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Expert panel recommends continuation of Liberia sanctions

Expert panel recommends continuation of Liberia sanctions

An expert panel has recommended that the United Nations arms embargo on Liberia be continued after it found “credible evidence” the country was still buying weapons for its soldiers in violation of the restrictions.

The recommendation came in a report released today at UN Headquarters in New York by a Panel of Experts that was re-established by the Security Council in February to investigate Liberia’s compliance with a resolution adopted last year.

Among its provisions, that resolution demanded that the Government stop its financial and military support of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in neighbouring Sierra Leone, and imposed an arms embargo on Liberia, restricted its diamond exports and banned the country’s senior officials from travelling abroad.

Today’s report makes further recommendations in a number of other areas, including air transportation, travel by Liberian officials and diamond sales, where it urges UN Member States to help set up a credible certification scheme for the precious gems before a suspension of the diamond ban can be considered by the Council.

The experts also link arms transport with Liberia’s Bureau of Maritime Affairs, noting that the country has the world’s second largest maritime fleet. The report concludes that while it found credible evidence of small clusters of ex-RUF forces fighting in Liberia as guns for hire, there did not seem to be a connection with the rebel group’s new political party in Sierra Leone.

Speaking this afternoon at a UN press conference, panel members Harjit Singh Sandhu of India and Johan Peleman of Belgium agreed that in light of the changed circumstances on the ground, it was time for the Security Council to adopt a new resolution.

“We still think that the situation in Liberia poses a threat to the stability to the sub-region, or a risk at least,” Mr. Peleman said. “However, given the positive peace process in Sierra Leone, we think that this new reality should be reflected indeed under a new rationale for a resolution.”

The Security Council is expected to take up the Panel’s report in its consultations on Monday.