EU considering sanctions against Libya
Tunis - The European Union is considering sanctions against a number of key players in Libya’s political crisis on the basis that they threaten the dialogue process led by UN Special Envoy Bernardino Leon.
Although the European Union will not say who it has in its sights, it is widely reported that five names are being considered. These are: General Khalifa Haftar, the commander in chief of the Libyan armed forces; his close colleague Major-General Saqr Adam Geroushi, head of the Libyan air force; Abdurrahman Sewehli, who is both a boycotting member of the internationally recognised House of Representatives and of the continuing but unrecognised General National Congress (GNC); Salah Badi, the hard-line Misrata political and military leader; and Abdul Rauf al-Manaie, also elected to the House of Representatives.
The latter three oppose the dialogue’s draft agreement, which was approved earlier in July.
The next step in the dialogue process is the selection of a prime minister and two deputy prime ministers to lead a Government of National Accord (GNA), which is supposed to return to Tripoli.
That is where the sanctioning of the latter three comes in. They are seen as potentially stopping that from happening.
Following the decision by a number of key elements (notably Misrata but also other towns in the west and south of the country) in the Libya Dawn alliance to back the dialogue and start making separate peace agreements with groups supporting the Libyan National Army (LNA), Badi set up a new hard-line military front in June to prevent more political problems. The aim of the Sumoud (Steadfastness) Front, which is supported by Sewehli and Manaie, is to “protect” Tripoli from the LNA and any forces allied to it. Given their opposition to the draft, that is seen as including opposition to the arrival of the GNA in the capital.
The inclusion of Haftar and Geroushi in the list is less clear-cut and is seen primarily as an attempt by the European Union to “balance” its action by penalising both sides. Haftar and Geroushi are thought to have little confidence in the dialogue process although neither has come out against it or the draft
The only person that sanctions — asset freezes and travel bans — could hurt is Sewehli. He has lived in the United Kingdom for many years.
His sons were born there and he reportedly recently bought a house there. None of the others are thought to have assets in Europe or plan to travel there in the near future.
Geroushi has publicly said that he has no bank accounts or assets abroad and no plans to visit Europe or leave Libya “until the terrorists are defeated”.
Even in Sewehli’s case sanctions would probably be of little effect. Since he knows he is a potential target, it would be strange if he had not by now taken action to protect his interests.
There are other militia figures who would be expected to try to stop a GNA from operating in Tripoli and who have reportedly built up large fortunes that have been invested outside the country, including in the European Union, but they are not being mentioned in relation to sanctions as yet.
How far the EU plans succeed remains to be seen.
Catherine Ray, the spokeswoman for the European External Action Service (the European Union’s foreign policy office), confirmed that “the EU is prepared to adopt sanctions and has started to consider some names. However, there is no confirmation on any names for the time being.”
She also said EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini believed “it would be better for such decision to be discussed in the framework of the UN”.
In June, Sewehli’s name was one of two proposed to the UN Security Council for sanctioning in what was a clear bid to demonstrate that the United Nations was prepared to punish those who did not cooperate with its efforts to resolve Libya’s crisis. But it too opted for balance, treating both sides as equals, in this case equally reprehensible.
The other name was that of Zintani militia leader Othman Milaiqtah, who is allied with the Libyan National Army. His inclusion led to the Libyan government to ask the Russians and the Chinese to veto the proposal, which they did.
Any attempt to have Haftar and Geroushi sanctioned through the United Nations will likely end the same way.