U.N. says Libya embargo ‘ineffective.’ This is why EU’s IRINI mission should be implemented

U.N. report says that there are too many violations of the arms embargo on Libya. The report highlighted the “ample and clear” violations of the ban and for these reasons IRINI is still useful and should be implemented.

On 18 and 19 March 2021, the EU High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell has visited the EU’s military operation EUNAVFOR MED IRINI in Rome on the occasion of its 1st anniversary where he met with the Operation’s Commander Rear Admiral Fabio Agostini.

“With IRINI military operation, the EU is the only actor contributing to implementation of UN arms embargo on Libya. Its importance is being recognised with the prolongation of the mandate by two years, said Borrell.

Operation Irini has conducted more than 2,300 hailings, close to 100 friendly approaches and 8 inspections. This includes also the seizure of illegal cargos and prevented an illegal export of fuel. It has monitored 16 Libyan ports and oil facilities. It has also monitored 25 airports and landing strips as well as almost 200 flights that were possibly carrying military-related cargos back and forth to Libya,” he also said.

Meanwhile, a UN report published on Wednesday underlined continuous violations of the arms embargo. The report highlighted the “ample and clear” violations of the ban. The commission that drafted the document, including six experts, indicated as responsible the countries backing the various sides involved in the conflict, as well as mercenaries and non-institutional actors like the Russian Wagner group or the former chief of military security company Blackwater, Erik Prince.

The 550-page report covers a period from October 2019 to January 2021 during which the “arms embargo remains totally ineffective”, it said. “In the case of those states supporting the sides in conflict, the violations are ample, obvious and in complete contempt of sanctions. Their control of the provision chain complicates the identification, contrast or blockade” of arms imports, the report said.

The U.N. Panel of Experts noted a series of recommendations including to designate aircraft, and impose measures such as flag deregistration, a landing ban, and an overflight ban across Libya. Considering all this, it is clear that the IRINI military mission not only has to be confirmed but also has to be implemented, taking into account both the operational level and the rules of engagements (making the inspections less complicated).

By treating the conflict as a matter of Mediterranean security, President Biden’s team can better assist the new Libyan government and demonstrate its commitment to revitalizing alliances,” wrote Ben Fishman in an analysis published by the Washington Institute. In the paper, among other suggestions on how the Biden administration can play a more influential role in advancing Libyan stability, is also included the possibility to consider how AFRICOM (U.S. Africa Command) can contribute to Europe’s embargo enforcement mechanism, Operation Irini.

IRINI should be taken into consideration by Europe and the UN to also have a part in the monitoring of the ceasefire – an element that allowed the start of the stabilization process of the country and the electoral passage for the new executive authority that will lead Libya until the elections of 24 December. A role that the European mission could play by exploiting the knowledge acquired in the area and use the assets at its disposal.