Statement of ICC Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan KC to the UN Security Council on the Situation in Libya, pursuant to Resolution 1970 (2011)
Mr President, first of all, thank you for the opportunity to brief the Security Council today. I also wish to acknowledge and express my personal thanks to His Excellency, the permanent representative of Libya to the United Nations for his attendance at this session of the Council in New York.
If I may, and with your leave, I would wish to begin by offering my really most profound condolences to the Libyan families, to the communities affected by the devastating flooding in Derna and in other parts of Libya that the world saw in September of this year. I’m well aware that this has led to tragic loss of life of thousands of Libyans, destructions of hospitals, schools, residences and infrastructure. And this represented really further misery, further tragedy that the Libyan people have endured for years. And I simply wish to express my solidarity, my Office's solidarity with the Libyan authorities and the people of Libya as they continue their recovery.
Mr President, distinguished delegates, it's now 18 months since in the 23rd report that I presented, that my Office presented on the situation in Libya, wherein I set out a renewed plan of action, a completely new strategy through which we would seek to finally deliver on the hopes and the legitimate expectations of survivors in Libya.
This plan reflected an overall approach that I have sought to introduce across the various situations addressed by my Office based upon a targeted, a field-focused and indeed dynamic approach to investigations that seeks to fully harness cooperation with all stakeholders and which measures our progress based upon clear objectives.
I'm pleased to be able to confirm to the Council again today that we have made significant progress in the implementation of the strategic plan over the last six months. As reflected in my report, this has included a number of key steps towards the realization of the targets, the objectives that I set 18 months ago. To give an example, we have continued to accelerate our investigative activities; the team has undertaken in this reporting period over 15 missions in three regions, collecting over 4000 items of evidence. This includes video evidence, audio material, forensic information, satellite imagery, as well as conducting numerous witness screenings and witness interviews. And I'm pleased to say we are reaching now key benchmarks as part of our key lines of inquiry that I set out 18 months ago.
We've made particular progress with respect to the crimes related to the 2014-2020 period. Those lines of inquiry against key suspects have successfully concluded. The Office is now approaching the stage where investigative activities in relation to this priority line of inquiry that I detailed in my previous reports can be assessed as complete.
Positive progress has also been made with respect to the lines of inquiry, such as the investigations regarding detention facilities and the investigation regarding crimes against migrants.
We have deepened critically our engagement with those affected by alleged Rome Statute crimes. We've increased contact with victims, with victims associations, with representatives and with civil society organisations on the Libya situation, and we've been significantly aided in that quest, in that objective, by the continuous presence my Office has had in the region. Regional presence is absolutely essential to effective investigation and the prompt delivery of our mandate. And this increased engagement has enriched and helped to further accelerate the investigation, providing access to key new potential evidence and witnesses.
As part of these efforts in July this year, my Office also held a multi-day training seminar with many different Libyan civil society organisations to discuss and explain the application of the Guidelines for Civil Society Organisations that we developed together with Eurojust. This is part of a joint endeavour, the partnership that I've previously mentioned, of trying to bring everybody on board, not to have spectators, and to ensure that we try to more thoroughly and more completely investigate crimes under our jurisdiction.
Mr President, we are also continuing our progress in harnessing advanced technology in the quest for more justice, wider justice and more meaningful justice. In this important period, major steps forward include revolutionizing our approach to the use of technology in our investigations, and this included, for example, transitioning our evidence holdings into the cloud to use a cloud-based evidence management system, which will allow the Libya team to draw on artificial intelligence, machine learning tools, such as automated transcription and translation of video and audio material.
In this period, we have also launched OTP Link, which is a digital platform allowing for more secure transmission of information from external stakeholders, including witnesses. This is something that has become available, not only to witnesses in the Libya situation, but also other situations addressed by the Office as well.
As highlighted in my report, our work has not been restricted to simply accelerating our own independent investigations and our prosecutions. I've said it before, Mr President, and I want to underline my commitment: Deepening collaboration with national authorities through a more dynamic approach to cooperation and complementarity is central to my vision and the work of the Office everywhere. And this renewed approach has been particularly impactful with respect to our investigations in relation to crimes against migrants in Libya.
It really doesn't matter which flag is behind a judge or a prosecutor. Indeed, Mr President, I've said – and I hope you won't tire of hearing it – that the central objective under the Rome Statute is that wherever possible the flag behind a judge or the flag behind a prosecutor should be the flag of a member state of the United Nations and not the International Criminal Court.
But we should judge our success not only by the number of prosecutions before the ICC, but by our integrity, by our resilience, by the rigor and professionalism of our independent investigations. And our ultimate assessment of the impact of this Council referral for survivors and for the families and victims must actually incorporate the results that we have helped to deliver, the results that we have supported collectively in the domestic jurisdictions of member states. The Office has to work as a hub, not as an apex, and we work in partnership with any state or national authority that wishes to join hands in the quest for more justice, more accountability and less impunity.
In line with this approach, Mr President and distinguished delegates, over the last six months, my Office has continued to work closely with the Joint Investigative Team that is investigating crimes against migrants on the central Mediterranean route. We joined that last year and this membership of that JIT, that Joint Investigative Team, represents a fundamentally new way of working with national authorities. In the last six months, we have completed several joint investigative missions, we have held weekly information sharing meetings with these key partners, and we are accelerating collective action. An expert level meeting of the Joint Team was held last month at the end of October to share updates, to share information and to prepare for the strategic level meeting that will be held next month.
Based on this collective work, the Office has been able to provide tangible support with respect to ongoing investigations and prosecutions, with respect to key suspects in human trafficking investigations and prosecutions in Italy and in the Netherlands.
As also reflected in my report, our engagement with the Libyan authorities remains at the heart, remains at the absolute centre of our strategy with respect to this situation. Within the last reporting period, I confess we've had some challenges with cooperation. Despite quite some effort, we were unable to obtain visas to Libya for operational level field missions, which would have helped accelerate even further our collaboration with Libya, with the Libyan authorities, and help enhance our work in the field of forensics, and also to enhance our continuous presence or our field presence in Tripoli.
But there has been discernible improvement, and I think this is only right to bring that to the attention of the Council. In particular, since the arrival of His Excellency, Ambassador Zeiad Daghim, here in The Hague and with the instructions that were transmitted to him from the president of the Presidential Council, His Excellency, Mr Mohamed Al-Menfi, the Embassy confirmed that it will extend full cooperation from the Office. And only this morning I received my own visa to Libya, to those members of my Office. And this, God willing, will also allow my next report to the Council to be given from the territory of Libya. I hope inshallah that can take place.
I'm pleased to confirm to the Council that that cooperation will, I hope, form a solid basis for us to report on more significant progress over the next period.
Mr President, in the last six months through the partnership with affected communities, with the Libyan authorities, with international partners, we've continued our positive momentum in relation to the situation in Libya, and we are actually seeing real results. I wish to emphasize with the greatest of respect to the Council that we can't take this progress for granted.
The resource constraints my Office faces are real, they are profound, and they are placing increasingly critical pressure on our ability to deliver on our mandate across the different situations that we face. During this period, we have received valuable extrabudgetary support from states that has benefited our work, including the secondment of national experts, for example, with specialism on sexual and gender-based crime, and the provision of financial contributions that have supported the technological reforms I've already referred to.
However, whilst these contributions had a positive impact, have allowed progress to take place, the last six months have rendered it even more apparent to me about the challenges we face due to what can only be described as an inadequate, insufficient core budget for my Office. And based on a fundamental strategic review of our work, I've recently launched our 2023 to 2025 new Strategic Plan, I have identified significant resource shortfalls, and I have made a request to the Assembly of States Parties for an increased budget in 2024, particularly with regard to our ability to investigate financial flows that are relevant to the Libya situation and proceeds of crime.
God willing in December at the Assembly of States Parties that will take place in New York, I will be making a request to all state parties of the ICC to demonstrate their continued commitment to the proper application of international law. And the commitment to give the men and women of my Office the resources needed so we can vindicate the rights of survivors in the Libya situation, but all those in every other situation as well, because, of course, every human life matters equally.
Mr President, distinguished delegates, in my first briefings to you as Prosecutor, I underlined that for survivors and for affected communities, for families, for those looking for their loved ones or those grieving the passing of their loved ones, I had to provide a clear vision as to what my Office's ultimate collective goal was pursuant to the mandate that you gave us, pursuant to Resolution 1970. And I made it very clear in my very first briefing to the Council in the Sudan situation and in the Libya situation: that referrals cannot be a never-ending story. Through the new investigative strategy I've placed before the Council that I’ve touched upon today, I sought to provide much greater clarity with regard to what we’re doing, what we’re focusing on. And whilst my hands are tied to some extent to what I can say publicly because of the duties of confidentiality I owe to the Court and orders of the Court, I am of the view that the results of this new strategic approach are significant and are clearly discernible.
But as we continue to build on this momentum, it is critical that my Office continues to proactively and meaningfully engage with this Council, with the Government of Libya, and of course with survivors, to begin to chart a path that leads to the successful completion of our investigative activities in relation to the situation as a whole.
The legal basis for my Office to investigate crimes connected to this referral, underpinning the investigative strategy, is clear and is ongoing. But this does not prevent us from setting out a course towards fulfilment of the core mandate that you tasked the ICC and my Office to engage with pursuant, in 2011, to Resolution 1970.
I believe it's essential that we pursue that path in order to enhance the trust between us and demonstrate a willingness and an ability and a roadmap to close the situation down in a way that ensures that we have discharged our responsibility as effectively as we can. This will require deeper engagement with national authorities based upon complementarity, whilst continuing to strengthen my ability, my Office's ability to prosecute those subject to public and non-public arrest warrants before the ICC. And reflecting this approach, and as noted in the report that you have before you, it is my intention, inshallah, to work in the next six months with relevant key stakeholders to prepare a plan for the completion of activities by the Office pursuant to Resolution 1970. And I hope and will aim to be able to complete investigative activities in relation to the key lines of inquiry that I have previously detailed by the end of 2025.
Now, whether that goal is achievable will depend on if we can collectively deliver on the plans outlined in the report, if the cooperation with Libya can move forward in the way that is necessary. But while we chart this path together, my Office will continue with our activities pursuant to all our lines of inquiry with commitment and with dedication in relation to the Resolution that you’ve given us.
In the coming months, I intend to continue to rely upon engagement and cooperation with you, with survivors, and with Libya and all international partners. If we work together, if we try to put the interests of victim first, if we believe that injustice is not inevitable, but justice is the birth right of every child, we will have a hope of improving the situation in Libya and discharging our responsibilities more effectively and more completely than maybe we have in the past.
I really look forward to working together, Mr President, with each and every member of the Council, so we can meet, we can fulfil, we can strive and meet what are the legitimate expectations of the families and victims of Libya, the people of Libya, the hope and aspirations of the people of Libya, and of course, the trust that the Council gave to the ICC when this referral was made those years ago.
Thank you so much for your time and attention.