Liberia’s sanctions are holding, UN report says

7 June 2004 –

A United Nations expert panel on Liberia has found no proof of weapons-smuggling into the West African country after August 2003 or of diamond- and timber-smuggling out, and the imposed sanctions contributed significantly to ending the country’s armed conflicts over a 14-year period.

According to the panel’s report, however, “organized, international smuggling networks remain in place and could be reactivated at any time.” While disarmament is progressing, factions may have hidden weapons either in Liberia itself or in neighbouring countries.

Because of poor national security, diamond mining has practically ceased, making smuggling currently negligible, the panel says in its report to the Security Council.

The National Transitional Government of Liberia “has begun taking urgent steps towards the establishment of an effective certificate of origin scheme for trade in rough diamonds that is transparent and internationally verifiable, with a view to joining the Kimberley Process.”

While it found no evidence of “widespread exports” of timber, the panel notes that the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) has not been able to function outside the capital, Monrovia, and in the forests of southeast Liberia. The UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) has not yet been deployed in the forest areas.

“Corruption remains widespread,” it says, “and the task of rebuilding is daunting.”

The fiscal costs of retaining sanctions include lost wages and salaries, it says. Although the level of poverty and illiteracy is high, appropriate steps should be taken to “ensure that they have unhindered access to a fair share of the existing economic opportunities for which, under normal circumstances, their current status would not qualify them.”

The Panel lists 11 names said to have violated – some more than once – the travel ban imposed on senior officials associated with former President Charles Taylor.

Six people had contacted the panel demanding to know why their names were still on the list of banned travellers in March when they had had no contact with Mr. Taylor since he went into exile in Nigeria last year, the report says.

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