Press Release / Oct. 30, 2001

UN Expert Recommendation on Liberia’s timber-industry leaves a platform for continued arms-trade

The Panel of Experts on Liberia, commissioned by the UN to investigate the compliance of Liberia’s government with international restrictions on activities that fuel regional conflict, cites new evidence that the Liberian timber industry is strongly linked to the illicit arms trade. Evidence is also provided that shows that the timber industry is providing significant extra-budgetary income for President Charles Taylor. However, recommendations (1) addressing the timber industry are insufficient and would, if heeded, provide a continued platform for the Liberian government to continue sanctions busting activities that fuel wide-scale human-rights abuses and insecurity in the region.

The following evidence provided by the Expert Panel shows that extra-budgetary income and arms trade in the region is largely dependent on the Liberian timber industry:

1. Taxes from logging companies that should be going towards the national budget are diverted elsewhere. Furthermore, the report highlights that figures provided by the government and by the logging companies “suggest a significant diversion of the timber revenue for extra-budgetary activities.” (2)

2. The report documents that several logging companies and individuals are directly involved in sanctions-busting activities – companies involved in the arms trade produced approximately 86% of total timber production in the first six months of 2000 while

3. The Singapore-based mother company of the OTC arranged a US$500,000 payment for arms shipment to Liberia.

Facts presented by the Expert Panel demonstrate that it is the logging and government elite who have the most at stake if sanctions are imposed on timber. Still, the Expert Panel does not see the need for sanctions on this trade. “It is self-evident that regional security cannot be achieved without halting illicit arms trade, which in turn cannot be curtailed without properly addressing the timber trade. This is a trade which is actively involved in grave human-rights abuses and whose funds are sapped from the Liberian people,” said Alice Blondel of Global Witness. “Recommendations made by the Panel of Experts would allow for the trade to continue while not even coming close to halting the vital funds and logistics provided by the timber industry to the continuation of insecurity in the region.”

Notes to the Editor: 1. Report of the Panel of Experts to the Security Council resolution 1343 (2001), paragraph 19 concerning Liberia, page 7:a) “The Government should reach agreement with the International Monetary Fund over commissioning of an independent detailed report on revenue from the timber concessions for the January 2001-July 2002 period, including exemptions and tax offsets for government-related expenditures during this period,” b) “That the UN should impose a ban on all round log exports from Liberia from July 2002 and strongly encourage local operators to diversify into wood processing before that date.
2. Report of the Panel of Experts to the Security Council resolution 1343 (2001), paragraph 19 concerning Liberia, page 6.