30/03/2004
Press Release
SC/8045



Security Council                                           

4938th Meeting (PM)                                         


SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS SIERRA LEONE MISSION UNTIL 30 SEPTEMBER,


WITH RESIDUAL FORCE TO REMAIN UNTIL JUNE 2005


Resolution 1537 (2004) Adopted Unanimously


The Security Council this afternoon, noting that progress towards the benchmarks for the drawdown of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) remains fragile, and some major gaps still remain, decided to extend the Mission’s mandate for six months until 30 September.


Unanimously adopting resolution 1537 (2004), the Council also decided that a residual UNAMSIL presence would remain in Sierra Leone, for an initial period of six months from 1 January 2005, reduced from the December 2004 level of 5,000 troops by 28 February 2005 to a new ceiling of 3,250 troops, 141 military observers and 80 United Nations civilian police personnel.


The Council also requested the Secretary-General to proceed with planning on the basis of the recommendations in his report of 19 March, to ensure a seamless transition from the current configuration of UNAMSIL to the residual presence. 


In addition, the Council urged the Government of Sierra Leone to intensify its efforts to develop an effective and sustainable police force, army, penal system and independent judiciary, so that the Government could rapidly take over from UNAMSIL full responsibility for maintaining law and order throughout Sierra Leone.  It also encouraged donors and UNAMSIL, in accordance with its mandate, to continue to assist the Government in that regard.


Further, the Council affirmed its intention to confirm the precise tasks of the residual UNAMSIL presence, and the benchmarks for its duration, no later than 30 September 2004.


The meeting began at 12:45 p.m. and ended at 12:47 p.m.


Council Resolution


The full text of Security Council resolution 1537 reads, as follows:


The Security Council,


Recalling its previous resolutions and the statements of its President concerning the situation in Sierra Leone,


Affirming the commitment of all States to respect the sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity of Sierra Leone,


Commending the efforts of the Economic Community of West African States towards building peace in the subregion, and encouraging the Presidents of the Mano River Union member States to resume dialogue and to renew their commitment to building regional peace and security,


Expressing its appreciation to those Member States providing troops, civilian police personnel and support elements to the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL),


Having considered the report of the Secretary-General of 19 March 2004 (S/2004/228),


Welcoming the significant progress made towards the benchmarks for drawdown of UNAMSIL, in accordance with Security Council resolutions 1436 (2002) and 1492 (2003), and commending UNAMSIL for the progress made to date in the adjustments to its size, composition and deployment,


Noting, however, that progress towards the benchmarks remains fragile, and some major gaps still remain, in particular with regard to the capacity of the Sierra Leone Police and armed forces to maintain security and stability effectively,


Reiterating the importance of the effective consolidation of stability and State authority throughout Sierra Leone, particularly in the sensitive diamond-producing areas and in the border areas, and stressing continued United Nations support to the Government of Sierra Leone in fulfilling these objectives,


Emphasizing the importance of free, fair and transparent local elections in May 2004 and encouraging the Government of Sierra Leone to make the necessary preparations, assisted by UNAMSIL within its mandate,


Encouraging the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to produce its report as soon as possible and welcoming the intention of the Government of Sierra Leone to establish a Human Rights Commission thereafter,


Noting the Secretary-General’s analysis of the need for a significantly-reduced United Nations peacekeeping presence to remain in Sierra Leone into 2005,


Emphasizing the importance of the Government of Sierra Leone’s assuming full responsibility for national security as soon as possible,


“1.   Decides that the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) shall be extended for a period of six months until 30 September 2004;


“2.   Welcomes the Secretary-General’s intention to adjust the timetable for UNAMSIL’s drawdown during 2004, in order to ensure a more gradual reduction in its military strength, as outlined in paragraph 72 of his report;


“3.   Urges the Government of Sierra Leone to intensify its efforts to develop an effective and sustainable police force, army, penal system and independent judiciary, so that the Government can rapidly take over from UNAMSIL full responsibility for maintaining law and order throughout Sierra Leone, and encourages donors and UNAMSIL, in accordance with its mandate, to continue to assist the Government in this regard;


“4.   Urges the Government of Sierra Leone to continue to strengthen its control over, and regulation of, diamond mining, including through the High Level Steering Committee; 


“5.   Decides that a residual UNAMSIL presence will remain in Sierra Leone, for an initial period of six months from 1 January 2005, reduced from the December 2004 level of 5,000 troops by 28 February 2005 to a new ceiling of 3,250 troops, 141 military observers and 80 United Nations civilian police personnel, and requests the Secretary-General to proceed with planning on the basis of the recommendations in his report, in order to ensure a seamless transition from the current configuration of UNAMSIL to the residual presence;


“6.   Affirms its intention to confirm the precise tasks of the residual UNAMSIL presence, and the benchmarks for its duration, no later than 30 September 2004;


“7.   Requests the Secretary-General to provide by 15 September 2004 a progress report, including progress made in the work of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, progress in resolving the conflict in Liberia, further increases in the capability of the Sierra Leone Police and armed forces and strengthened cooperation among United Nations missions in the subregion, with recommendations for any modifications such progress might allow to the size, composition, duration and benchmarks of the residual UNAMSIL presence;


“8.   Welcomes the Secretary-General’s intention to keep the security, political, humanitarian and human rights situation in Sierra Leone under close review and to report to the Council, after due consultations with troop-contributing countries and the Government of Sierra Leone, including by quarterly assessments of progress against the benchmarks for UNAMSIL’s drawdown, including the capacity of the Sierra Leone security sector;


“9.   Expresses its appreciation for the essential work being carried out by the Special Court for Sierra Leone, notes with serious concern the precarious financial situation of the Court for its third year of operation, urges all countries to submit their outstanding pledged funds immediately, supports the Secretary-General’s request to the General Assembly to consider a contribution to the financing of the Court from the regular budget, as in the Secretary-General’s report to the General Assembly of 14 March 2004 (A/58/733), and urges all States to cooperate fully with the Court;


“10.  Commends the Secretary-General’s efforts to establish cooperation between the United Nations missions in the subregion and welcomes his intention in paragraph 65 of his report to submit recommendations to the Council by the end of 2004 on how such cooperation might be strengthened;


“11.  Requests UNAMSIL to share its experience with the United Nations Mission in Liberia and the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire and to carry out its mandate in close liaison with them, especially in the prevention of movements of arms and combatants across borders and in the implementation of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes;


“12.  Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.”


Background


Before the Security Council is the twenty-first report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) (document S/2004/228), in which the Secretary-General proposes leaving a residual United Nations peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone until December 2005 to ensure a smooth transfer of security responsibilities to the national Government.  He notes that while there has been progress in consolidating peace in the country, it remains fragile.  The armed forces face "serious shortfalls", making it impossible for the Government to assume responsibility for external security by the time the United Nations Mission is set to expire in December.


The report further points out that "considerable support" is still needed by the Sierra Leone police, while outside funding is essential to the country's economy.  "There is a unanimous view among both Sierra Leoneans and international stakeholders that the progress made so far warrants a carefully managed transfer of responsibility for national security to the Government", the Secretary-General states, recommending that the Council establish a residual United Nations force in Sierra Leone comprising 3,250 troops, plus 141 United Nations military observers and 80 United Nations civilian police personnel.  The operation would run through the end of 2005.  The UNAMSIL, which now has 11,000 troops, expects to downsize to 5,000 by December 2004.


The proposal will also facilitate the work of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, according to the report, which notes that some members of the Sierra Leone Armed Forces have become disaffected by poor conditions of service and still support Johnny Paul Koroma, an indicted former military leader.


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