Global Policy Forum

Global Witness, ITF Cite Liberia's "Infringements" of UN Sanctions

October 1, 2001

Despite United Nations sanctions imposed on Liberia since May 7, 2001, for its role in fostering the war in Sierra Leone and its illicit trade in diamonds- for-guns, the Taylor government still continues to maintain its criminal infrastructure and other supporting links it has provided to the rebel Revolutionary United Front RUF). Not only is the Liberian government deliberately violating the sanctions imposed, but it has also adopted various other means of circumventing it. These latest developments are chronicled and documented in a 44-page report jointly prepared by the environmental human rights organization, Global Witness and the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), an international trade union workers organization which campaigns against maritime "flags of convenience."

The September 2001, report (called Taylor-Made), cites that despite the targeted sanctions regime , which included a travel ban on Liberian government officials, a ban on diamonds, and an embargo on arms, the Liberian government continues to commit violations against the UN resolution 1343 (2001).

Making reference to the provision which called for the expulsion of all RUF members from Liberia, and the banning of its activities on its territory, the report states:

"The twenty original members of the RUF, called the "RUF VANGUARD" were, as of 19th June 2001, in Liberia. Original members of the RUF, called the "SPECIAL FORCES" are also in Liberia, fighting in Lofa County for President Charles Taylor."

According to the report, Liberian government officials and RUF rebel leaders have found a way around the UN travel Ban:

"Several individuals sited in the 'List of Persons Affected by Resolution 1343 (2001) on Liberia' travel-ban have acquired Sierra Leonean passports thus allowing them to surpass said UN restrictions

"Infringements on the travel-ban Individuals cited in The List of Persons Affected by the Measures Contained in Paragraph 7 of UNSC Resolution 1343 (2001) on the subject of travel restrictions have, as of 19th June 2001, acquired Sierra Leonean passports, making it easier for them to circumvent current restrictions placed upon them by the ban. Several of these individuals are people who are directly linked to President Charles Taylor and to the RUF:

1. Samuel Bockarie (alias Mosquito), whose whereabouts have been indeterminate, nowpossesses a Sierra Leonean passport... He divides his time between Liberia and Normo Farma, Golahun Forkia, in Sierra Leone He is now an Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU) senior member.

2. Brig. General Abu - ATU Deputy Commander

3. Mr. Akkram Basma - Africa Motors, Monrovia, Liberia

4. Hassan Basma - Businessman at Kissy - Road/Sani Abacha Street

5. Jamal Basma - in Freetown

6. Samuel Gibson - Adviser to President Charles Taylor

7. Mr. Keikula B. Kpoto - President Pro-Tempore

"Sierra Leoneans have also assisted more people on the Liberia Restricted Persons List to get Sierra Leonean passports. Some of these applications are allegedly coming from the United States or the United Kingdom."

While diamond once provided the revenues used in the purchase of arms for the RUF, a crucial finding of the report is that the logging and timber industry has not only substituted diamonds, but is playing an even more significant role in supplying arms:

"The Liberian logging industry is heavily involved, both directly and indirectly, in the support of the RUF. This was documented in the December 2000 Report of the Panel of Experts appointed Pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1306 (2000), Paragraph 19 in Relation to Sierra Leone and remains true today."

Another important finding the report cites is the role played by the Liberian Maritime industry, its "flags of convenience". According to the report, like timber, the maritime sector, has also been an important source of revenue for the Taylor government, which has not only been used to sustain whatever is left of it, but also as a source of supplying arms to the rebels.

"Ship owners from all over the world have registered their vessels in Liberia rather than under their own national flag. 60% of the fleet on the Liberian register is owned by American, German, Greek, Japanese and Norwegian shipping companies. With around 1,557 vessels registered under its flag, Liberia, one of the poorest countries in the world, currently has the world's second largest maritime fleet in shipping tonnage (52 million gross tonnes). Notably absent from the nationality list of vessels on the Liberian register are any Liberian-owned ships...

"Faced with shipowners' increasing concerns about the register in the aftermath of the change in management contract, a price war with other registers has been launched. A new scale of fees was introduced for ships entering the register after 1 July 2000 and all initial registration fees are waived from then until the end of 2001...

"These fees are collected by the US company administering the register. By the year 2000, the Liberian registry was netting an average of some $15 - 20 million per year for Charles Taylor's government."

In addition to the use of Maritime and logging funds to support the regime criminal activities, it is also engaged in the continued human rights violations of civilians, which the report notes, especially involving the notorious Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU) and other private militias:

"Civilians have been forcibly removed from Sierra Leone and taken to Liberia, thus adding to the amount of abductees currently in Liberia. Furthermore, Sierra Leonean refugee males over the age of 14 were being forcibly recruited into the ATU and the AFL in May 2001.

"On 10th May 2001, a general cargo vessel called the Abu I and owned by Belize-registered Alpha Paramount, arrived at Harper Port and unloaded a cargo of weaponry. This was collected on the same day by an helicopter belonging to the Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU)."

The report recommends to the UN Security council, the following course of action:

"Immediately impose a total embargo on the exportation and transportation of Liberian timber, and its importation into other countries. Such an embargo should remain in place until it can be demonstrated that the trade does not contribute to the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Sierra Leone and armed militias in Liberia, and that it is carried out in a transparent manner (as referred to in para 49 of the Report of the Panel of Experts appointed pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1343 (2001) paragraph 19 in relation to Sierra Leone).

"Conduct further investigations into the Liberian timber industry, particularly the Oriental Timber Company (OTC), to enable the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and other members of the international community to gain a comprehensive understanding of the role of this industry in Charles Taylor's presidency and the conflict in Sierra Leone and, increasingly, Lofa County in Northern Liberia.

"Conduct detailed investigations into any other Liberian industries that may contribute to violence and human rights violations in West Africa.

"Impose sanctions on the Liberian shipping register, as this revenue is used directly by the Executive Mansion (i.e. under Taylor's personal control) for extra-governmental purposes that do not benefit the state and prolongs regional insecurity."

Global Witness and ITF also urge the International Community to:

"Increase humanitarian aid to Liberia, channelled through UN agencies and NGOs. Due to aid restrictions, agencies such as the World Food Programme have to allocate lower rations to, for example, Internally Displaced Persons in Liberia than to their counterparts in Sierra Leone. The sanctions should target the government, not the ordinary citizens of Liberia or the victims of regional conflict.

"Put pressure on Guinea's President Conté to bring an end to his support for cross-border attacks into Liberia."

Additionally, the two organizations advise the Taylor Government that:

"The country's timber industry is run according to best international standards of sustainable forest management, and to ensure that all timber revenues due to the state are directed to the Central Bank of Liberia, and not to the Executive Mansion.

"The timber industry benefits the lives of the Liberian population, rather than contributing to their poverty and oppression. Timber companies operating in Liberia do so according to the law, that they do not employ armed militias and do not engage in any activities which contribute to conflict and human rights abuses."





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