PC members reject unilateral decisions by Sarraj – Al Marsad

Libya – Three members of the Presidency Council (PC) have said that individual decisions issued by the council’s president Fayez Sarraj are illegal.  In a statement issued on 8 January, Ahmed Maetig, Abdulsalam Kajman and Fathi Majbari told staff at the Government of National Accord’s legal department and other government officials not to implement such decisions. Only those approved by PC members collectively were legal under the terms of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA), they pointed out.

The three said that the relevant authorities can implement only decisions accompanied by minutes of official meetings of the PC showing that all members accepted them.

The directive referred in particular to decisions on the establishment of administrative entities, the appointment of heads of ministries and other state institutions, the appointment and dismissal of diplomats, and “everything related to the duties of the Supreme Commander of the Libyan army and the organization of the President of the Presidential Council and his deputies”.

“We remind you that oral and written administrative instructions, whatever their source, are contrary to the constitutional declaration, the Libya Political Agreement and Libyan laws in force, and that they do not exempt you from legal and criminal responsibilities resulting from your infringing such actions. These administrative instructions will not grant you immunity before the regulatory and accounting bodies and the Libyan judiciary.”

The row over Sarraj taking decisions on his own rather than in collaboration with other members of the PC has been brewing for some time.

At the end of December, Maetig rejected the Sarraj’s unilateral appointment of Ehmaid Ben Omar as new health minister, replacing Omar Bashir Al-Taher. The decision violated the LPA and had not been presented to other PC members for approval, Maetig said.

There are too reports of Sarraj unilaterally moving to sack and replace a number of  ambassadors.

The power struggle has also intensified over efforts by the Administrative Oversight Authority to investigate the president of the State Council, Khaled al-Mishri, and counter moves by him backed by Sarraj to prevent this by replacing the authority’s head, Nasser Ali Hassan.

The authority has been investigating alleged financial and administrative wrong doings by Mishri, in particular payments to a number of armed groups, when he was head of the former General National Congress’ finance committee. On Monday, the authority called on the State Council to lift his immunity so that proceedings could be brought against him.

Mishri, a member of the Justice and Construction Party and of the Muslim Brotherhood and who was elected president of the State Council last April, has reacted robustly to the authority’s investigations and ordered the replacement of Hassan by Sulaiman Al-Shanti, a move subsequently backed by Sarraj.

Maetig, Majbri and Kajman have demanded the appointment of Al-Shanti be annulled and Hassan retained.

The situation has been complicated by the fact that Hassan himself resigned late last year as head of the authority but then retracted it last month, citing the urgent need to overcome the current divisions in the country.  In particular he objected to the Mishri’s decision to appoint Al-Shanti.  In a letter this week to Sarraj, he noted that this was illegal under the Libyan Political Agreement.  (Article 15, on the appointment of heads of sovereign institutions, including the Administrative Oversight Authority, says that initial appointments have to be made by the House of Representatives in consultation with the State Council and thereafter by a two-third majority of the HoR.)

In his letter to the PC head, Hassan also claimed that the reason Al-Shanti had been appointed was to stop the authority carrying out it job – in other words, not to pursue the case against Mishri.

Hassan has now backed the call by the three PC members. He has told the Audit Bureau, the Central Bank of Libya and other officials to ignore PC decisions unless signed off by all of its members.

Fayez Sarraj with Khaled al-Mishri and Central Bank of Libya Governor Saddek Elkaber last week

Hassan was himself twice arrested and detained last year, first last January when members of the Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade stormed his office alleging corruption on his part, and last September on the orders of the Attorney General, again following allegations of corruption. In both cases the allegations came to nothing and he was quickly released.

The PC, originally with nine members, is now effectively down to five: Musa Koni resigned and has not been replaced, Ali Qatrani and Omar Al-Aswad have not taken part in proceedings almost since the start and Majbri has been absent for several months.