Press Release / Sept. 6, 2001

Liberia breaches UN Sanctions - whilst its logging industry funds arms imports and RUF rebels

According to a report released today, the Government of Liberia continues to import armaments and to support the rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), responsible for gross human rights abuses in Sierra Leone. This support is made possible by profits of over US$100 million per year generated by Liberia’s timber industry, which is integrally linked to illegal arms importation. This industry threatens regional stability, including the lives of UN personnel in Sierra Leone, and puts Liberia in breach of UN sanctions imposed on 7th May 2001.

‘Taylor-made’, released by London-based environmental and human rights group Global Witness, documents the pivotal role of Liberia’s logging industry in the funding of President Charles Taylor’s security forces, arms importation and in the unsustainable exploitation of Liberia’s forests. Global Witness is calling on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to implement sanctions on the export of Liberia’s timber, in addition to the existing sanctions regime on conflict diamonds and arms imports, when they meet in October.

“Liberia states that it is adhering to sanctions, but the reality is far different” said Patrick Alley of Global Witness. “We have information and evidence that arms were being imported as recently as May, that the Ukrainian Mafia are involved in both timber and arms, we know the names and locations of many RUF personnel in Liberia, and we know that RUF personnel were trained in Libya in 2000. All this is made possible by a logging industry that is integrally linked to the arms trade and provides virtually no benefit to the people of Liberia.”

In 2000 France and China imported 71% of Liberian log exports. The UK, Italy, Denmark and Germany also purchase significant quantities of Liberian logs.

The document also highlights that sanctions on Liberian timber would have a limited impact on local employment as many skilled logging jobs are held by expatriates, with unskilled jobs being mainly seasonal, insecure and undependable. “The omission of timber from UN sanctions would both prolong regional conflict, concentrate wealth in the hands of Charles Taylor and a military and commercial elite, and could lead to the ecologically vital forests being commercially logged within the next 5-10 years.” said Patrick Alley.

Contact Patrick Alley or Alice Blondel in New York (between 3-7 September) on mobile +44 7968 160377; or via London Office + 44 20 7272 6731.
email: [email protected]; [email protected]