UN Experts: Foreign Forces Yet to Withdraw from Libya

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UN experts warned about the presence of foreign fighters in Libya, saying the panel has no evidence of any large scale withdrawals taking place to date.

Despite the “continuing presence” of foreign fighters in Libya, the UN experts confirmed that fewer violations of the arms embargo on Libya have occurred this year, compared to 2020.

They are tasked with monitoring the embargo according to an interim confidential report recently given to the Security Council and seen on Tuesday by AFP. It claimed that the “intense pace of delivery” of banned weapons has abated, and “the arms embargo remains totally ineffective,”

For the study, which covers January to November 2021, the experts travelled twice to Libya, in April and again in September.

Libya’s upcoming elections come as part of a push to end a decade of violence following a NATO-backed uprising that toppled long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

It also led to a fragile unity government taking office in March, with a mandate to lead the country to these elections.

But the UN experts, who said they also travelled to France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and Tunisia to complete their work, note that the majority of Libya is still controlled by armed groups.

“Based on the 2020 transfers, arms stockpiles remain high and sufficient to sustain any future conflict,” they said.

“The control of the supply chains by some member states continues, thus significantly hindering detection, disruption, or interdiction” of arms deliveries,” they added, without naming any offending countries.

Though rival parties in Libya have asked foreign fighters to leave the country, the experts say they are “maintaining foreign fighters among their forces, including nationals from Chad, Sudan, and Syria as well as from Russian private military companies.”

The United Nations has previously estimated that 20,000 mercenaries and foreign fighters are deployed in Libya.