Press Release / May 24, 2004

Liberia - Sanctions violations and lack of reform hinder Liberia’s reconstruction, as logging industry still poses potential threat to regional security.

Press Release
Liberia: Sanctions violations and lack of reform hinder Liberia’s reconstruction, as logging industry still poses potential threat to regional security.
18 May 2004

A new report released today by Global Witness (1) concludes that sanctions on Liberia, specifically the timber embargo, should not be lifted at a UN Security Council review scheduled for 17 June 2004 (2). The report titled ‘Liberia: Back to the Future, What is the future of Liberia’s forests and its effects on regional peace’ argues that lifting sanctions before key reforms are implemented could jeopardise international efforts to promote peace, as major factors that helped cause Liberia and the region’s calamity remain a threat.
‘Liberia: Back to the Future’ details how insufficient government and industry reform, especially of the logging industry, continues to pose a threat to the region. The Liberian logging industry has historically helped fuel conflict in Liberia and the region, serving as an important source of extra-budgetary income and logistics with which former President Charles Taylor supported rebel groups in both Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire (3). Though in exile in Nigeria, Taylor maintains his close connection to many players in Liberia and the report further details his continued capacity to cause insecurity in the region through close associates and business interests (4).
‘Liberia: Back to the Future’ also describes the activities of the Liberian logging industry over the last year, since sanctions went into force, noting evidence that indicates personnel of two logging companies, Maryland Wood Processing Incorporated (MWPI) and the Togba Timber Company (TTCO) made arrangements with the Liberian rebels to safeguard their business interests in Liberia. Moreover, there is evidence to suggest that TTCO violated the UN timber embargo by exporting two shipments of timber in August 2003.
‘Given the logging industry’s continued potential to cause insecurity, the Liberian government must ensure that the industry can no longer be used to fuel conflict in the region’, said Alice Blondel, Lead Campaigner at Global Witness. ‘At present, the requirements set forth by the Security Council for the lifting of timber sanctions have not been met and there remains insufficient Liberian government and UN presence along border areas and in resource-rich territories. This means that non-state actors maintain their ability to support conflict by engaging in the cross-border trade of natural resources, weapons, and mercenaries.’

For any press inquiries, please contact Alice Blondel or Mike Lundberg at +44 (0) 207-561-6372.

Notes for the Editor:
(1) Global Witness is an investigative non-governmental organisation that focuses on the links between natural resource exploitation and conflict, and was co-nominated for the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize.
(2) Timber sanctions were first imposed by UN Security Council Resolution 1478 (2003), entering into effect on 7 July 2003. The sanctions were renewed through Resolution 1521 (2003).
(3) For more detail, see Global Witness’ other reports and briefing documents: 'Against the People, For the Resources', Global Witness, September 2003; 'The Usual Suspects: Liberia's weapons and mercenaries in Cote d'Ivoire and Sierra Leone', Global Witness, March 2003; 'Logging Off: how the Liberian timber industry fuels Liberia's humanitarian disaster and threatens Sierra Leone', Global Witness, September 2002; 'Taylor-made: the pivotal role of Liberia's forests and flag of convenience in regional conflict', Global Witness, September 2001. See also UN Panel of Experts reports on Sierra Leone, S/2000/1195, and UN Panel of Experts reports on Liberia, S/2003/973, S/2003/779, S/2003/498, S/2002/470 S/2001/1015.
(4) Global Witness investigations in Liberia, 2004.