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Liberian Arms Embargo Must Be Enforced

To Members of the UN Security Council

Your Excellency:

We are writing to urge you to take immediate measures to enforce the arms embargo in Liberia. As you know, the United Nations panel of experts on Liberia, which investigated violations of arms, diamond, and travel sanctions imposed in Security Council Resolution 1343 (2001), recently documented numerous arms shipments to Liberia within the past eighteen months. These weapons shipments were in flagrant violation of the arms embargo imposed on Liberia in 1992 (Resolution 788) and tightened earlier this year.

We understand that earlier this month the Security Council asked the Liberia sanctions committee to review the recommendations of the Liberia panel and forward a report to the Council for consideration. We realize that the next scheduled review of the arms embargo on Liberia will not take place until May 2002, but feel strongly that to defer strengthening of enforcement measures of the existing embargo until then would be a serious mistake. A number of steps can and should be taken now to give the existing arms embargo teeth.

A great deal is at stake. The continued flouting of the arms embargo poses grave risks to security and human rights in Liberia, as well as in Sierra Leone and Guinea. Positive developments in the sub-region, including progress toward disarmament in Sierra Leone, would be undermined by the further influx of arms to Liberia. The conflicts in the Mano River Union countries (Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea) are intertwined and mutually reinforcing, and new weapons inflows could readily set alight this tinderbox region.

Please find attached a briefing paper we prepared for your consideration. It offers an analysis of the sanctions-busting trade in Liberia and includes a number of recommendations for immediate Security Council action. We have highlighted in particular the role of arms-exporting countries, whose lax controls make possible the illicit trafficking in weapons. Much can be done in the short term to improve and enforce the arms embargo. We hope that you will seriously consider adopting such needed measures, and doing so in advance of the embargo review scheduled for May 2002.

Thank you for your kind consideration.


Joanna Weschler
U.N. Representative


Joost R. Hiltermann
Executive Director
Arms Division

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