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Security Council requests panel to assess situation in Liberia

Security Council requests panel to assess situation in Liberia

The Security Council today called on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to set up a panel of financial and diamond experts to renew investigations of whether UN sanctions against Liberia are being broken after learning of “credible allegations” that the notorious former president Charles Taylor may still have access to considerable wealth.

In a unanimous resolution, the Council asked Mr. Ban to establish a panel of up to three members to carry out a follow-up assessment mission in Liberia and neighbouring countries to determine the effectiveness and impact of the measures introduced against Mr. Taylor and others.

A Council resolution in 2004 ordered all governments to freeze the assets of Mr. Taylor and his immediate family and barred them from using “misappropriated funds and property” to obstruct the restoration of peace and stability in the region.

The panel, which must be set up within a month, is expected to draw “as much as possible on the expertise” of the existing panel of experts, whose mandate expires today, which monitors Liberia.

That group, in a report released earlier this month, found there are “credible allegations” that Mr. Taylor – who is facing war crimes charges before the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) – has investments in Nigeria that have been unfrozen. Mr. Taylor has called on the SCSL to cover his legal costs at his trial, claiming he is indigent.

The panel report also noted allegations “of a large sum of money being with Charles Taylor at the time of his arrest in Nigeria” last year and his continuing ties to a cell phone company in Liberia. It added that the Nigerian Government had not allowed the panel to pursue the allegations and Liberia has not adopted laws authorizing a freeze.

But in its resolution today, the Council lauded the “sustained progress” made by the Liberian Government since January 2006, when the inauguration of a democratically-elected president, Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson, capped the peace process envisaged in a 2003 peace accord ending the country’s bloody civil war.

The Government has made great strides “in rebuilding Liberia for the benefit of all Liberians, with the support of the international community,” the 15-member body noted.

The new experts’ panel is also expected to probe the Government’s compliance with the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, a mechanism introduced to prevent so-called “blood diamonds” from reaching international markets.

Meanwhile, the Council extended the mandate of the Group of Experts monitoring the arms embargo in Côte d’Ivoire until 31 October, determining that the situation there still constitutes a threat to regional peace and security.

This Group was created in early 2005 to gather and analyze information on arms caches and flows in the region, and was asked by the Council today to submit a written update before 15 October.