Brussels, 22 September 2020 (dpa/MIA) – EU foreign ministers have sanctioned human rights abusers and violators of the UN arms embargo on Libya, the bloc’s foreign policy chief announced on Monday.
“We are not doing everything needed, but nobody is doing more than the European Union,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said after meeting the 27 foreign ministers.
The measures target Libyan commander Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf Al-Werfalli for alleged human rights abuses, including killings and executions. The EU also sanctioned an individual named Moussa Diab for human trafficking, and the kidnapping, raping and killing of migrants and refugees.
The EU also punished three entities – namely Sigma Airlines from Kazakhstan, Avrasya Shipping from Turkey, and Med Wave Shipping from Jordan – for having breached the arms embargo.
Sanctions include asset freezes and travel restrictions.
In 2011, the NATO-backed overthrow of dictator Moamer Gaddafi plunged the country into turmoil and it has since become a battleground for rival proxy forces. That same year, the United Nations imposed an embargo on arms exports to Libya that has often been flouted.
The oil-rich country has two competing administrations: the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and a government based in the eastern city of Tobruk, which is allied with commander Khalifa Haftar, leader of the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA).
Haftar has been laying siege to Tripoli in a bid to seize it from the GNA since April 2019.
The now UN-recognized government in Tripoli, backed by Turkey and Qatar, has been fighting since last year against Haftar, who has had the support of Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
At a summit in Berlin in January, almost all countries involved in the Libyan conflict pledged to stop supplying the warring factions with weapons and fighters.
These promises were not kept, prompting the threat of EU sanctions.
European countries are keen to see the conflict resolved, not least because chaos in Libya has provided ideal conditions for people-smugglers to operate in the Mediterranean Sea, bringing migrants from North Africa to Europe.
The European Union has a naval patrol mission in the Mediterranean Sea aimed at intercepting shipments of weapons into Libya.
Operation Irini boarded a ship earlier this month that carried jet fuel, which the EU mission said was likely to be used for military purposes in Libya. The vessel departed from the UAE.
“Operation Irini continues to contribute to the implementing of the UN arms embargo in a tangible way,” Borrell said.
More than 217,000 people have been internally displaced in Libya, according to the UN refugee agency. Around 1.3 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance due to shortages of medicine, food and shelter.
In recent months, Libyans have increasingly suffered from frequent power outages and short water supplies.
Last week, Fayez al-Serraj, GNA’s premier, said he wants to hand over power by the end of October, amid international efforts to restart talks to resolve the conflict.