In my capacity as Chairman of the Security Council Committee, established pursuant to resolution 1521 (2003) concerning Liberia, I have the honour to brief members of the Security Council on the work of the Committee. Detailed version of my report was circulated, in advance of this meeting. I will restrict my comments to its main elements.
The Committee has convened two informal consultations in 2013. The first meeting was held on 15 February, in which the Panel of Experts outlined its work plan for the current mandate. The second informal consultation was held on 23 May, in which the Panel presented the findings contained in its midterm report submitted pursuant to resolution 2079 (2012), which I summarize:
On violation of the arms embargo, the Panel investigated the two attacks and one attempted attack in Côte d’Ivoire, in March 2013, by pro-Bagbo elements. It found that the scope of the attacks had reduced due to lack of funding and these had been carried out in part as an appeal for more financing.
The Panel also reported on emerging security concerns along the Liberia-Sierra Leone border where it found evidence of extensive gold mining by ex-combatants, mainly Liberians, who also attacked Sierra Leone forest rangers. The attack was carried out with assault weapons, and represents a new and worrying development.
The Panel carried out investigations concerning individuals subject to the travel ban and assets freeze. It found out that two of the listed individuals, Benoni Urey and Ibrahim Bah, commanded considerable resources and had the capabilities to undermine peace and security in Liberia and the sub-region. However, their intent was more difficult to assess. Ibrahim Bah, who was residing in Sierra Leone, was arrested by authorities on 6 June this year.
The Panel recommends that the assets freeze and travel ban measures should be maintained on former President Charles Ghankay Taylor and his son Charles “Chuckie” Taylor.
The Committee members encouraged the Panel to provide further information in its final report to allow for a possible review of the sanctions list by the Committee.
On the diamond sector, the Panel informed the Committee that the Kimberley Process Review Mission had identified the ineffectiveness of the regional offices as a key challenge to the successful implementation of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme. The Panel noted that diamond smuggling remained a problem.
The Liberian Government’s control of the gold sector also remained weak. However, the Panel did not find evidence that revenues generated by the gold industry were being used directly to purchase weapons. The Panel expressed concern that remote gold mines continued to be used as self-sustaining assembly areas for militants for cross-border attacks //and areas to hide weapons.
Coming to forestry and agriculture, the Panel found that conflict between communities and commercial companies persisted in the palm oil sector. The Government of Liberia had not cancelled the procedurally flawed and apparently illegal issuance of private use permits. Coupled with an inadequate land tenure system, the failure by the Government of Liberia to uphold the rights of communities vis-a-vis commercial interests could lead to instability.
During the Committee meeting, a member enquired about the viability of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s) to monitor the situation on the Liberia-Côte d’Ivoire border. The Panel was of the view that UAVs would have limited value due to climatic and geographic conditions. The triple canopy rainforest in that area would inhibit detection of individuals by drones even with thermal imaging capability. Moreover, torrential rains for eight months would prevent drones from flying for most part of the year. Since attackers operated in small groups and merged with local communities, the Panel was of the view that resources could be better utilized for enhancing human intelligence capabilities, including through creation of an UNMIL border unit for information collection and profiling of the individuals implicated in attacks.
I thank all Council members for their remarks, feedback and suggestions, which the Committee takes most seriously.
I thank Council members' kind remarks addressed to me and our team. I want to recognize and commend the hard work done by the the members of the Panel and the support given by the Secretariat
I wish to add that the Committee has exchanged views on a possible review of the sanctions regime on Liberia. Members expressed intention to update the list of individuals and entities subject to the travel ban and assets freeze. Liberia’s implementation of the sanctions measures and the Government’s own assessment of the arms embargo were considered important elements to take into account in a possible review of the existing measures. In this regard, we would continue to be guided by the Council.
Do we have further information on Mr. Ibrahim Bah? He was arrested by Sierra Leone authorities on June 6. Further information is awaited from Sierra Leone. SRSG Frandzen is in touch with the authorities who would contact the UN Secretariat regarding further steps they would. Take.
I thank you, Mr. President.