Liberia Accused of Busting UN Arms Embargo, Travel Ban & Related Sanctions
October 18, 2002
A UN Panel of Experts has accused the Liberian government of President Charles Taylor of busting UN sanctions on arms purchases, official travel and illicit diamond trade by importing over 200 tons of military hardware and munitions into Liberia between June and August 2002, and undertaking official travels and illicit diamond sales around the globe with impunity.
The UN Security Council in May 2001 renewed sanctions against Liberia including a ban on official travel by key Liberian government functionaries and business sympathizers, a ban on trading in illicit diamonds from Sierra Leone, and a ban on arms imports into Liberia, but the Liberian government has continuously shown its disdain for the sanctions regime by violating every aspect of the sanctions, according to excerpts of a new report by a UN Panel of Experts monitoring the Liberian sanctions, scheduled for release later this week.
The report said between June and August 2002, a total of six cargo planes loaded with at least 200 tons of machine guns, ammunition, hand grenades, missile launchers, mines and arms spare parts, new rotor engine and helicopter blades landed at the international airport on the outskirts of Monrovia, the Roberts International Airport, to deliver the consignment of arms, ammunition and military and mining hardware to Liberian defense ministry officials.
The report said most of the arms were old Yugoslav army weapons that Liberian officials bought from a Belgrade arms dealer, but delivered to Monrovia under an elaborate scheme involving forged documents intended to deceive U.N. monitors into thinking the shipments were oil drilling equipment intended for Nigeria.
The report also said the diamond embargo on Liberia, and relative peace in the Sierra Leone have resulted in the slow disappearance of `Liberian-labeled stones from the world market, though "Liberian rough diamonds continue to be smuggled to neighboring countries” regardless of noticeable declines in quality and quantity.
The UN Panel of Experts also noted in the report that they believe the Liberian government is violating the travel ban because some of the government officials and business tycoons targeted by the travel ban are reported to have been sighted in various countries in Europe, North America, Africa and the Middle East.
The experts cited "persistent" reports that the Liberian government has been beefing up its frontlines with renegade fighters of the notorious Sierra Leonean rebel group, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), in most of its battlefield offensives intended to dislodge the dissident Liberian United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) from Northern Liberia. The report also quoted former RUF fighter Ibrahim Balde as saying between 1,250 and 1,500 "… hardcore elements of the RUF, mostly Sierra Leoneans, had been integrated in the Anti-Terrorist Unit in Liberia."
In their report, the experts recommended that the arms embargo on Liberia should continue and should be extended to all armed rebel groups in the region, including the LURD. The experts want the UN to urgently set up a working group to draft a standardized end-user certificate that would show the actual recipient of weapons and ammunition to avoid the clandestine offloading of arms and ammunition as in the case of the six planes at the Liberian international airport.