UN adds sexual violence as reason for sanctions in Libya

The U.N. Security Council on Monday authorized action against illicit oil exports from Libya until February 2020, and it added planning and committing sexual and gender-based violence as reasons for sanctions over objections from Russia and China.

The vote in the U.N.'s most powerful body on a resolution that also renewed asset freezes and travel bans on Libyan political spoilers was 13-0, with Russia and China abstaining.

"This sends a powerful signal that the international community will not tolerate such crimes," senior British diplomat Stephen Hickey, whose country drafted the resolution, said of the addition of sexual and gender-based violence.

Libya plunged into chaos after the 2011 uprising that ousted and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi and is now governed by rival administrations in the east and west. It has also become a haven for armed groups, including several from neighboring countries, which survive on looting and human trafficking.

The Netherlands and Sweden pushed for including "planning, directing or committing acts involving sexual and gender-based violence" as criteria for sanctions, citing the increasingly worrying problem in Libya especially against migrants trying to reach Europe.

Dutch Ambassador Karel Van Oostrom told the council after the vote that such violence "is directly connected to the issues of peace and security we are discussing today."

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia strongly disagreed, saying sexual and gender-based violence is a crime that is dealt with by national governments and is considered at the U.N. Human Rights Council and the Commission on the Status of Women. It is not a threat to international peace and security that the Security Council should deal with, he said.

"We are under the impression that the countries pushing this into the Security Council agenda are attempting to gain domestic political capital through the imposition of sanctions regimes against other states," Nebenzia said. "The facts of such crimes perpetrated against migrants in Libya only confirm our premise that the most effective means of combatting this scourge is eradicating the relevant criminal networks."

U.S. deputy ambassador Jonathan Cohen said the resolution should have been adopted unanimously and "be sending a clear message to the Libyan people — that we are united behind you and that we on the Security Council will hold Libyan spoilers to account for their actions."

In June, the Security Council voted unanimously to impose sanctions on six leaders of criminal networks engaged in human trafficking and migrant smuggling from Libya, and in September it slapped sanctions on Libyan militia leader Ibrahim Jadran for attacking Libyan oil facilities in the summer.

The resolution adopted Monday extended authorization for U.N. member states to board suspect vessels and return illegally seized oil to the Libyan government until Feb. 15, 2020. The initial resolution was adopted in March 2014, three days after U.S. Navy SEAL commandos seized a tanker off Cyprus containing Libyan oil that a militia controlling the country's oil terminals was trying to export in defiance of the central government.

The resolution also calls on U.N. member states to report to the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against Libya on their implementation of the measures, including those recently adopted. It also extended the mandate of the panel of experts assisting the committee until Feb. 15, 2020.