Security Council renews sanctions on Liberian trade in ‘blood diamonds’
The Security Council today renewed the sanctions aimed at preventing Liberia from exporting “blood diamonds” or resuming the trade in arms and called on Secretary-General Kofi Annan to reappoint the Panel of Experts overseeing the ban.
In a unanimous resolution, Council members agreed that although “sustained progress” has been made in Liberia since Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became President in January, the situation in the once war-torn West African country remained so fragile that it constituted a threat to regional peace.
The Panel of Experts’ most recent report said the Liberian Government cannot yet demonstrate the internal controls necessary to meet the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, the internationally agreed system designed to prevent blood diamonds from entering the market.
“Although most of the necessary components are now in hand, they still require final arrangement into a coherent and functioning mechanism with long-term durability and credibility,” the panel stated.
The experts added that Liberia’s Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy needs to exercise stronger leadership to achieve this objective.
Council members agreed to renew the sanctions for six months, with a review after four months, to give the Liberian Government sufficient time to establish a transparent and internationally verifiable regime for trade in the rough diamonds.
Sanctions have been in place since 2001 to stop Liberia’s trade in diamonds, which were used for many years to finance wars against governments across Africa.
The Council also called for the sanctions on the trade in arms to be extended for another 12 months, with a waiver for supplies of certain non-lethal military equipment (excluding weapons and ammunition) intended solely for the Liberian police and security forces which have been trained and vetted since the establishment of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) in October 2003.
Although reports of crime have decreased slightly over the past year, the Panel noted that reports of serious crime – especially gang activities, mob violence and rape – have risen. Another 632 weapons were destroyed by UNMIL between June 2005 and September this year, taking the total so far to just under 31,000.
The resolution further called on Mr. Annan to reappoint the current members of the Panel of Experts and to make the necessary arrangements to ensure funding for the Panel.
In June, the Council agreed to lift the ban on the export of round logs and timber, and the Panel said the Government’s moratorium on logging since then has been largely effective.
Meanwhile, in letters to the Security Council President, Mr. Annan has extended the mandates of the groups of experts dealing with sanctions in Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) by six months and seven months respectively.
In a separate resolution adopted yesterday, the Council asked the Secretary-General to set up a focal point within the Secretariat to make sure that “fair and clear” procedures operate for both placing individuals and entities from sanctions lists and for removing them.
In a related development, the Council today heard briefings by the chairmen of its subsidiary bodies, seven committees commonly known by the name of the resolution which established them. The Council committees concern Rwanda, counter-terrorism, Liberia, Al-Qaida and the Taliban, Cote d’Ivoire, Sudan, and Sierra Leone.
The 15-member body also heard from the chairmen of three informal working groups: general issues of sanctions; documentation and other procedural questions; and peacekeeping operations.