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The U.N. Security Council has lifted travel bans and assets freeze on 17 Liberians, including at least two ex-wives of Liberia’s former president and convicted war criminal Charles Taylor.
The council said in a statement that the decision to remove a travel ban imposed nearly ten years ago on all 17 individuals with links to Taylor, along with an assets freeze on 10 of those people, was made last Friday.
But the Security simply listed the 17 names and gave no reason for removing the sanctions.
Taylor was convicted and subsequently sentenced 50 in prison by an international court in April of providing weapons, food, medical supplies, fuel and equipment to rebel forces in Sierra Leone that committed atrocities.
In an 11-year war that ended in 2002, Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front rebels murdered, raped and mutilated their way across Liberia’s West African neighbor, helped by Taylor as he profited from a trade in so-called blood diamonds, according to the UN-backed court’s ruling.
The Liberian government Wednesday welcomed the lifting of UN sanctions.
“The lifting of the travel ban is welcome news for the government of Liberia...” Foreign Minister Augustine Ngafuan said on national radio shortly before the UN made the announcement in New York.
The asset freezes and travel bans were imposed 2001 in a bid to contain Taylor who was sentenced 50 years in jail term for war crimes in Sierra Leone’s civil war.
While the list once contained about 55 names of former officials and military commanders, there are still more than 25 people subject to a travel ban or assets freeze on the UN list, including Taylor and his son and arms trader Viktor Bout.
The list also includes former ministers and other Taylor associates who have since rebuilt political careers in Liberia.
However Taylor’s ex-wives Agnes Reeves Taylor and Jewel Howard Taylor, who divorced him in 2006 and is now a senator, had their travel bans and asset freezes lifted.
Former Nimba county Sen. Adolphus Dolo, who was a key Taylor military ally, was also taken off the travel ban list, according to UN documents.
Former information minister Reginald Goodridge and Taylor’s former economic advisor, Emmanuel Shaw, who was accused of organizing arms deliveries, had a travel ban and assets freeze lifted. John Richardson, a former security advisor, also had his travel ban removed.
Several other names were struck from the list as they have died.
“We are very happy to hear that news. We have been waiting for this for so long. Now we can go out there and lobby for the uplifting of our country,” Rep. Edwin Snowe, a former son-in-law of Taylor’s, said.
Jewel Taylor told the BBC’s Focus on Africa program that her international isolation meant she had to live like a “fish in a small bowl”.
“It was quite difficult,” she recalled.
“If I had a chance I’ll probably go to Israel and praise God.”
Nearly all the people removed from the sanctions list expressed relief about the decision, but the former chairman of Taylor’s National Patriotic Party, Cyril Allen, struck a defiant and angry tone.
He said the sanctions should have never been imposed and he never “begged” for them to be lifted, even though he was once sarcastic that the sanctions helped him to save on foreign travels.
Taylor has never been charged for his role in Liberia’s bloody history, only that in neighbouring Sierra Leone.