UN gets tougher on human traffickers in Libya

The United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution Monday that keeps the pressure on suspected human traffickers and sexual abusers in Libya.

The Netherlands spearheaded the effort in the wake of an award-winning undercover report by CNN’s Nima Elbagir and Raja Rezak that revealed trafficking of women in Libyan camps, as the observed captives were sold to the highest bidder.

Dutch officials explained that perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence can now be sanctioned by the UN Security Council. This is a new element in an ongoing Security Council sanctions campaign against Libya.

“The sanctions require countries to freeze the traffickers’ assets and impose travel bans on them,” The Netherlands’ Foreign Minister Stef Blok said in a statement.

“It means that those perpetrators of sexual violence, for instance in the refugee camps who rape women refugees … it will be possible to sanction them, so we think that’s an important step forward, ” Karel J. G. van Oosterom, the Netherlands ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters outside Security Council chambers Monday morning.

Russia and China abstained on the resolution. Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said countries who were pushing the resolution wanted to score political points at home.

“This is populism distilled in its purest form,” Nebenzia said.

Six months ago, the Security Council for the first time imposed sanctions on six people accused of human trafficking.

The Dutch Ambassador to the UN said his government has been working hard on this issue after CNN “who came, of course, with the original report from the situation on the ground in Tripoli.”

The resolution calls on all UN member states to actively report on the steps they are taking to implement the sanctions against the six human traffickers, Blok said.

“Imposing sanctions sends a signal, but we also need to ensure effective implementation,” he said.

There are no new sanctions in the resolution, but UK UN political coordinator Stephen Hickey told the Security Council it “expanded the designation criteria to include gender and sexual based violence.” The Netherlands foreign minister, in a statement given to CNN, said “earlier sanctions have had a significant deterrent effect. These criminals sense that they are being backed into a corner.”

“Sanctions remain an important tool for this Council and our work to support the Government of National Accord and to stabilize Libya. However, they can only be one part of the solution, which requires full political reconciliation,” Hickey said.