UN Approved Sanctions Lack "Teeth"

The Perspective

March 8, 2001

The much heated debate on whether sanctions should be imposed on Liberia for its role in fueling the war in Sierra Leone (and now Guinea), for its support for the RUF rebels, and its involvement in the illicit trade in "blood" diamonds for guns, seemed to have reached its climax after the UN Security Council convened a few days ago to approve a final resolution.

In what appears to be a unanimous decision taken by the entire council, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1344 (2001), which demanded that Liberia immediately cease supporting the Sierra Leone RUF and other rebel groups in the West African sub-region.

Blaming Liberia for fomenting war in neighboring Sierra Leone, the council demanded that Liberia expel all RUF members and prohibit all the group's activities on its territory. The council also demanded that all states in the region take action to prevent armed individuals and groups from using their territories to attack neighboring countries and refrain from action that might further destabilize the situation on the borders between Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

"Reiterating its call made in the statement of its President of 21 December 2000 (S/PRST/2000/41) on all States in West Africa, particularly Liberia, immediately to cease military support for armed groups in neighbouring countries and prevent armed individuals from using their national territory to prepare and commit attacks in neighbouring countries,

"Determining that the active support provided by the Government of Liberia for armed rebel groups in neighbouring countries, and in particular its support for the RUF in Sierra Leone, constitutes a threat to international peace and security in the region."

On diamonds, the council resolution demanded that Liberia cease all direct or indirect import of Sierra Leone rough diamonds not controlled through the Sierra Leone Government's certificate of origin program, in accordance with Security Council Resolution 1306 (2000).

"Welcoming General Assembly resolution A/RES/55/56 of 1 December 2000, in particular its call for measures engaging all concerned parties including diamond producing, processing, exporting and importing countries as well as the diamond industry to break the link between diamonds and armed conflict, and its call upon all States to implement fully Security Council measures targeting the link between the trade in conflict diamonds and the supply to rebel movements of weapons, fuel or other prohibited materiel,

"Taking note of the report of the United Nations Panel of Experts established pursuant to paragraph 19 of resolution 1306 (2000) in relation to Sierra Leone (S/2000/1195)."

On travel, the Security Council "Decides also that all States shall take the necessary measures to prevent the entry into or transit through their territories of senior members of the Government of Liberia and its armed forces and their spouses and any other individuals providing financial and military support to armed rebel groups in countries neighbouring Liberia, in particular the RUF in Sierra Leone, as designated by the Committee established by paragraph 14 below, provided that nothing in this paragraph shall oblige a State to refuse entry into its territory to its own nationals, and provided that nothing in this paragraph shall impede the transit of representatives of the Government of Liberia to United Nations Headquarters to conduct United Nations business or the participation of the Government of Liberia in the official meetings of the Mano River Union, ECOWAS and the Organization of African Unity."

These sanctions are expected to go into effect two months after adoption in deference to ECOWAS which asked for a delay in the imposition of sanctions. Making its case before the UN Security Council, ECOWAS maintained that it is better positioned to monitor the actions of the Taylor regime in the region. ECOWAS own record, however, is a mix bag of failure and success and it remains to be seen how it handles this new task.

Furthermore, to monitor the implementation of the sanctions, the Security Council has put in place a timetable and has established a committee to work in collaboration with ECOWAS states. The arms ban expires after 14 months, whereas the diamond and travel sanctions expire after 12 months. These sanctions are renewable by the council if the Liberian Government does not comply with the requirements that the resolution has established.

Disappointingly and ironically, the UN Security Council has taken the necessary steps, but the sanctions regime to be imposed still remains insufficient, inadequate, and lacking the teeth needed to put an end to the continued destabilization of the sub-region by the Taylor regime. The sanctions are so inadequate to the point that even the Liberian Foreign Minister, Monie Captan, has classified them as "not so bad". The fact that the UN Security Council, due to pressure from France, failed to impose similar sanction on the timber industry which is a major source of revenue that has fueled Taylor's criminal enterprise, has effectively undermined its very intention it has set out to accomplish.

But again, the UN may well be living up to a self-fulfilling prophecy that it is clearly an organization of inaction (even where it has shown action, it has always been marked by failure, which has become its signature or logo), lacking the institutional fortitude to enforce actions against rogue nations or criminal states like Liberia that have defied international norms and standards.

For subscription information, go to: www.theperspective.org
or send e-mail to: editor@theperspective.org