UN Panel reports flagrant violations of Libyan arms embargo by regional powers

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The United Nations Panel of Experts (PoE) monitoring global compliance with the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) arms embargo against Libya says it is probing the transfer of some MiG-21 fighter jets, 8 Mi-8 and several Mi-24 helicopters believed to have been transferred as recently as October 2015.

In a confidential report submitted to the UNSC on March 6, the PoE said the aircraft were mostly likely transferred from Sudan and Egypt to one of the two rival Libyan governments based in the city of Tobruk.

The panel is also investigating the presence of several Streit Group and Nimr Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC), which were likely transferred from the United Arab Emirates to arm forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar over the past year.

The panel said it had noted that the Libya air force, which was largely depleted in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution, has been partially restored through a programme that used materials sourced externally in breach of the arms embargo.
“After the revolution, the air force fleet was largely depleted and efforts have been made by the Chief of Staff of the air force, Saqr Jarushi, to restore it, both in compliance with, and in violation of, the arms embargo. The Panel reported several previous non-notified transfers, including of helicopters to the east of the country from the Sudan in 2012 and from Egypt in 2014.
“The Libyan air force has obtained additional Mi-8 helicopters, including at least one (tail No.1464) that is consistent with Egyptian Mi-8 helicopters that the Panel believes was transferred as recently as 2015,” the report said.

The Panel said it is also investigating the recent transfer of some Mi-21 jets to the rival government in Tobruk, which appear to be consistent with those owned by Egypt.
“Information and pictures published on the official Facebook page of the Egyptian air force tend to confirm the transfer. The Panel has provided Egypt with the serial numbers of some of the aircraft, but no response to the tracing request has been received to date. The Panel also provided the same manufacturer’s serial numbers to the manufacturing State and requested information about the original end users. A response is awaited,” the report said.

The Panel said it had also noted the recent delivery of several Mi-24 helicopters (possibly from Sudan) to the Libyan Air Force and has requested the support of a UN Member State in that regard. Further, the UN Panel is investigating several flights that are suspected to have delivered arms to Libya.

These include many flights by Veteran Avia which allegedly originated from the Minhad Air Base in the UAE and ended in Libya after going via Jordan late in 2014. Confidential sources who spoke to the UN investigators said the flights were carrying war materials illegally transferred from the UAE to militias in Bayda, Tobruk and Zintan.
“The United Arab Emirates did not respond, while Jordan said that it had not detected the entry of any flights from the UAE to Jordan bound for Libya. Air traffic data, however, indicate that the flights did take place. Nevertheless, Jordan maintains its position. In January 2016, Armenia, the country in which Veteran Avia is registered, confirmed the flights from the United Arab Emirates to Libya and the stopover in Jordan, stating that they were transporting humanitarian aid,” the report said.

Apart from air force assets, the UN said it is also investigating the transfers of several Nimr Armoured Personnel Carriers to Libya from the UAE but admitted that it was having serious difficulties in confirming that the end users of the APCs and other military materials could be considered as part of the government in Tobruk.

The panel said it had also confirmed the August 2012 export of several Streit Group and Nimr APCs to the Libyan Ministry of Defence and the Sawaq Brigade, respectively, by the UAE. The Sawaq militia is also reported to have received hundreds of AR-M9 assault rifles and camouflage gear from the UAE government.

The panel said its investigations also exposed several international arms dealers and brokers who have been supplying embargoed materials to the warring sides in Libya. Information gleaned from the cellphone of a Libyan national, identified only as Mr Eshati, who was arrested in Dover, United Kingdom in November 2014, helped the panel uncover a deal for ammunition worth $28.5 million which was headed for the Sawaq and Al Qa’qa’ militias brigades in the city of Zintan.
“The documents also included information about the chartering of an aeroplane to transport the ammunition. In November 2015, he pleaded guilty to two counts, including possession of arms for terrorist purposes and was sentenced to six years in prison. The investigation exposed a complex network involving Egyptians, Libyans and Italians.

According to the indictment, Eshati was involved in the translation of documents for the main Libyan protagonist, Ibrahim al Tumi. The latter was using documents signed by the Chief of Staff of the Libyan National Army, General Nadhouri while the main brokering agent was Italian Franco Giorgi, who received a first instalment from his Libyan clients for the transfers.
“The money was, however, apparently stolen from him in Italy, and he travelled to Libya in March 2015, probably to discuss the issue with his clients. Since then, he has been held in Libya,” the UN panel reported.