as UNSMIL, has “received reports of hundreds of human rights abuses perpetrated by the Al-Kaniyat militia against private individuals, state officials, captured fighters, and civil society activists in Tarhouna.”
“Under Mohammed Al-Kani’s leadership, the Al-Kaniyat militia has reportedly carried out enforced disappearances, torture, and killings.
“In addition, UNSMIL verified numerous summary executions at Tarhouna Prison conducted by the Al-Kaniyat militia on September 13, 2019,” the proposal read.


German defense minister rejects Turkey complaint over Libya weapons ship search

Updated 24 November 2020

German defense minister rejects Turkey complaint over Libya weapons ship search

  • Germany insists it acted correctly in boarding a Turkish ship to enforce arms embargo of Libya
  • Turkey summoned European diplomats to complain at the operation

BERLIN: Germany’s defense minister on Tuesday rejected Turkey’s complaints over the search of a Turkish freighter in the Mediterranean Sea by a German frigate participating in a European mission, insisting that German sailors acted correctly.
Sunday’s incident prompted Turkey to summon diplomats representing the European Union, Germany and Italy and assert that the Libya-bound freighter Rosaline-A was subjected to an “illegal” search by personnel from the German frigate Hamburg. The German ship is part of the European Union’s Irini naval mission, which is enforcing an arms embargo against Libya.
German officials say that the order to board the ship came from Irini’s headquarters in Rome and that Turkey protested while the team was on board. The search was then ended.
Turkey says the search was “unauthorized and conducted by force.”
German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer backed the German crew’s actions.
“It is important to me to make really clear that the Bundeswehr soldiers behaved completely correctly,” she said during an appearance in Berlin. “They did what is asked of them in the framework of the European Irini mandate.”
“That there is this debate with the Turkish side points to one of the fundamental problems of this European mission,” Kramp-Karrenbauer added, without elaborating. “But it is very important to me to say clearly here that there are no grounds for these accusations that are now being made against the soldiers.”
This was the second incident between Turkey and naval forces from a NATO ally enforcing an arms blockade against Libya.
In June, NATO launched an investigation over an incident between Turkish warships and a French naval vessel in the Mediterranean, after France said one of its frigates was “lit up” three times by Turkish naval targeting radar when it tried to approach a Turkish civilian ship suspected of involvement in arms trafficking.
Turkey supports a UN-backed government in Tripoli against rival forces based in the country’s east. It has complained that the EU naval operation focuses its efforts too much on the Tripoli administration and turns a blind eye to weapons sent to the eastern-based forces.
In Ankara, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that Irini was “flawed from the onset.”
“It is not based on firm international legal foundations,” Akar said. He renewed Turkey’s criticism of the German ship’s actions.
“The incident was against international laws and practices. It was wrong,” he said.
Kramp-Karrenbauer stressed that “Turkey is still an important partner for us in NATO.” Turkey being outside the military alliance would make the situation even more difficult, she argued, and Turkish soldiers are “absolutely reliable partners” in NATO missions.
But she conceded that Turkey poses “a big challenge” because of how its domestic politics have developed and because it has its “own agenda, which is difficult to reconcile with European questions in particular.”