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Libya

Volume 730: debated on Tuesday 13 September 2011

Question

Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the political views of the coalition in Libya and their policies for running the country.

My Lords, the National Transitional Council has made a sincere commitment to a political settlement where human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law are respected. We welcome its constitutional declaration which sets out a programme for conducting Libya’s political transition in a spirit of unity, moderation and reconciliation. We look forward to the formation of an interim Government, which is expected in the coming days. The United Nations will co-ordinate international community support for this transition and the UK Government will remain at the forefront of these efforts.

I thank the Minister for that considered reply. Could I press him a little further about the people who are forming the Libyan Government? Many of them were members of the terrorist organisation, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Although they have renounced violence, can we be sure that that they will not go back to their old ways?

The leaders—the chairman of the council, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, and the prime minister, Mr Mahmoud Jibril—are strong and remarkable people. Mr Jibril served under Colonel Gaddafi and was part of that regime, but he moved over. There are others who have had associations with other groups in the past. There is one prominent case, which I suspect the noble Lord has in mind, of someone who appears to have been involved in terrorist activities—that was certainly the case, so one can never be totally sure. However, there are wise heads leading the NTC and we believe that with careful pressures and support from outside we can proceed in a way which avoids the intrusion of extremism, which in Tripoli yesterday morning the prime minister was warning that he did not want to see in the new Government.

My Lords, three weeks ago, the BBC reported that the joint FCO, MoD and DfID stabilisation unit had identified five long-term objectives for Libya, which included a conclusive political settlement ensuring security, the rule of law and restarting the economy. Can my noble friend say whether the Government will set out in a Statement how they intend to achieve those objectives, what resources will be deployed and what provisions have been made for a multilateral response to stabilisation from the three departments involved?

Those are indeed the objectives, as my noble friend acknowledges, and we will pursue them. How will we do it? We want to see the UN take the co-ordination role. A lot of co-ordination is needed, with wide international efforts for stabilisation, reconstruction and general social improvement, and recovery from the horrors of the last few months. Alongside that, we will work with all the agencies and through our own contribution to achieve these aims. I do not think that I can be more specific at this stage. In addition, as my noble friend knows, the Department for International Development is providing considerable funds to help with the reconstruction.

My Lords, I understand that Article 6 of the draft constitution emphasises the equality of citizenship before the law, but I am also aware that the constitution refers to Islam as the principal source of its jurisprudence. The two positions are not incompatible, but it would be helpful to learn about the conversations that our Government have had with the Transitional National Council in Libya regarding the protection of minorities.

The right reverend Prelate is absolutely right. These are very important issues, which we are raising all the time in our discussions and in the support that we are seeking to give. We do not want to cross the borderline between support and reinforcement of the new Libya, if that is what is going to emerge—the business is yet unfinished, as noble Lords know. We do not want to cross the line into telling the Libyan people what to do, as they own the procedure. However, they do respect these values, and we will certainly make those points to them in our continuing dialogue.

My Lords, the Libyan Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril said on Monday that the National Transitional Council has mapped out a path forward and he added that this is no time for revenge. I note today that Donatella Rovera of Amnesty reports widespread systematic violence perpetrated by former rebel forces, including in the areas that they have controlled for over six months. It is an alarming report. Will the Minister tell the House in rather more detail what has emerged in discussion with the NTC about the main planks of its plan, whether he believes that the resources exist to deliver that plan and what the United Kingdom is saying to the NTC about violent crimes being committed by the NTC’s forces?

We have noted that report and the reports from the UNHCR about allegations of atrocities. We think all these things should be investigated. It is worth remembering that the International Criminal Court is remitted fully by UN Resolutions 1970 and 1973 to investigate these allegations, and we understand that it is doing so. If it is necessary, we will certainly encourage it to do so, but I think it is going ahead with the job anyway.

Can my noble friend say what is being done about the difficulties that the Tuaregs are having in gaining citizenship in the new Libya and whether any representations have been made on that subject by us?

No, I cannot. Whether the Tuaregs have come up in detailed discussions, I am not briefed to say, but I will write to my noble friend if the position of the Tuaregs has been discussed. I cannot add anything at the moment.

Does the Minister agree that Libya enjoys one considerable advantage over many of its neighbours, which is that it is not in need of financial assistance? However, it is in need of massive technical assistance, particularly in ensuring that the vast oil resources go to help the many and not to oligarchs and so on. What are we doing to assist the Administration, particularly in the area of petroleum and gas resources?

The noble Lord is absolutely right. There will be some technical support, and we are encouraging oil experts to go back in and restart the industry. There are political and technical difficulties to overcome, but we are certainly going that way. As for resources, we have unfrozen a large number of assets which are now available to the new Government. The Libyans are the owners of this process, and it is for them to decide how to distribute the funds and resources of, I hope, a modern, democratic and settled Libya, which we all pray lies ahead.