European Union imposes additional sanctions for human rights abuses and arms embargo violations in Libya

The European Union (EU) has implemented sanctions on three entities that have violated the UN arms embargo in Libya. Additionally, two individuals have also been sanctioned, one individual for human rights abuses against migrants and refugees in the notorious human trafficking hub Bani Walid, and the other for supplying military equipment material to the country. The sanctions are the result of follow-up by the EU on Libya, which it states is part of its commitment to peace and security in the country. This article outlines some of the activities and statements of the EU in relation to Libya in the last month.


The new measures are aimed at three companies; one Jordanian, one Kazakh, and one Turkish, who have provided planes, ships, and other logistics to channel military equipment into Libya. The EU foreign ministers have agreed to freeze any European assets retained by the entities, to cut them from European financial markets, and block them from any further business with anyone in the bloc.

Since 2011, Libya has experienced a decade of “violent chaos” after the collapsed regime of Muammar Gaddafi but there have been positive developments with the recent ceasefire announcement and the promise of national elections. The EU states that it remains devoted to the respect of human rights and international law and is committed to holding anyone accountable for violating them. Therefore, the newly imposed sanctions by the EU aims to supplement a strategic use of its sanctions regime and the ability to respond to developments in order to combat violations that are considered a threat to the peace and security of a country.

The Council of the European Union held talks on the 21st of September on the latest developments on topics such as Libya and how to improve the relations with Africa. The discussion on Libya was held due to earlier announcements of an immediate ceasefire on the 21st of August 2020 by the President of the Presidency Council of Libya, Fayez al-Serraj, and the Speaker of the House of Representative, Aguila Saleh. In a press release made on the 22nd of August, the European Union welcomed the announcements as it is believed to be “a constructive first step forward, which demonstrates the determination of the Libyan leaders to overcome the current stalemate […] towards a peaceful political solution to the longstanding Libyan crisis.” Additionally, the EU states that European support has been given in order to cease all military activities in Libya and to resume the negotiations within the framework of the UN-led Berlin Process.

In last week’s press conference, Josep Borell, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy stated that the ceasefire and the latest developments presented a “window of opportunity to advance the three main priorities in Libya”, which includes “a permanent and sustainable ceasefire, […] the lifting of the oil blockade across, and the resumption of the political dialogue.” Furthermore, the ministers discussed the results of Operation Irini that was launched on March 31st to reinforce the United Nations arms embargo on Libya. On September 10th, Operation Irini inspected and diverted a vessel carrying military fuel, which is in violation of the arms embargo. Therefore, the vessel was ceased, and its cargo was confiscated, states the EU. Finally, the Council adopted new sanctions “on two persons responsible for human rights abuses and three entities involved in violating the UN arms embargo in place for Libya.” The imposed sanctions consist of “a travel ban and an asset freeze for natural persons, and an asset freeze for entities.” With these new sanctions, the EU has enforced “travel bans on 17 listed persons and has frozen the assets of 21 persons and entities.”