posted on Mon 28 Apr 2014 6:15 PM
Partial Lifting of the Sanctions Regime in Côte d’Ivoire

The Security Council appears set to adopt a resolution tomorrow (29 April) renewing for a year the remaining Côte d’Ivoire sanctions regime. Following two rounds of negotiations last week on 23 and 25 April, the draft resolution put in blue today lifts the diamond embargo from the date of the adoption of the resolution. It also partially lifts the arms embargo, making a distinction between lethal and non-lethal arms. The financial and travel measures imposed on selected individuals are maintained. The draft resolution also renews the mandate of the Group of Experts (GoE) assisting the 1572 Côte d’Ivoire Sanctions Committee for thirteen months.

It seems the lightening of the 1572 sanctions regime is a reflection of the progress and efforts made by Côte d’Ivoire. It also embraces the approach that a sanctions regime should be neither static nor punitive, but rather should evolve and adapt to the situation in order to encourage a state to do better. Resolution 2101 of 25 April 2013, which last renewed the sanctions regime on Côte d’Ivoire, had requested a review of the arms embargo in light of progress made in the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) of combatants as well as security sector reform (SSR), national reconciliation and the fight against impunity. Côte d’Ivoire transmitted a letter on 22 April including a proposed framework for the revision of the sanctions regime (S/2014/293).

The resolution in blue welcomes the overall progress and efforts made by Côte d’Ivoire in stabilising the security situation, the economic recovery, the security reform agenda, and in combating illegal taxation systems. It however expresses concern at delays in implementing SSR and DDR.

A key change introduced by the draft resolution pertains to the diamond embargo imposed on Côte d’Ivoire. In light of the progress made towards the Kimberley Process (KP) Certification Scheme and better governance of the sector, the draft resolution decides to terminate the measures preventing states from importing rough diamonds from Côte d’Ivoire. (The 22 November 2013 final communiqué from the KP plenary meeting noted that Côte d’Ivoire had fulfilled the Certification Scheme’s minimum requirements “as possibly could be achieved under the UN embargo”.) The draft resolution also requests Côte d’Ivoire to update the Council on its progress in implementing its action plan to develop its diamond sector.

Another key change in the draft resolution penned by France, the lead country on Côte d’Ivoire, is the easing of the arms embargo. In the draft resolution, only the embargo on lethal material is renewed for a year. The supply to Côte d’Ivoire of non-lethal material will no longer require notification to the Committee. Additionally, a modification is introduced on the export of arms and other related lethal equipment to the security forces, intended solely for support of or use in the SSR process. In resolution 2101, the transfers of such equipment required an advance approval by the Sanctions Committee. A distinction is made in the draft resolution based on the type of equipment. Shipment of heavy weapons will still require advance approval by the Sanctions Committee, while shipment of small calibre lethal equipment simply requires an advance notification by Côte d’Ivoire to the Sanctions Committee. (An annex to the draft resolution lists the weapons that require advance approval, i.e. heavy weapons.)

The draft resolution also introduces a new exemption on the arms embargo for supplies transiting through Côte d’Ivoire intended for the support of, or to be used by, UN peacekeeping operations.

The draft resolution renews the targeted sanctions (travel ban and assets freeze) for a year. It also stresses the intention of the Council to review the listing of individuals in light of their actions to further the objective of national reconciliation. (In its final report [S/2014/266], the GoE recommended the listing of an additional individual, Sekou Niangadou, a national of Mali, for having repeatedly violated and continuing to violate the diamonds embargo since 2006.)

While there was general agreement on the lifting of the diamond embargo, negotiations on the modifications of the arms embargo led to some divisions among Council members. During the first round of negotiations on 23 April, the US was not particularly supportive of these modifications, which prompted France to remind the US that it had advocated for the partial lifting of the arms embargo on Somalia in resolution 2093 adopted on 6 March 2013. A couple of other delegations appeared concerned that security on the ground, the proximity of the elections, and the assessment of the GoE in its final report were indications that the time may not be right for modifications to the arms embargo.

Second and third drafts were circulated as a compromise. While the current draft keeps all the major changes highlighted above, it addresses some of the concerns and introduces safeguards. A key consideration appears to have been ensuring that the draft resolution conveyed a clear understanding of how to properly comply with the notification requirements. As a result language was introduced requesting the Committee add, remove or clarify items listed in the annex (heavy weapons) and detailing what should be included in notification and approval requests. In addition, the draft resolution requests bi-annual progress reports from Côte d’Ivoire on SSR and DDR and mandates the GoE to assess and report on the effects of the modifications decided in the resolution.

On 24 April, Council members had the opportunity to discuss the final report (S/2014/266) of the GoE during a briefing in consultations by Ambassador Cristian Barros (Chile), the chair of the 1572 Sanctions Committee and on the Committee’s last two informal meetings: the meeting on 21 March on the resurgence of hate speech in the media, and the meeting on 11 April with the GoE. Several delegations reiterated their concern over the resurgence of hate speech, in light of the upcoming elections.
In addition, China expressed its concern over the credibility and professionalism of the experts. The GoE report documents a possible embargo violation associated with an allegation of irregularities with regard to the quantity of arms, ammunition and military goods sent from China to Chinese troops in the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) through the seaport of Abidjan. (The report says that out of the 24 tonnes of arms, ammunitions and military equipment shipped from China, according to the bills of lading, only three tonnes were delivered to MINUSMA.) During the consultations, China explained that only three tonnes were ammunitions while the rest was necessities for its national military contingent. It seems China also criticised the GoE for not having conducted an investigation and verifying the information with China. It also expressed unhappiness that the GoE report had been leaked to the press, prior to its publication.