Security Council demands Liberia do more to freeze assets of alleged war criminals

17 December 2009

While welcoming progress made by the Liberian Government in rebuilding the war-shattered country, the Security Council today demanded it “make all necessary efforts to fulfil its obligations” to freeze the assets of alleged war criminals and others, and urged it to tighten controls against so-called “blood diamonds” used to finance conflict.

The unanimous resolution followed a report by the Panel of Experts monitoring UN sanctions imposed on Liberia during its decade and a half of civil war, which found that the Government had not made any movement to freeze assets recently designated as owned or benefiting designated individuals, citing new evidence that such individuals still have considerable financial resources.

Moreover, while the Government is complying with some requirements of the Kimberley Process – an international initiative joining governments, industry and civil society to stem the flow of conflict diamonds used to finance civil wars – it is not in compliance in the maintenance and sharing of data, the panel noted.

“Of most concern are indications of abuses of the system of internal controls, mounting evidence of the presence of regional trading networks and the potential infiltration of sanctioned Ivorian diamonds into Liberian exports,” it said, referring to Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia’s equally war-torn neighbour.

“The political will to implement the Kimberley Process certification scheme has diminished, at least within the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy,” it added, calling on the Government to reconstitute the Presidential Task Force on Diamonds and further investigate the regional trading network and the potential infiltration of Ivorian diamonds into Liberia and neighbouring countries.

The Council renewed for another year the mandate of the panel, appointed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2007 to renew investigations of whether UN sanctions were being enforced after allegations that former president Charles Taylor, under indictment for war crimes and crimes against humanity, might still have access to considerable wealth.

The panel also found shortcoming in the forestry sector, another potential source of illicit gains, citing “numerous breaches of basic processes and criteria in the awarding of concessions,” and a lack of transparency by the Forestry Development Authority in making documents and information available.

“The panel has not been able to ascertain the existence of a forest management stakeholders list, another legal requirement intended to facilitate communication and participation,” it said.

With regard to the travel ban, this was violated by one individual, Cyril Allen, who travelled to Ghana in October, while two others were not complying with the strict conditions of the waivers granted them. The Council renewed travel restrictions for another 12 months.

The panel found no concrete evidence of major actual or attempted violations of the arms embargo on non-State groups. But, it warned, “the national capacity of the Liberian Government to control weapons and to provide security to its citizens remains low, which is of particular concern to the panel given the volatile regional situation in Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire.”

It recommended setting up a working group comprising the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), the Liberian National Commission on Small Arms, various ministries and the United States Embassy to help the Government “identify and trace in a timely manner illicit small arms and light weapons.”

UNMIL, set up by the Council in 2003 and now numbering over 11,500 uniformed personnel, played a major role in restoring stability and a democratic government after the civil war. But in a report in August, Mr. Ban warned that the gains remain fragile, especially with regard to security, rule of law and job creation.

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