EXPERT PANEL ON LIBERIA PRESENTS REPORT TO SECURITY COUNCIL, WITH PROPOSALS FOR FURTHERING PEACE IN MANO RIVER REGION

5 November 2001
SC/7196

EXPERT PANEL ON LIBERIA PRESENTS REPORT TO SECURITY COUNCIL, WITH PROPOSALS FOR FURTHERING PEACE IN MANO RIVER REGION

5/11/2001
Press ReleaseSC/7196

Security Council

4405th Meeting* (AM)

EXPERT PANEL ON LIBERIA PRESENTS REPORT TO SECURITY COUNCIL,

WITH PROPOSALS FOR FURTHERING PEACE IN MANO RIVER REGION

Violations of Bans on Arms, Diamond Export, Official Travel Investigated;

Liberia’s Foreign Minister Says Report Does Not Address Government’s Compliance

The report of the Panel of Experts on Liberia had delineated specific recommendations, whose timely implementation would help further the peace process in the Mano River region, Martin Chungong Ayafor (Cameroon), Chairman of that Panel, told the Security Council this morning, as he presented that report to its members.  The Mano River region consists of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

The Panel of Experts was appointed by the Secretary-General to investigate violations of the arms embargo against Liberia, the ban on the export of Liberian diamonds, and the travel ban on senior officials of the Liberian Government, which were imposed by the Security Council in March of this year in resolution 1343, as it demanded that Liberia cease support for the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Sierra Leone.

Mr. Ayafor said that, when the Panel embarked upon its mandate in mid-April, there were active hostilities in the Mano River region.  Six months on, while there was improvement, there was still active conflict in Lofa County in Liberia and the possibility of Sierra Leone lapsing back into conflict, if the RUF of Sierra Leone refused to release its hold on some of the best diamond areas.  In order to curtail the support to RUF Rebels and to maintain a lasting peace agreement in Sierra Leone, Liberia’s total disengagement from the RUF must be ensured.

The Director, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Ed Tsui, said Liberia was one of the least developed countries in the world with poor prospects for economic development.  The fragile situation could be worsened if sanctions were not accompanied by increased donor response.  He stressed that the Liberian economy was highly dependent on the export of natural products.  Should the Council consider further sanctions, it should also take into account the intended impact on the Liberian people.

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*     The 4404th Meeting was closed.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Liberia, Monie R. Captan, said the Experts’ report was void of any substantive relevance, and covered activities that preceded the adoption of resolution 1343 (2001).  The report did not address in any meaningful way the question of compliance by the Government to the critical provisions of the resolution, nor did it concentrate on the measurable progress made to achieve the objectives of the resolution.  He noted that the Mano River Union countries had agreed on specific recommendations and a work plan and timetable for their implementation.

Meanwhile, the international community and the Council had ignored Liberia’s security concerns, even though they could have a long-term negative impact on the subregion.  He called on the Council to remove the constraints on the Government, so that Liberia could defend its territory and sovereignty.  He emphasized that there was a direct correlation between the imposition of sanctions and the decline in the living standards of the Liberian people.

The representative of Singapore asked what was the point of having a database, if the information and evidence obtained by such panels was only stored and not acted upon.  The same criminal networks were repeatedly mentioned, beginning with the Fowler Report, and subsequently referred to in the reports of the panels on both Sierra Leone and Liberia.  The lack of follow-up further damaged the credibility of the United Nations sanctions themselves.  The panels appeared to have only a one-time impact.  The countries investigated needed only show compliance for the duration of the Panel's mandate, because there was no one to monitor them after it left.

While implementation of the sanctions was the responsibility of each Member State, she said, their effectiveness could be increased if they were monitored.  A permanent monitoring mechanism in the Secretariat could assist States in ensuring a more professional and through implementation, than could ad hoc panels.  Such a mechanism could also assist the Council's work by acting as its link with sanctions committees and other United Nations agencies.

A number of speakers also asked for clarification about press allegations on connections between Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda organization and the illicit diamond trade in Sierra Leone and Liberia. 

Statements were also made by the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Sierra Leone, as well as the representatives of Ukraine, Norway, Colombia, Mali, Mauritius, Bangladesh, France, China, Tunisia, Russian Federation, Ireland, United Kingdom, United States, Jamaica, Belgium (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), and Guinea.

The meeting, which began at 10:15 a.m., was adjourned at 1:30 p.m.

Background

When the Security Council met this morning, it had before it the report of the Panel of Experts appointed by the Secretary-General on 29 March 2001 to investigate violations of the arms embargo against Liberia, the ban on export of Liberian diamonds, and the travel ban on senior officials of the Liberian Government (document S/2001/1015).

The Panel was mandated to collect information on compliance by the Government of Liberia with resolution 1343 (2001), which demands that the Government:  expel members of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) from Liberia; cease all financial and military support to the RUF; cease all direct and indirect import of Sierra Leone rough diamonds; freeze funds or financial resources or assets controlled by the RUF in Liberia; and ground all Liberian registered aircraft.

The Panel was also directed to investigate possible links between the exploitation of natural resources and other forms of economic activity in Liberia, and the fuelling of the conflict in Sierra Leone and neighbouring countries.  It was mandated further to collect information linked to the illegal activities of specific individuals referred to in an earlier report on the situation in Sierra Leone, as well as information concerning any other alleged violations of resolution 1343 (2001).

The Panel of Experts consisted of the Chairman, Martin Chungong Ayafor (Cameroon), an expert from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) (Senegal), an arms and transportation expert (Belgium), an expert from the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) (India), and a diamond expert (United Kingdom).

The report states that in mid-April, when the Panel embarked upon its mandate, there were active hostilities in the three Mano River Union countries (Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia).  Six months on, there are significant signs of improvement in the region, but there is still active conflict in Lofa County in Liberia and the possibility of Sierra Leone gravitating back into the conflict, if the RUF does not want to release its hold on some of the best diamond areas.  There has been a proliferation in the use of non-State actors in the conflicts in the Mano River Union.  Those groups obtained weapons from State supporters, from their trade in diamonds, alluvial gold, cocoa and coffee or from their military action.  Liberia’s relationship with the RUF had continued. Throughout 2001, RUF units have been fighting with Liberian units in Lofa County.

The Panel states that irregularities with respect to Liberian-registered aircraft were directly related to violations of the arms embargo.  The Security Council grounded all Liberian-registered aircraft until a new registration process, in compliance with international civil aviation regulations, could be put in place.  Some aircraft might still be operating abroad with an EL-prefix painted on the tail, but this is beyond the control of the Liberian Civil Aviation Authority and should be dealt with at the airports where these planes are seen and can be grounded.  The Panel suggests that the Council consider lifting the grounding order and allow Liberia to reopen an aircraft register in coordination with ICAO.

In most of the arms trafficking cases, the report states, transport was a crucial element and in all such cases the planes used had been subject to document fraud, forgery of flight plans and irregularities with respect to the registration of aircraft.  The registrations of the aircraft from Centrafrican Airlines in the Central African Republic are of particular importance, because these planes were used for arms transportation in violation of the sanctions on Liberia.  The Panel recommends that the Civil Aviation Authorities in the Central African Republic transmit to Interpol the Court documents about Centrafrican Airlines; publish these Court documents on the Government’s Web site; and coordinate urgently with Equatorial Guinea and the United Arab Emirates over the use by Centrafrican Airlines of forged documents.

During its investigations, the Panel found illegally registered aircraft an endemic problem.  It recommends that ICAO proactively educate its members on the dangers of illegal registrations and that the member States computerize their registration lists and centralize them on the ICAO Web site, so that users could check the situation and status of each aircraft.  ICAO’s safety oversight programme should place greater emphasis on aircraft registration.

The Panel recommends that all the aircraft owned, operated or insured by San Air, Centrafrican Airlines and West Africa Air Services be grounded immediately. The grounding order could be lifted gradually for each individual aircraft, provided all the records of the aircraft are inspected by both the Civil Aviation Authority in the country of registration and in the country where the aircraft has its maintenance base.

The Panel states that a steady flow of new weapons continues to enter into the country.  It recommends that:  the arms embargo on Liberia be extended; all United Nations Member States abstain from supplying weapons to the Mano River Union countries; and an arms embargo be imposed on the armed non-State actors in the three Mano River Union countries.  The Panel also recommends that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) moratorium on small arms be broadened to an information exchange mechanism for all weapons types procured by ECOWAS member States.

The Panel further recommends that each Member State that has ever procured or supplied arms on the basis of an end-user certificate mentioning specific suspect companies conduct a thorough investigation on the actual delivery and end-use of the arms.  The Panel urgently recommends the establishment of a United Nations working group to develop a standardized end-user certificate that would include the name, address and telephone number of the signing authority for the certificate, and name, address, telephone number and arms trading license of the broker(s) involved.

The sources and management of government funds were examined by the Panel in an effort to establish the financing for sanctions busting.  It concluded that the principal source of revenue for these activities between 1999 and 2001 was off-budget spending that was not part of regular government expenditures.  The Panel recommends that the practice of allocating revenues at source for priority expenditure should be eliminated.  All revenues should be consolidated in a central government account at the Central Bank of Liberia before being allocated to authorized agencies for approved expenditures.

The report explains that logging is a mainstay of export earnings for the Government, and President Charles Taylor has taken a personal interest in the allocation of timber concessions.  In January 2000, a new National Forestry Law declared that all forest resources are the property of the Government, except for communal and privately owned forest resources that have been developed through artificial regeneration.  New concessions require final approval by the President.  Several Spanish and French enterprises lost their concessions to the United Logging Company, of which President Taylor’s son is Chairman.  Timber companies complained that making a profit in Liberia is difficult, except for the mega-concessions that are engaged in non-selective felling and processing massive volumes of round logs.  Presidential favour is an important ingredient in cutting operational costs.  Some of the timber companies are directly involved in violations of the sanctions against Liberia.

The Panel recommends that the Government reach agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over the commissioning of an independent detailed report on revenue from the timber concessions for the January 2001-July 2002 period, and that the United Nations impose a ban on all round-log exports from Liberia from July 2002.  It should strongly encourage local operators to diversify into wood processing before that date.

The Panel also examined Liberia’s diamond industry, another source of natural resource revenue for the Government.  Sanctions were imposed on the export of Liberian rough diamonds following the conclusions of a December 2000 report that illustrated how diamonds far in excess of the quality or quantity available in Liberia had been imported with its provenance and origin.  The larger illicit trade provided Liberia with a convenient cover for the export of conflict diamonds from Sierra Leone, although many of the so-called “Liberian” production emanated from other sources (most notably Russia), and was falsely declared “Liberian” for tax purposes.

The imposition of an embargo on the export of Liberian rough diamonds, coupled with progress in the peace process in Sierra Leone, has resulted in a marked decline of diamonds labelled as “Liberian” reaching international markets, the report states.  Dealers and brokers, however, are seeking to camouflage their Liberian diamonds as those from neighbouring countries markets.  Following the imposition of a diamond embargo on Liberia, the closure of the border until September 2001, and the war in Lofa County, little diamond trade now passes through to Liberia from Sierra Leone.

The Panel suggests that better monitoring, increasing the cost of getting caught, and the requirement to state the origin of a stone, rather than just the provenance, could help in the process of separating out conflict diamonds from other alluvials.  Better policing of dealers can help, but ensuring that Liberia has its own credible certification scheme will ensure that less Liberian rough are deliberately mixed with rough of neighbouring countries.  The Panel encourages the Liberian Government to put in place a credible and transparent certification scheme that is independently audited by an internationally recognized audit company.  The Panel stresses that regular and accurate publication of official annual rough diamond import/export statistics is crucial.  In the end, the only guaranteed way to resolve the conflict diamond issue is to create conditions in a country that result in the label “conflict” being made redundant.

With 1,734 vessels registered under its flag, the report says, Liberia is the second largest maritime fleet in the world.  The registry provides some 25 per cent of government revenue.  The Panel states that the Commissioner of Maritime Affairs and his Maritime Affairs Bureau are little more than a cash extraction operation and cover from which to fund and organize opaque off-budget expenditures, including for sanctions busting.  It recommends that an escrow account be set up by the Security Council Committee as the ultimate destination for all revenues generated from the shipping and corporate registry.  The Government of Liberia and the IMF should agree to audit the account to determine all revenues generated by the shipping and corporate registry and to determine the use of the revenue in this account.  The funds in the account should be designated for development purposes.

The travel ban has generally worked successfully, the Panel goes on to say.  The Panel encourages the Security Council Committee to reply to individual requests about the ban promptly and expeditiously.  The Panel also recommends that the Committee set up a Liberia travel ban Web page where the Committee’s criteria on how names have been put on the list is described.  The Web page should also provide information on how to apply for travel exemptions and have a section on who currently has an exemption to travel.  The Web site should be publicized as a resource for immigration and law enforcement agencies to keep track of who is on the travel ban list, and who has exemptions.  The Security Council Sanctions Branch should also compile a photographic database of key individuals on the ban list.

Finally, the Panel recommends that the Secretariat appoint a Liberian officer within the Sanctions Department of the Department of Political Affairs to monitor compliance of resolution 1343 (2001) from New York, develop databases of violation reports and write request letters and make telephone inquiries about such reports.  This person should also act as an in-house researcher for the Security Council Committee, able to assist in monitoring compliance of the travel ban and requests for travel exemptions.  Also, there should be an ongoing assessment of Liberia’s compliance with resolution 1343 (2001) on the ground.  To achieve that, the mandate for the current Panel should be renewed for two short periods in 2002 for missions to visit West Africa with the Liberian officer appointed by the Secretariat.

Statements

KISHORE MAHBUBANI (Singapore), Chairman of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1343 (2001) concerning Liberia, making introductory remarks this morning, said the report by the Panel of Experts on Liberia was the culmination of six months of thorough work.  He complimented the Panel on its clear and thorough rendering of the facts.

MARTIN CHUNGONG AYAFOR (Cameroon), Chairman of the Panel of Experts on Liberia, said that, in carrying out its mandate, the Panel requested specific information from the relevant countries regarding certain arms shipments, the movement of suspicious aircraft used for illegal transportation of arms and ammunition, and other aspects of the mandate.  It had also travelled extensively to countries where information could be obtained.  Some countries volunteered information and invited the Panel to verify it.  In others, the Panel cooperated with the authorities to obtain details on certain activities taking place within their jurisdiction.

He said there had been a lot of mystique attached to several places in the subregion of Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire.  The Panel visited all such areas, wherever it was humanly possible, received useful cooperation and assistance from several international organizations and used evidentiary standards throughout its investigations.  Wherever possible, it also considered putting allegations to those concerned in order to allow them the right to reply.  A significant number of countries also came forward with useful information on individuals behind certain shady companies and their financial transactions.

He said that in response to the oft-repeated question -- where is the evidence? -- the Panel had traced and reconstructed the entire sequence of events starting from the origin of the weapons to the end destination, using documentary evidence and direct eyewitness accounts of the persons involved.  Concerning the planes involved in the illegal supply of arms to Liberia, the Panel had copies of contracts signed by contracting parties; requests and permissions for overflight and landing; flight plans, cargo manifests, airway bills, documents showing owners or the operating agency of the aircraft involved; and pilot logbooks and insurance documents for the cargo and the planes involved.

He said that, in collecting all that evidence, the Panel was able to identify the most important networks supplying Liberia and the RUF and to give an analysis of the key players in those networks.  The Panel was also able to document how and through which bank accounts those arms shipments were financed.

He said in mid-April when the Panel embarked upon its mandate, there were active hostilities in the three Mano River Union countries -– Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.  Six months on, while there were significant signs of improvement in the situation and regional diplomatic efforts were under way to further advance bilateral relations between the three States, there was still active conflict in Lofa County in Liberia and the possibility of Sierra Leone lapsing back into conflict if the RUF refused to release its hold on some of the best diamond areas.  In order to curtail the support to RUF rebels and to maintain a lasting peace agreement in Sierra Leone, Liberia’s total disengagement from the RUF must be ensured.

He said there had also been a proliferation of the use of non-State actors in conflicts in the Mano River Union countries.  Those groups obtained weapons from State supporters, their trade in diamonds, alluvial gold, cocoa and coffee, as well as from their military action.  The junction of the borders of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone had been the fault zone where those groups had thrived, he stressed.

He said that, in addition to the findings indicated in the report, the Panel had collected evidence that was not included in the report because it did not meet the high evidentiary criteria set.  In some cases, further investigation would be required to collect incontrovertible evidence to support the case.  That included the case of the supply of ammunition to non-State actors in the subregion.

He said the Panel report had delineated a series of specific recommendations for the areas covered.  Timely implementation of those recommendations would go a long way in furthering the peace process in the subregion and maintaining the momentum.  In many of the countries visited by the Panel, information sharing and cooperation had led to visible changes in the behaviour of trafficking networks. Airline companies, for example, had moved their operations; key individuals had changed addresses and phone numbers; while some operations had stopped. 

ED TSUI, Director, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said the civil war in Liberia had taken a heavy toll on the economy, with disastrous effects on the social system and the country’s infrastructure.  It was one of the least developed countries in the world.  The country also suffered from a lack of economic diversification and had poor prospects for economic development.  Most of the population was affected by high levels of unemployment and a lack of basic services. Lofa County, once the country’s breadbasket, had suffered significantly.  However, the fragile situation could be worsened if sanctions were not accompanied by increased donor response.  So far, the donor contribution had been disappointing.

He said a ban on Liberia timber exports would affect 90,000 people, who would lose their primary means of support.  Moreover, a shortfall in timber revenue would have carry-over effects to other areas, including shipping and related plywood factories.  It also provided large sums of revenue in taxes to the Government.  In addition 20,000 people in small-scale rubber holdings would lose their jobs.

Regarding the ship registry, he said, the Liberian Bureau of Maritime Affairs was the register for 1,600 ships.  It generated revenues that represented 20 per cent of the Liberian Government’s income.  Most of the business was carried out in other countries and would not affect the population directly, but it would affect the Government.

He stressed that the Liberian economy was highly dependent on the export of natural products.  Additional sanctions would particularly affect the most vulnerable of the Liberian population.  Should the Council consider further sanctions, it should also take into account the unintended impact on the Liberian people.

VALERY P. KUCHINSKY (Ukraine) said the Panel report was a detailed document that provided further understanding of the armed networks that impeded peace and security in parts of Africa and prevented the implementation of Security Council resolutions.  It offered a number of worthy recommendations aimed at strengthening measures taken by the Council to bring peace and security to countries of the region.  Those recommendations were useful terms of reference for further discussion.

He said that, in principle, his delegation supported the proposed measures aimed at preventing forced aircraft registrations.  It also supported a number of recommendations on weapons, especially those intended to curb the activities of non-State actors in the Mano River Union countries, which continued to destabilize the situation in the subregion.  He expressed support for the creation of a permanent body in the United Nations Secretariat to conduct comprehensive monitoring of sanctions regimes.  Addressing the economic sanctions imposed on Liberia, he said the Panel had made several recommendations vis-à-vis the violation of Council resolutions, and they warranted closer consideration.

In a few days, the Council would embark on a second review of the effectiveness of its Liberian sanctions regime.  His delegation was ready to engage in scrupulous work and careful analysis, so that the course of action taken by the Council would be justifiable and aimed at restoring peace and security in West Africa.

OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) said the report on Liberia's implementation of the sanctions regime imposed six months ago was a very good example of how the international community wanted an expert panel to function -– an independent compiling of acts and an assessment of the activities on the ground, with concrete recommendations as to how a sanctions regime could be made more efficient or possibly strengthened.  The positive aspects were obvious; the sanctions had indeed had an impact.  Six months ago, there were active hostilities in all three Mano River Union countries, and today there were what the Panel termed significant signs of improvement in the region.

However, he continued, everyone was aware that the situation in Sierra Leone was still volatile.  The country could again be drawn into conflict.  The many armed non-State groups in the area, and particularly at the junction of the borders of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, still obtained weapons from various sources.  Among them, the RUF still had access to rich diamond fields.  The actions of both the RUF and the other groups operating in those border areas could easily destabilize the region again.  For that reason, it seemed right that the Panel report recommended that the sanctions on arms and diamonds be continued.

The international community must make every effort in ensuring that existing and possible extended sanctions did not inflict further hardship and suffering on the Liberian civilian population.  It was a prime concern for the Norwegian Government that the negative humanitarian consequences of sanctions were minimized as much as possible.  The sanctions had so far been targeted at the Liberian regime's ability to aid and sustain the civil war in Sierra Leone through its support to the RUF.  The Norwegian Government sought clarification about press reports linking the Osama bin Laden organization with the illegal trade in rough diamonds.

ALFONSO VALDIVIESO (Colombia) said the sanctions against Liberia were designed to promote peace.  Essential attention must be given to accurate targeting and calibration of the measures, as the Council did not intend to direct the sanctions against the people of Liberia.  There needed also to be a favourable attitude on the part of the Government if the sanctions were to succeed.  According to the Panel report, the Government had sometimes responded positively, but not always.  That resulted in only partial effectiveness and necessitated a  readjustment of the measures.  There needed also to be cooperation on the part of Member States which, in the opinion of the Experts, had been deficient in complying with the sanctions.   The sanctions regime must be observed with vigilance, and Member States must conduct themselves accordingly.

The sanctions had been partly successful, he said.  The incursions of rebel groups along the Guinean border had been neutralized, but there were still violations of the arms embargo.  It would be advisable to call for compliance with the Council resolution of 31 August on small arms.  Greater vigilance was necessary with regard to intermediaries in arms sales.  The passive nature of some exporting countries and their lack of cooperation benefited the arms traffickers.

He supported the Panel’s report and its call for greater cooperation between the members of ECOWAS.  The international community was facing a situation of regional instability.  He congratulated the members of the Mano River Union on their attempts to bring stability to the region.  The measures adopted by the Council must not worsen the situation.  He expressed concern that the official propaganda of Liberia might convince the population that their weak economic and social situation, which was a result of poor government administration, had been caused by the United Nations.  The Council must ensure that the measures already adopted by the Council be respected.  He would support extending the mandate of the Group of Experts.  The Council must not be lacking in its commitment to ensure peace and stability for the people of the region.

MOCTAR OUANE (Mali) said he wished to emphasize that his country, like other members of ECOWAS, attached great importance to the implementation of Council resolution 1343 (2001) which aimed to promote peace in the subregion.  In efforts to have Liberia change its regional conduct, ECOWAS had sent two missions to that country to verify that measures had been taken by the relevant authorities to meet the demands of the international community.  Those missions had been followed up by recommendations, including one for the creation of a mechanism to monitor the implementation of sanctions.

Turning to the humanitarian situation in Liberia, he noted that the Secretary-General had called it disturbing and shocking.  Eight years of civil war had bled the country dry, destroyed the economic infrastructure, and had a devastating impact on vulnerable populations.  In that light, one had to ask whether the sanctions contained in resolution 1343 had worsened the situation.  Whether that was true or not, the Secretary-General had drawn attention to the damage that further sanctions could cause.  If the credibility of the sanctions regime were to be preserved and desired objectives attained, the Secretary-General’s recommendation of a mechanism for monitoring the effect of sanctions on the humanitarian situation in Liberia must be heeded.

He stressed that international assistance to Liberia should also be resumed. The Council must continue to exercise its responsibility to Liberia and its people, while aid organizations in that country must be strengthened.  He also stressed the need to put in perspective the positive developments in the Mano River Union.  He welcomed recent efforts by the Liberian Government to improve its relations with both Guinea and Sierra Leone.  It was also essential to continue the development of true partnerships between ECOWAS and the Council.  Moreover, he underscored that sanctions were not the only means available, nor were they necessarily the best solution.

JAGDISH KOONJUL (Mauritius) said the report brought to the attention of the Council a mixed bag of good news and bad news out of Liberia.  The good news was that the Government had taken some positive measures to implement some of the demands of Security Council resolution 1343.  It had grounded all the Liberian registered aircraft, and the civil aviation authorities in Liberia were pursuing their efforts of identifying and localizing the registered aircraft.  Also, there had been no official export of diamonds since May, when an embargo was imposed on Liberian diamonds.  The travel ban, which the Panel considered to be the most effective sanction, appeared to be working well.

But, he said, there was bad news.  There was deep concern over the continued relationship between the Government and the RUF in Sierra Leone.  Despite the reassurances of the Government of Liberia that it had curtailed its relationship with the RUF, the Panel of Experts reported that was not the case.  RUF units were involved in the fighting that continued in Lofa County in Liberia.  The operative section of Security Council resolution 1343 hinged on measures that would bring an end to the relationship and support that the Government had been providing to the RUF.  The main thrust of the Security Council's action had been to put an end to the destabilizing role President Charles Taylor had been playing in the region.  The RUF rebels were being used as a counter-insurgency force in the bush against dissident activities in Liberia.

He said Liberia today stood among the world's poorest countries.  Eighty per cent of the population lived in abject poverty on less than a dollar a day.  Under-development, war and the inability to re-establish political and economic stability in the post-war period had left Liberia at the bottom of the human development index.  In fact, it ranked 174th out of 175 countries.  Given the situation, there was concern that the natural resources of Liberia continued to be plundered to provide for the comfort and luxury of the Liberian leadership.  In December 2000, approximately $73,000 was spent on helicopter repairs and Christmas presents for the President's family and friends.  It was important for the Government to uphold the principles of accountability and good governance.

SHAMEEM AHSAN (Bangladesh) said there were doubts whether an extension of the arms embargo on the three Mano River Union countries would have the intended results.  Bangladesh valued the recommendations concerning the development of a standard, universal end-user certificate, which addressed the demand end of the problem.  He, however, noted the lack of attention in the report given to the need to have regulatory frameworks addressed at the arms-producing and -exporting countries, which would look into the supply side of the problem.

Speaking on civil aviation, he said useful recommendations had been made in the report.  However, in the absence of an effective air traffic control system in the region, and a primary, or even a secondary radar, much of the airspace of West Africa remained unmonitored.  Planes could fly in and out easily, without being detected.  The companies that were involved in trafficking arms could be shut down at any time, and recommendations in that regard had been made.  However, the traffickers would only have to open new front companies to be back in business.  The countries of the region must be helped to develop an effective air traffic control system to monitor their airspace, so that the sanctions were not undermined.

He said the Council had been confronted with various statistics regarding the gravity of the impact of sanctions.  Putting the issue of their authenticity aside, it was clear that there would be a humanitarian impact.  The Security Council should not only continue to monitor the impact of sanctions on Liberia, it must also come up with ways to mitigate the suffering of the Liberian population.  Otherwise, the Council would not only lose the propaganda battle on the ground, it would also very soon be seen to be hurting the innocent.  If the humanitarian situation was aggravated, it could definitely undermine international support for sanctions.  Humanitarian assistance to Liberia had already dropped in recent months.  Humanitarian assistance must be de-linked from the sanctions, and donors must come forward in assisting the Liberian population in mitigating their suffering.

YVES DOUTRIAUX (France) recalled that he had offered a proposal for a standing mechanism to monitor all of the Council's sanctions regimes.  He said  the Panel reports provided the elements necessary to judge the effects of the sanctions.  There must be a direct effect on the establishment of new sanctions, and the humanitarian consequences must be taken into account.

He said his Government supported efforts for greater effectiveness of the arms embargo, particularly with regard to weapons that continued to be exported in the Mano River Union.  He favoured  resumed exports of crude diamonds from Liberia within the context of a certification system under Council control.  Measures against the logging industry might have an impact on 100,000 people.  He called for an audit to enable the Council to get specific information on the situation before next May, when it would consider an extension of sanctions.

He approved putting the revenue of the Maritime Affairs Bureau in escrow.  He agreed with supplementing the Group of Experts with a small team in the field, to assist the Government with implementation of the resolution.

Commenting on a newspaper article which had alleged a possible connection between Osama bin Laden and diamonds from Sierra Leone, he asked the Chairman's opinion on the matter.

SHEN GUOFANG (China) expressed his Government’s interest in the Panel’s recommendations for improvement of the existing sanctions, including allowing Liberia to reopen its aircraft registry and establishing a Web site for information on the travel ban.  Those recommendations deserved further consideration, he said.

He added that since the imposition of sanctions last March, there had been major progress in the peace process.  The RUF had basically adopted a positive attitude towards the peace process.  However, there were still violations of the arms embargo, indicating the presence of major loopholes in the sanctions.

Sanctions had resulted in serious repercussions in the country.  The international community should demonstrate the necessary concern and offer more humanitarian assistance.  The Council should take into account any possible humanitarian effect of the sanctions.  It  should continue to adopt a regional and integrated approach and focus on the Sierra Leone peace process.  Other reports should be studied, and the Council should listen to the views of all sides.  It should closely study the recommendations of all reports in order to create the conditions for the ultimate attainment of peace in West Africa.

NOUREDDINE MEJDOUB (Tunisia) said a question raised by Ambassador Mahbubani was whether sanctions had proven to be effective in Liberia.  There was no easy answer.  The peace process in Sierra Leone had made progress.  Changed behaviour within the RUF was ascribed to the pressure that had been brought to bear on the Liberian Government.  If that was the case, the answer to Mr. Mahbubani’s question was yes.  Yet, the situation on the ground was not that clear.  The RUF had always had its own agenda.  The Panel had also reported a number of violations of sanctions, demonstrating the need to set up a monitoring mechanism.  Although sanctions had not had a direct impact on the Liberian population, they had led to a devaluation of the local currency and inflation.  In that light, one had to question the validity of “targeted sanctions”.

He said another question was whether some sanctions should be changed or adjusted.  If so, how and to what extent should they be changed?  Again, the answer was not easy.  Dialogue had to be maintained with Liberia in order to find solutions to the crises affecting the Mano River region and Sierra Leone. Addressing the issue of diamonds, he called on the bodies involved to provide urgent assistance to the Liberian Government so that a reliable system of certification could be set up.  Systems must also be set up to end the illegal trafficking of Liberian diamonds.  Monitoring mechanisms must be established on the ground to investigate the origins of weapons in the Mano River region.

He said the imposition of new sanctions on Liberia brought the situation in Iraq immediately to mind.  If the Liberian sanctions regime were to be expanded, the similarities between it and the Iraqi regime would be quite striking in terms of their humanitarian impact.  The devastating repercussions of more sanctions on the Liberian people could not be disregarded.  The Council must avoid using purely punitive measures or those not directly related to the objectives set out in resolution 1343.  How could it be ensured that existing or future sanctions were perfectly targeted, he asked, especially when it seemed that smart sanctions were not quite as smart as one would like.  He also stressed that the Council actions that would follow the Panel report must not jeopardize the key achievements made so far in Sierra Leone.

CHRISTINE LEE (Singapore) asked what happened to the information obtained in the Fowler Report.  If the United Nations had a database to store it, what was the point of having it, if the information and evidence obtained by such panels was only stored and not acted upon?  It seemed that the same criminal networks were repeatedly mentioned, beginning with the Fowler Report, and subsequently referred to in the reports of the panels on both Sierra Leone and Liberia.

She said that another negative consequence of that lack of follow-up on information was that it further damaged the credibility of the United Nations sanctions themselves.  The panels appeared to have only a one-time impact.  The countries investigated need only show compliance for the duration of the Panel's mandate, because there was no one to monitor them after it left.  Even when the Panel documented evidence of sanctions-busting, any attempt to respect the sanctions disappeared once the spotlight was off.

While implementation of the sanctions was the responsibility of each Member State, she said, their effectiveness could be increased if there was some monitoring.  A permanent monitoring mechanism in the Secretariat could assist States in ensuring a more professional and through implementation, than could ad hoc panels.  Such a mechanism could also assist the Council's work by acting as its link with sanctions committees and other United Nations agencies.

ANDREY E. GRANOVSKY (Russian Federation) said the Panel report would be helpful in assessing the effectiveness of the sanctions regime against Liberia and in considering further sanctions.  However, he could not fail to see how the humanitarian situation in the country had deteriorated.  The Council could not disregard those factors when it considered further sanctions.

Regarding the sanctions provisions for grounding of aircraft, banning the sale of diamonds and the imposed travel ban, he said he was concerned about those who were circumventing the sanctions.  All of the cases detailed by the Panel must be investigated by the involved States, which should then make available all of the evidence they had collected.  He was prepared to consider proposals for extending the sanctions, taking into account the humanitarian effects.  He recommended carefully considering the studies made by ECOWAS. 

GERARD CORR (Ireland) said the report was crucially balanced.  It made recommendations that acknowledged areas where the Liberian authorities made legitimate efforts to comply with the demands of resolution 1343 (2001), as well as recommendations that took account of the blatant and systematic breaches of the arms embargo by the same authorities.  The Council would need to be flexible, to take into account convincing signs that the Liberian authorities had renounced their connections to the RUF.  The Council also needed to be firm in the face of evidence that the Taylor regime was still violating the demands of the Council with respect to the arms embargo and the demand to expel members of the RUF from Liberia.  In that respect, there were concerns that the ties between the Taylor regime and the RUF were far from broken.

Mr. Corr said the Council did not accept that, because there had been progress, the Council should not consider additional sanctions measures.  The progress achieved of late vindicated the robust and highly professional engagement of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), and the policy of sanctions against the Taylor regime.  The Council demanded last March that the Government of Liberia cease its support for the RUF, and the Council had not seen any indication of a demonstrable change in the attitude of the Monrovia authorities in that regard.  If the January summit produced tangible results, that would be welcomed heartily.

But, he continued, it should be said at the current stage that both deliberate stockpiling of RUF weapons in Liberia and the deployment of RUF personnel were not the actions of an administration working wholeheartedly towards a subregional accord.  The Council owed it to the people of the Mano River Union States to strive to preclude any relapse into open conflict.  While the Council must require the Taylor Government to meet its obligations, it had to avoid, at the same time, measures that would entail the further suffering of an already vulnerable population.  It was highly regrettable that some of the revenues from the legitimate and reputable Liberian Shipping and Corporate Register had been siphoned off to finance arms transactions, rather than pay for desperately needed humanitarian relief and development projects.  It was a dismal reflection of the priorities of the Taylor regime.

JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom) said the question now was about putting pressure on President Charles Taylor, if the destabilization of the region was to be stopped.  A comprehensive ban on Liberian timber, now that Mr. Taylor no longer had other resources to depend on, would deprive him of further revenue.  Revenue from shipping should also go to legitimate Liberian resources.  The travel ban had been an effective instrument for the Council.  While it had to be maintained, it must be updated and be relevant at all times.

He welcomed the report of the Expert Panel and agreed that the Council should respond appropriately where Liberia had complied with the sanctions regime.  The grounding of that country’s aircraft, for example, should be reviewed.  He said donor countries and non-governmental organizations should be encouraged to contribute to remedying the humanitarian situation in Liberia.  In that light, the United Kingdom would continue to do that, having contributed some ₤12 million since 1998.

JAMES CUNNINGHAM (United States) said the Council's imposition last March of an arms embargo, diamond ban and travel restrictions on senior Liberian government officials had resulted from the policies and actions of the Liberian Government and President Charles Taylor, which had caused widespread instability in the region.  Vast portions of Sierra Leone had been illegally occupied and its valuable resources had been looted.  The humanitarian impact of President Taylor's policy in that country had been catastrophic, and his domestic policy had been equally destructive.

He noted that President Taylor's Government had created and sustained one of the world's most brutal insurgencies, the RUF, as its agent in Sierra Leone.  The hardships now faced by the people of Sierra Leone had started not with the imposition of sanctions, but when Charles Taylor took power.  The situation in Liberia, Sierra Leone and neighbouring States would improve only when he stopped supporting the RUF, ceased exploiting the region's natural resources for his own self-aggrandizement, and focused on polices truly designed to help the Liberian people.

Continued targeted sanctions against the Taylor Government were the only way the Council could alleviate the suffering of the Liberian and Sierra Leonean people, he emphasized.  Therefore, existing restrictions on Liberian arms, diamonds and travel by senior officials should remain in place, pending Council review when the mandate of Council resolution 1343 (2001) expired on 7 May 2002.  However, the United States supported resumed flights for properly registered Liberian aircraft.

He said the Council should urge ICAO to work with the United Arab Emirates, the Central African Republic and Equatorial Guinea to ground planes implicated in arms trafficking.  It should also require the Liberian International Shipping and Corporate Registry to hire an independent auditor to review its books every quarter.  He asked why more non-governmental organizations were not involved in helping the Liberian people and why the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) were not doing more.  What was the humanitarian situation in Liberia before sanctions were imposed last March? he asked.

M. PATRICIA DURRANT (Jamaica) said she had noticed the decrease in humanitarian funding.  She urged international donors to increase funding to meet the humanitarian needs of the people.  The Panel had presented a well-researched and comprehensive report that merited careful consideration.  It had reported that a steady flow of arms continued to enter Liberia and had cited the activities on non-State actors.  It was a tragedy that those groups had continued to profit from the continuation of the war.  She supported broadening the ECOWAS moratorium on small arms to an information exchange mechanism for all weapons types procured by ECOWAS member States.  She stressed that the international community must help to institute controls.

She said she supported the recommendations on end-user certificates and for developing a standardized end-user certificate.  She would also welcome the establishment of a certification of diamonds regime subject to international standards and scrutiny.  The effective implementation of sanctions required the enhancement of institutional mechanisms.  She supported the establishment of

in-house regimes to monitor the sanctions regime in Liberia.  It was critical that sanctions measures be carefully balanced.  The ultimate goal was to ensure that the peace process remained on track.

MONIE R. CAPTAN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Liberia, said that, although his Government had not had sufficient time to study the Panel report, he was glad it had been issued so that the Liberian Government would not be repeatedly confronted with selective leaks and speculations.  The report was void of any substantive relevance, especially as it related to the mandate of the Panel.  It was subsumed with activities that preceded the adoption of resolution 1343 (2001), leading to the conclusion that the Panel had sought to vindicate itself from the inherent flaws of the original report that had contributed to the imposition of sanctions on Liberia.  The current report did not address in any meaningful way the question of compliance by the Government to the critical provisions of the resolution.  All of the Government’s actions were relegated to meaningless comments, while a disproportionate amount of time was spent on issues that should have been adequately addressed in the original report.

The Government of Liberia was in compliance with resolution 1343 (2001) and those issues should have been the primary focus of the Panel’s report, he said.  The report did not concentrate on the measurable progress made to achieve the objectives of the resolution.  The Council had intimated to the Government that the sanctions were intended to bring pressure on the Government of Liberia and not intended to be punitive in nature. 

He said the President of Liberia had recently communicated to the Secretary-General his views on the issues underpinning the crisis in Sierra Leone, the impact of sanctions on Liberia and regional efforts at establishing peace and stability in the subregion.  The Mano River Union countries had held high-level discussions that resulted in specific and concrete recommendations and a work plan and time table for implementation.  Crucial among the measures were the deployment of joint border security and confidence-building units, sharing of intelligence, expulsion of all dissidents and those in violation of the Union’s Non-Aggression Treaty and protection of refugees.  The Foreign Ministers would meet in Freetown on 11 December to assess the level of progress.  The three heads of State were scheduled to meet in January.

He said Liberia’s security concerns were a critical issue that the international community and the Council had ignored, even though it could have a long-term negative impact on the subregion.  Liberia had been under sustained attack from dissidents in Lofa County and many had been killed, internally displaced or turned into refugees.  Conditions in the internally displaced camps were critical.  The Government had been unable to secure the means to adequately defend its territory and people.  His Government would like the Council to remove those constraints so that Liberia, in a transparent way, could defend its territory and sovereignty. 

He called the Council’s attention to the suffering of the Liberian people.  What was bad had been made worse by the sanctions.  Resolution 1343 (2001) was having punitive effects.  Liberia had received no official development assistance, and donor assistance and non-governmental organization activities had declined over the past four years.  Listing statistics of the current situation in Liberia, he said, unemployment was at 85 per cent, illiteracy at 80 per cent, and that

21 per cent of urban dwellers and 80 per cent of rural dwellers had no access to safe drinking water.  There was a direct correlation between the imposition of sanctions and the decline in the living standards of the Liberian people.  He expressed concern over the apparent inequity by which resolution 1343 (2001) was administered.  While the report drew attention to the negative influence of non-State actors, there had been no condemnation of the attacks against Liberia.  Dissidents’ attacks were the major cause of suffering in Lofa County.  The Council was obliged to respond to that aggression, as it would respond to similar acts of aggression elsewhere.  When double standards were used in the dispositions of international disputes, efforts to achieve genuine peace were undermined.  .

STÉPHANE DE LOECKER (Belgium) spoke on behalf of the European Union and the associated States of Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta.

He said that sanctions were imposed with a clear aim:  creating a propitious environment for the peaceful resolution of the crisis in Sierra Leone.  A peaceful resolution implied that links should be broken between Liberia and the RUF, who had profited for too long from that external support and conducted a merciless  war against the people of Sierra Leone.  The Union reiterated that the Liberian Government had to respect the dispositions of resolution 1343 (2001).  It was also that Government’s responsibility to have the sanctions against it lifted.  The imposition of sanctions was part of a more comprehensive strategy aimed at

re-establishing security in the region.  The international community could not allow its efforts to continue to be sabotaged by manoeuvrings at the regional level.

Unfortunately, he continued, six months after the establishment of the sanctions regime, the Panel reported serious violations of that regime.  It was obvious that those violations were only possible, thanks to the complicity of unscrupulous individuals and certain countries.  The Union believed that it was indispensable that those involved be made to face their responsibilities and fulfil the obligations incumbent upon them under the Charter.  He stressed that there should not be any exception to the implementation of sanctions.  The Panel report was an invaluable tool, which would hopefully increase the effectiveness of monitoring the sanctions regime.  But, it was only one element in the equation.  Nothing could be achieved without the cooperation of a multitude of players both within the United Nations and elsewhere.

He went on to say that highlighting sanctions violations was far from sufficient.  The Council must send a firm and unambiguous message to all those involved, urging them to implement its decisions immediately and in full.  Another important initiative was currently under way –- the Kimberley Process, which aimed to establish an international certification system for diamonds.  The Union strongly supported that initiative and hoped that the Process would bear fruit at this General Assembly.  The Union also supported the Secretary-General’s proposal to create a mechanism responsible for regularly reviewing the humanitarian and economic impact of the sanctions on Liberia, if the Council were to adopt additional sanctions.

FRANÇOIS L. FALL (Guinea) stressed his country’s concern at the many flagrant violations of resolution 1343 (2001).  The arms embargo on Liberia should be maintained.  An arms embargo should also be imposed on armed non-State actors of the three countries of the Mano River Union.

He said that a credible and transparent certification regime for Liberian diamonds should be established.  A reliable system must also be established in subregional airports to prevent persons with travel bans from travelling.  He said there had been significant progress in Guinea and Sierra Leone because of the sanctions under Council resolution 1343 (2001) and because Guinean armed forces had regained control of the situation on the ground and could now push back attacks by rebel troops.  He stressed the need to activate the many organs of the Mano River Union.  Stability and security would require that all members comply with the relevant treaties that bound their countries.  In carrying out such efforts, his delegation was sure of the full support of the Council.

SAHR MATTURI, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Sierra Leone, said the Panel report was a silent but potent contribution to the peace process.  The measures imposed on Liberia were preferable to launching military action against that country.  The international community should remind itself of the reasons behind the imposition of the sanctions.  Liberia’s support for armed rebels, particularly the RUF, had caused the Council to call on Liberia to cease support to the RUF.  He supported the Panel’s findings.

He said the Panel had already suggested a course of action.  He welcomed the President’s statement that members of the Council were committed to continued monitoring of the implementation of resolution 1343 (2001).  He looked forward to further discussion by the Sanctions Committee on implementation of the Panel's recommendations.  He was concerned about recent revelations that Al Qaeda had connections with the diamond industry of Sierra Leone, and he would appreciate further information. 

Mr. AYAFOR, Chairman of the Panel, said the question about the alleged activities of Osama bin Laden in Liberia had only surfaced at the United Nations after the events of 11 September.  While the Panel had not investigated the presence of Al Qaeda, it had detailed the activities of one of the individuals mentioned in connection with Al Qaeda.  Should it be the intention of the Council to have the situation further investigated, the Panel would not object.

Responding to a request for further clarification on the usefulness of the mechanism proposed by the Panel by which an officer on Liberia would be appointed to the Sanctions Department of the Department of Political Affairs to monitor compliance with resolution 1343 (2001), he explained that the Panel had felt that there would be a vacuum between now and when the Panel could go back into the field.  That vacuum could be filled by an officer from the Secretariat.  That officer could develop a database of whatever violations were registered in the field.  That could also request clarifications, so that the Security Council Committee on Liberia could be informed, and eventually the Security Council itself.

As to why non-governmental activities in the region were limited, he said the Panel could not provide adequate answers on that or why the activities of humanitarian agencies in Liberia had declined.  Perhaps, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs could answer.  The Secretary-General's report had indicated that humanitarian assistance to Liberia had started to decline four years ago, well before the imposition the sanctions.

KEVIN KENNEDY, Director, Humanitarian Emergencies Branch, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, responding to a question about what could be done to highlight humanitarian concerns in Liberia, said that, while the funding sought by non-governmental organizations and United Nations agencies in Liberia was modest, the response was even more modest.  What was needed was more involvement by donor governments. 

He said that at the Aria formula meeting on Liberia increased visibility for the people of Liberia had been stressed.  Tens of thousands of them were in dire shape and in need of acute assistance.  He also underscored establishing the right environment in Liberia, so that assistance could be delivered.

Responding to a question on the humanitarian situation in Liberia both before and after sanctions, he said that situation was abysmal prior to March 2001 and was still abysmal today.

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For information media. Not an official record.