Rival brigades pose most pressing Libyan problem, U.N. envoy says

Ian Martin has headed an interim United Nations support mission in Tripoli, Libya, for the past two months.

Story highlights

  • U.N. envoy: "The first and foremost of immediate challenges is in ... security"
  • There have been several skirmishes between rival brigades in recent weeks
  • Also of concern are the massive amounts of weapons that flowed into the country
Rival revolutionary brigades remain almost entirely responsible for security in Libya, posing that country's most pressing challenge, according to the top United Nations envoy in Libya and a new U.N. report.
Ian Martin, who has headed an interim U.N. support mission in Tripoli for the past two months, briefed the Security Council Monday on the uphill battles facing a country emerging from decades of dictatorial rule.
The report, based on Martin's mission, lists several problem areas: Transitional authorities have said they will hold elections, the first in over 45 years, in less than a year. Thousands of imprisoned or passport-less sub-Saharan Africans are stranded in the country. And, despite a relatively positive humanitarian outlook, the Libyan poor are facing rapidly increasing food prices
Nonetheless, Martin said, "there is overwhelming agreement that the first and foremost of immediate challenges is in the area of security, and it is a multifaceted challenge. Beyond the needs of the war-wounded and bereaved ... determining the future of the revolutionary fighters is fundamental in the short and longer term."
These armed groups have "assumed the main responsibility for law and order through the country," the report says. The United Nations says that there have been several skirmishes between rival brigades over the past three weeks.
Though most of Moammar Gadhafi's political prisoners were released, the report says, about 7,000 prisoners are currently held by the brigades. The United Nations says many of those prisoners have reportedly been tortured and most have been denied due process.
Winning Libyan hearts and minds
Winning Libyan hearts and minds

    JUST WATCHED

    Winning Libyan hearts and minds

MUST WATCH

Winning Libyan hearts and minds 03:04
Life returning to normal in Libya
Life returning to normal in Libya

    JUST WATCHED

    Life returning to normal in Libya

MUST WATCH

Life returning to normal in Libya 05:36
Rice on Cain: 'No Taliban in Libya'
Rice on Cain: 'No Taliban in Libya'

    JUST WATCHED

    Rice on Cain: 'No Taliban in Libya'

MUST WATCH

Rice on Cain: 'No Taliban in Libya' 01:21
Also of concern to the United Nations are the massive amounts of weapons that flowed into the country, both during Gadhafi's rule and during the months-long insurgency.
The world body says Libya is now home to the largest number of "man-portable" surface-to-air-missile systems outside of countries where those systems are produced.
"It is through finding futures for the fighters that the weapons that have been in their hands can be brought under control," Martin told the Security Council.
Last month, the Security Council passed a unanimous resolution calling on Libyan authorities to take "all necessary steps" to secure the loose weapons.
The transitional authorities "appear to be controlling all relevant chemical and nuclear material sites," the report says, but "centralized command and control remains a concern."
Martin cautioned that Libya faces an "urgent" liquidity problem, which "cannot be separated" from the security situation.
"The assumption that funding by international donors is not required in this and other areas because of Libya's wealth will become true only when the government has sufficient funds to meet the country's most urgent priorities," Martin said.
As in any country emerging from decades of dictatorial rule, Libya "faces a heavy legacy of human rights abuses" and will have a difficult period of transitional justice, the report says. Martin told the Security Council that the Transitional National Council plans to host a reconciliation conference in December.
"However deep the anger at the war crimes committed by the former regime, the National Transitional Council must continue its calls to avoid acts of revenge and must investigate abuses by its own fighters," the report says.