Nigeria - Human Rights Watch World Report 1999 Corporations and Human Rights Campaign
The U.N. Sanctions Committee on Angola: Lessons Learned?
Human Rights Watch Briefing Paper April 17, 2000

On April 18, the United Nations Security Council will debate the U.N. Panel of Experts report on the sanctions regime against the rebels of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), which was submitted to the Security Council on February 28. The Security Council is expected to issue a resolution that will shape the future of the sanctions regime in Angola.

 Human Rights Watch has warmly welcomed the Experts Panel's report (See Press Release 'Sanctions-Busting in Angola,' Human Rights Watch Backgrounder, March 14, 2000,, which includes an imaginative set of recommendations and some weighty new information on embargo violations. Over six months of monitoring the Expert Panel closely, however, Human Rights Watch has observed a number of weaknesses in how the report was assembled. Any follow-on panel on Angola might learn from these observations.

 In brief, the Experts Panel suffered from the lack of a centralized office to coordinate its work; the failure to involve Interpol in its efforts; and the failure of Member States to share intelligence with the Panel.

 Human Rights Watch recommends that within six months, the Security Council should take specific action against countries, companies, and individuals named in the Panel's report. A new five-member-plus Panel should also be appointed to carry forward the work of investigating embargo violations.


 The 1993 U.N. arms and petroleum embargo against UNITA in Angola marked the first such embargo against a non-state actor. UNITA continued to receive arms and fuel despite the U.N. prohibition, the rebels' signature of a peace accord with the Angolan government, and the presence of a U.N. peacekeeping force. Noting that UNITA was the primary cause of the crisis in Angola, the U.N. Security Council imposed additional sanctions against UNITA in October 1997 and June 1998.

Hostilities flared up again in Angola in late 1998. To address the ongoing embargo violations there, the Security Council appointed Canadian Ambassador Fowler as chair of the revitalized Sanctions Committee in January 1999. Fowler appointed two expert panels in May 1999. With a mandate to investigate violations of the sanctions regime: the sale and delivery of arms and military equipment to the rebels; the provision of petroleum products to UNITA; the purchase of diamonds mined in areas controlled by UNITA; the maintenance of bank accounts and other financial assets of UNITA; the maintenance of UNITA offices abroad; and the travel of senior UNITA officials and adult members of their immediate families. (Human Rights Watch published a four-year study on sanctions-busting: Angola Unravels (in English, September 1999) and an updated edition, Angola Explicada (in Portuguese, December 1999). The full text of both of these reports is available on the Human Rights Watch website located at

 At a meeting on August 26-27, 1999, it was decided that, for administrative purposes, the two panels would, in effect, operate as one panel under the chairmanship of Ambassador Mölander of Sweden. The Expert Panel was funded by donor pledges of up to U.S.$900,000 in addition to the $1,000,000 funded internally by the U.N. Secretariat. In 1999, Ambassador Fowler submitted two reports with detailed recommendations to the Security Council, and on February 28, 2000, the report of the Panel of Experts was submitted to the Security Council.

 Poor logistics was a major handicap for the Expert Panel. A fundamental problem appears to have been the lack of a centralized office to coordinate the Panel's work. This significantly weakened the efficiency of the Panel, in contrast to the successful experience of a centralized base in Nairobi for the U.N. International Commission of Inquiry on Rwanda (UNICOI). A full-time logistics support person from the Department of Political Affairs would have also greatly assisted the panel by helping members navigate through complicated U.N. bureaucracy procedures and acting as a liaison person. The Expert Panel lost up to two months of investigative work because of poor logistics.

 Co-ordination between the Expert Panel and U.N. Headquarters, New York was poor. It is telling that all the entire Expert Panel never attended a full meeting of the Sanctions Committee on Angola.

 The Security Council Resolutions mandating the sanctions were poorly drafted. For example, Resolution 1173 on July 1, 1998, imposed an embargo on diamonds from UNITA areas and a freeze on UNITA bank accounts, but the text of this important resolution was rushed through in forty-eight hours despite the complexities regarding implementation.

 The duties and functions of Panel members were not clear enough. Members did not seem to know what was really expected from them and would have benefited from explicit terms of reference for each expert prior to the start of the investigation.

Governments were generally reluctant to provide detailed intelligence to the Expert Panel. Ambassador Fowler and the Expert Panel spent much effort attempting to gain information from governments: Britain, Belgium, Portugal, South Africa, the U.S. and France. Ambassador Fowler was provided with verbal intelligence briefings by these governments and, towards the end of the investigation, with written submissions. Most of these written submissions do not appear to have added much to what the Panel already knew.

 Several governments claimed that passing on intelligence would compromise their sources despite Ambassador Fowler's tried efforts to allay their fears. He has told journalists that he had to rely on information from Human Rights Watch.

 The Sanctions Committee apparently never received prior notice all three times that Britain's Minister of State for Africa, Peter Hain, named and shamed sanctions-busting countries and individuals in parliament.

 The sanctions regime on Angola provides an opportunity to develop smarter, targeted embargoes regimes, and Governments can and should be more forthcoming in their support.

Other weaknesses were:

  The Panel did not use the expertise and assistance of Interpol, although Ambassador Fowler twice recommended using Interpol. Interpol itself offered to provide the Panel with the assistance of an analyst;

  The Panel did not attempt to take serial numbers from weapons observed in Angola in February 2000. No samples were taken for expert examination either;

  The panel did not arrange for the full transcription of the fifteen hours of footage on the cross examination of UNITA defectors in Angola, although this information became a key source of the information included in the Panel of Experts report;

  The skills of the Expert Panel members (such as interviewing techniques) were not used to their full potential, such as during cross-examination of UNITA defectors;

  The Panel did not attempt to visit the Democratic Republic of Congo;

  The Panel did not closely examine Israel. Human Rights Watch believes that all companies purchasing Angolan rough diamonds should come under close examination, including the new diamond marketing arrangements for Angolan diamonds through the Israeli linked firm ASCORP;

Governments that were unhelpful to the Panel were not mentioned in the report, while countries that did assist the Panel were not fully acknowledged or only acknowledged through the negative information that they had provided about themselves;

  The Expert Panel's report published few details on the finances of UNITA and the brokers who flew supplies to UNITA;

  The only consultant hired became operational only a week before the report was to be drafted and was unable to contribute to the process in a meaningful manner. Consultants could have been better used to help plan the research from the start.

Human Rights Watch recommends that:

  The Security Council should agree to the measures it will adopt against countries, companies, and individuals named in the Expert Panel's report within six months and make its decisions public;

  Ambassador Fowler should report back to the Security Council in three months on the progress of implementation (July 18, 2000);

  The mandate of the previous Expert Panel has expired and the Security Council should establish an independent panel of at the minimum five experts to continue to investigate violations of U.N. embargoes. These experts should pursue new sources of information, monitor compliance with U.N. embargoes, report back to the Security Council on actions taken in response to the conclusions and recommendations of the Experts Panel, and recommend additional measures to end such violations;

  The new five-member-plus panel should be appointed within fifteen days of the adoption of the Security Council Resolution. The structure and operation of this panel should take into consideration a number of the shortcomings outlined above.

 The Fowler report makes thirty-nine recommendations, among which Human Rights Watch believes the most important are:

  The Security Council should apply sanctions against leaders and governments found to have been deliberately breaking sanctions. A sanction of this sort might be an embargo on arms sales for three years, followed by three years probation;

  The end-user certificate system that prevails in many countries is wholly inadequate to ensure against diversion from their declared end-user. This system requires reform; Compliance with U.N. sanctions regimes should be among the criteria considered by NATO and the European Union when evaluating candidates for new membership (aimed at Bulgaria especially);

  DNA-type analysis should be conducted on fuel samples from petroleum industry suppliers in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region and the results should be used to create a database for the purpose of evaluating fuel obtained or captured from UNITA;

  Forfeiture penalties should be introduced against those who cannot provide the legal origin of rough diamonds;

  Sanctions should be applied against individuals and enterprises discovered to be intentionally breaking U.N. sanctions relating to UNITA diamonds. Such traders or companies should also be put on an industry "blacklist;"

  A substantial bounty or "finders' fee percentage" could be given to any institution or individual that tracks down and identifies UNITA assets that are subject to sanction;

  Offending countries should be declared sanctions-breakers; candidacies of nationals from listed countries should not be supported for senior positions within the U.N., and international organizations should be discouraged from holding conferences and meetings in listed countries (a recommendation aimed at Togo, which is an incoming chair of the Organization of African Unity).