Liberia’s shady diamond deals and free war criminals

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The Liberian government despite its post-conflict progress, has not frozen assets benefiting or owned by war criminals, the UN panel of experts monitoring Liberia has revealed, citing new evidence that such individuals still have considerable financial resources from forest resources, and diamond trade.

According to the reports, the Liberian government has failed to implement the Kimberly Process that is meant to ensure blood-free diamond trade, enforce forest resource transparency obligations and enforce UN travel ban on war criminals.

“Of most concern are indications of abuses of the system of internal controls, mounting evidence of the presence of regional trading networks and the potential infiltration of sanctioned Ivorian [Côte d’Ivoire] diamonds into Liberian exports. The political will to implement the Kimberley Process certification scheme has diminished, at least within the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy,” the panel revealed.

Shady deals

The report suggests that Liberia also fell short in their forestry sector, a significant source of illicit gains. The UN experts cited several breaches of basic processes and criteria in the awarding of concessions, and a lack of transparency by the Forestry Development Authority in making documents and information available.

Also, the travel ban imposed on indicted war criminals was violated. Cyril Allen, an indicted war criminal for example traveled to Ghana in October, while two others were not complying with the strict conditions of the waivers granted them. To this regard the UN Security Council has renewed its travel restrictions for another year.

Reconstitute and Investigate

The UN Security Council on Nov. 17, urged Liberia to make all necessary efforts to fulfill its obligations to freeze the assets of alleged war criminals and others, and urged it to tighten controls against so-called “blood diamonds” used to finance conflict. The UN also called on Liberia to reconstitute the Presidential Task Force on Diamonds and further investigate the regional trading network and the potential infiltration of Ivorian diamonds into Liberia and neighboring countries.

The panel of experts has advised the national capacity of the Liberian Government to control weapons and to provide security to its citizens, which is of particular concern to the panel given the volatile regional situation in Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire.

On a more positive note, the panel found no strong evidence of major violations of the arms embargo on non-State groups.

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