Adoption of Resolution Modifying Liberia Sanctions
On Wednesday (2 September), the Council is scheduled to adopt a resolution on Liberia sanctions. The draft resolution was first circulated by the penholder, the US, on 20 August. A brief round of negotiations was held the following day, and after a few minor revisions the text was put into blue on Thursday, 27 August.
The resolution will renew the arms embargo on non-state actors for a period of nine months. Renewing the partial arms embargo has the support of the government of Liberia, which apparently preferred the measure remain in place during the drawdown of the UN Mission of Liberia (UNMIL), and the transition toward assuming full responsibility for security in Liberia as of 30 June 2016. It is also consistent with the analyses of the Panel of Experts’ final report (S/2015/558) and the Secretary-General’s letter of 31 July (S/2015/590), which documented some progress in arms and ammunition management but also highlighted the weakness of state institutions, persistent gaps in the security sector legal framework, and on-going challenges in managing porous borders conducive to arms trafficking.
Adoption of the resolution will terminate the travel ban imposed with resolution 1521 in December 2003 and the asset freeze imposed with resolution 1532 in March 2004. The termination of the travel ban and asset freeze will effectively delist the 21 individuals and 30 entities currently on the 1521 Sanctions List (available at http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1521/sanctions_list.shtml). Of the individuals on the sanctions list, eight were subject to both the asset freeze and the travel ban while 13 were subject to just the travel ban. All of the sanctioned individuals – most of them associates or family of former Liberian President Charles Taylor or arms trafficker Viktor Bout – were listed between March 2004 and November 2005. (Charles Taylor was convicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone of war crimes and crimes against humanity in April 2012 and is serving a 50-year sentence in a UK prison; Viktor Bout was convicted by a US court in April 2012 for conspiring to sell weapons to a US-designated foreign terrorist group and is serving a 25-year sentence in the US.) All 30 of the listed entities were transport or financial companies associated with Viktor Bout, Sergei Bout (his brother), or Richard Chichakli (his chief financial officer).
The resolution will also renew the mandate of the Panel of Experts (PoE) for a period of ten months. However, the new PoE will be reduced from two experts to one expert and its mandate will be narrowed in scope to investigating violations of the arms embargo on non-state actors and monitoring the government’s progress in arms and border management. The PoE’s final report will be due 1 May 2016.
The adoption of a resolution modifying the 1521 Liberia sanctions regime is not entirely unexpected. When the Council renewed sanctions on Liberia with resolution 2188 in December 2014, it stated its intention to keep sanctions measures under review with a view toward their modification or termination, contingent upon sufficient progress toward meeting the conditions outlined in resolution 1521 (i.e. maintain the ceasefire; disarmament, demobilisation, reintegration and repatriation; security sector reform; implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement; and stability in Liberia and the sub-region), while also taking into consideration the threat posed by Ebola. As the Ebola outbreak has since subsided, there is now support among Council members for modifying a sanctions regime which has served to reinforce the peace process started a dozen years ago.