UNSC Renews Authorisation to Intercept Vessels Carrying Arms to Libya
On 10 June, the UN Security Council (UNSC) unanimously extended until June 2020 Resolution 2473 which authorises member states to inspect vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya, bound to or from the country, if they have reasonable grounds to believe they are violating the arms embargo. Prior to the UNSC’ renewal of the maritime component of the arms embargo, UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, appealed to all countries to implement the embargo and prevent weapons reaching Libya by sea, air and land. Guterres stated that the UN efforts to monitor the embargo identified “illicit transfers of arms and related material” in and out of Libya. The EU’s Operation Sophia is the only naval operation that has been undertaking inspections of vessels traveling to or from Libya. In 2016, the UNSC authorised the operation to extend its human smuggling mandate to include inspections of vessels suspected of carrying weapons to or from Libya that could violate the arms embargo.
The conflict in Tripoli that began in April has seen multiple reports of arms shipments to both competing forces. However, there have been few recorded incidents of Operation Sophia vessels inspecting and seizing arms being transported to Libya. Additional arms entering Libya, especially aerial and naval military equipment, will likely exacerbate the conflict and ensure it continues for the foreseeable future. While the UNSC arms embargo nominally remains in place, measures to successfully implement it remain absent, particularly as the international community remains divided on how to address the conflict and engage with the different parties. Moreover, the renewal of Operation Sophia’s authority to conduct naval inspections is likely to have little tangible impact on arms shipments to Libya given it currently has no navel assets deployed off Libya. This indicates that the international intervention to stop arms shipments to Libyan ports remain unlikely until a consensus on how to resolve conflict is reached.